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US Rep Fred Upton (R- St Joseph), the current Republican Chair of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee is facing the first serious challenge in 13 terms by a relative new comer, Mike O’Brien (D- Douglas), whose O'Brien for Congress campaign continues to close the gap on the 26-year congressional veteran, Upton.  

This ANALYSIS and story of Congressman Fred Upton describes the metamorphosis of a man, a politician coming from a wealthy family with a generational tradition of public service of the “old school” class of local politician.  A man that has been converted into a faceless marionette, a political puppet, created by the pressures in the quest to gain and maintain political positions and power in Washington DC, and influenced by national partisanship and the corrupting post-Citizens United world ruled by the “monied corporations” our founding fathers, like Thomas Jefferson, warned us about.

Every once in awhile a young, eager local newspaper reporter does something that can really annoy incumbent politicians, they will… well, they report what they see.

From the article by Fritz Klug entitled “What did Howard Wolpe's widow say to Congressman Fred Upton after Tuesday's debate?” in the Kalamazoo Gazette on October 24, 2012:

BUCHANAN, MI — The debate between Republican Congressman Fred Upton and his Democratic challenger, Mike O'Brien, had just finished. As the audience applauded, a woman stood up, went to the front of the auditorium and approached Upton.

The woman was Julie Fletcher, the widow of Howard Wolpe, a Democrat who represented Kalamazoo in Congress for 14 years before Upton.  Fletcher spoke to Upton for about a minute in what appeared to be a tense conversation. O'Brien stood nearby as they spoke.

Afterward, Upton declined to reveal what was said.

Presumably the conversation between Wolpe’s widow and Upton was not necessarily a friendly one.  Only weeks prior to extremely popular Howard Wolpe’s death, the former Clinton administration and Obama administration’s “special adviser to the African Great Lakes”, had written a reluctant “Open Letter to Fred Upton” that was published in the local papers.

In this letter, Wolpe was critical of Upton’s “selling of his soul” and becoming a “right-wing extremist” – what some might call the  political metamorphosis of Fred Upton.

Writes Wolpe to Upton (a couple clips):

AN OPEN LETTER TO FRED UPTON
Honorable Fred Upton
Member of Congress, Michigan’s 6th District

Dear Fred:

“Failing to get through to you any other way, I concluded I had no option but to attempt to reach you through the medium of an Open Letter.”

“Despite my being a Democrat and you being a Republican you will recall that I helped in getting you elected in the first place… and I have always valued our friendship.”

“… writing this letter is extremely difficult for me. But I can not tell you how painfully disappointed I have been to see you morph into a right wing extremist.”

It is simply not worth selling your soul to appease the Tea Party extremists within your party.  I am again living in Michigan, and I can not tell you how much your metamorphosis has cost you among many of your previous supporters. The dismay and disappointment, and sense of betrayal, are very widespread -- and this may be a profound understatement.”

“You are too smart and too knowledgeable to believe much of the nonsense you have been espousing on global warming and many other issues.”

- Howard Wolpe

Note: It was also reported that Fletcher attends the same church as Upton’s challenger, and currently is working as O’Brien’s campaign treasurer.  O’Brien (seen standing near where the conversation took place) has made no comment about what was said.

READ the FULL LETTER by Howard Wolpe to Fred Upton HERE.

From a article covering Upton’s response to Wolpe’s letter, there is more detail on the relationship between Upton and Wolpe:

"Although Wolpe was a Democratic congressman at the time, he helped Upton win the 1986 Republican primary against conservative Mark Siljander in Michigan's 4th Congressional District. Upton went on to win the general election, allowing him to serve alongside Wolpe in Congress for the next six years.

When redistricting put Kalamazoo in Upton's district, Wolpe didn't seek re-election in 1992 and Upton took over at Kalamazoo's congresssman. The Republican [Upton] then hired some of Wolpe's constituent-service staff."

Upton did respond to Wolpe’s letter, and also put out a statement, portions of which appeared in the Kalamazoo Gazette in “U.S. Rep Fred Upton responds to Howard Wolpe: 'I have not changed my stripes'” on October 14, 2011:
Portion of Upton's Response to Howard Wolpe:
My focus has always been getting the government to work for the people. That’s why my very first action representing Kalamazoo after Howard retired was to keep his top-notch constituent service representative on our staff."

(break)

"... as a member of the 'super committee' I know the importance that we all share in reaching a real solution to get our country through this economic situation and hopefully on the road to recovery."  

"This week I've read and signed more than a thousand of my constituents' letters offering ideas for us (the 'super committee') to consider.  We as Americans know the status quo will not work.  I have not changed my stripes [SIC - shouldn't that read "spots"???] nor my number.  I look forward to having a personal, constructive conversation with Howard.”

- Portions of Fred Upton's Statement (as reported)

From a story about Fred Upton in the Washington Post on October 31, 2011:
"Upton called Wolpe after the letter’s publication, but in an interview, Wolpe would not describe the conversation except to say that “it reemphasized for me my interpretation of what was happening [to Fred].” Wolpe died of a heart condition a few days later."

Who was the “old” Fred Upton? And who is this “new” Fred Upton?
Will the real Fred please step forward. (PHOTO is early 1990's Fred and Fred today)

The change in the political views and positions of Fred Upton have taken a dramatic turn.  Not only do his friend and allies, like Wolpe, not recognize his politics anymore, but even The Washington Post took notice.  

From some comprehensive reporting by Ned Martel entitled "Capitol Hill power player Fred Upton switches ideological gears as his clout grows" one year ago on October 31, 2011:

Washington doesn’t want Fred Upton anymore. Not the Old Fred Upton, at least.

A divided capital — and a restive GOP — is insisting that the affable, dutiful Michigander can no longer be who he has long been: the ultimate moderate. As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, this acolyte of centrist traditions is being urged to stop recognizing that the other side has a good point or two, especially points that the Republican leadership has not embraced.”

(Break)

“… something’s different about Fred Upton. At 58, he has been exhibiting a restless energy that suggests he knows now is his party’s time to get aggressive, not conciliatory. Only as a fighting team can the Republicans capitalize on President Obama’s weaknesses; only by being disruptive can they capture disgruntled voters. Subtlety is out, zeal is in.

(Break)

Upton keeps signaling to his collaborators in progressive politics that they should expect no declarations of independence from Fred Upton.

We’re going to have to work very closely with the [GOP] leadership,” [Upton] said. “No surprises. And we’re going to work in sync.”

(Emphasis Added)

This ANALYSIS seeks to explore - based on recent and current events and available information – and answer this same QUESTION:

Is Fred Upton a 'Bipartisan' Servant of the People (Old Fred) or a 'Solider for Conservative, Right-Wing Cause' (New Fred)?

In response to Wolpe’s letter and Upton’s response posted in the papers, one of several Upton constituents writes:

Fred Upton has given up moderation and has become a shrill for the wealthy and privileged, once considered a pillar of the community, he now is simply a Republican tool that promotes all that Republicans love, anti-gay, pro-wealth, lover of big business and a collection area for the graft and political donations. Once a good man has truly sold his soul.”
Earlier this year, in January 2012, in “Fred Upton, other congressional leaders failing future generations” another one of Fred’s constituents writes:
“… many elected persons in our Congress, including Fred Upton, have decided to ignore decades of studies, research and subsequent warnings [on climate change]. These individuals are a dangerous lot to be in national leadership positions for they are not prone to be leaders at all. They have sold out to greed and special interests instead of pursuing a better life for our children and our childrens’ children. By their lack of vision and posturing for political power, they are condemning our future generations to serious health issues by continuing to allow the degradation of our environment.

They have turned their backs on the health of our children because of personal ambition, political agendas and greed. Their lack of foresight and responsible leadership, by personal and political choice, will promote the continuing decline in a healthy living environment in their legislative districts, states, nation and our planet.”

(Emphasis Added)

These last words echo the campaign being run by Upton’s opponent O’Brien, who spoke frequently about “leaders” and “leadership” citing the low popularity of Congress, extreme partisanship, and the continuous gridlock, as well as concerns about the environment, education and his child’s future as O'Brien's motivation for running for office.

Says O'Brien: "We’ve watched [Fred Upton] leave the mainstream. He's on the wrong side of what a lot of the people in the district expect.”

Upton: Solider for the Right-Wing or Bipartisan Compromiser of the Past?
Fred started his career with the help of both sides of the isle, has he forgotten?

During the two debates with his opponent Mike O’Brien, and frequently in his stump speeches around the 6th District, Upton drops names, more than just his former friend, the “disappointed” Howard Wolpe, using references to Michigan Democratic Congressman John Dingell and Henry Waxman, the former Democratic Chair of Energy and Commerce which Upton now chairs.  These references are used in small crowds, away from the Beltway crowd, in an effort to demonstrate his “bipartisan” nature, which many on the Hill and elsewhere have serious doubts. From Politico on November 11, 2011:

During much of his more than two decades in the House, Upton has fashioned himself as a moderate - backing environmentally friendly bills and an expansion of embryonic stem cell research and sponsoring legislation with Democratic Rep. John Dingell, his longtime Michigan colleague.

After Upton launched his successful campaign for the Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship last year, [Upton] met the wrath of conservatives, including radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, who wanted a gavel holder who would more reliably toe the party line.

Back to the last year's article in the Washington Post:
“… Dingell, who is helping Upton on a bipartisan pipeline bill, understands that with power comes partisanship, that no one with a gavel can be a goody-goody. Fred does not have the freedom he would have had previous to his time as chairman,” Dingell explained. Upton still partners with Dingell on smaller issues such as tort reform and pipeline safety.”
Another Democrat Upton cites on his stump speeches to bolster his "bipartisan collaboration" is Henry Waxman, now the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce committee. This relationship too has taken a toll on Fred devolution to the extreme right on energy issues.  In a letter to Upton, Waxman calls for an investigation of a witness that Upton called to a hearing on climate change. From The Hill in January of 2011:
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, is urging committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to probe whether a high-profile climate skeptic misled the panel about how much the petroleum industry funds his work.

In a letter to Upton Monday, Waxman urges Upton to help him explore how much the petroleum industry backs Dr. Patrick Michaels, a scholar with the conservative Cato Institute who testified before the committee about climate change in 2009.

I am writing you about his testimony because it now appears that in both the materials he initially submitted to the Committee and in response to questions for the record submitted by a Committee member after the hearing, Dr. Michaels may have provided misleading information about the sources of his funding and his ties to industries opposed to regulation of emissions responsible for climate change,” Waxman writes in his letter to Upton.

Another more recent scrap with the Democrats on his Energy & Commerce committee, Henry Wax and Bobby Rush over "oil subsidies". From The Hill in "Waxman parries Upton over energy subsidy report" on October 25, 2012:
[Rep Henry] Waxman is asking congressional auditors to broaden a study requested by Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), arguing that Upton’s proposal would allow billions of dollars in taxpayer support for oil companies to escape review.

The skirmish over methodology is part of a much larger fight over federal support for various energy technologies that has, at times, been front and center in the presidential [Romney vs Obama] race.

Waxman and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), a top lieutenant on the energy panel, sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office criticizing a study Upton requested earlier this month with three GOP colleagues.

Upton had made BIG NEWS during the second debate with his opponent Mike O'Brien when he first declares that he might no longer support "oil subsidies" (without listing any conditions) and other "green power tax breaks" earlier this week.

Upton: A Solider for the Right-Wing or Protector of the Environment?
Fred was “for the environment” before he was against it

From “The Curious Case of Fred Upton” by Erich Pica, a Western Michigan environmental activist and President of Friends of the Earth last February 2011:

"We all know a Fred Upton. He's the coworker who was your friend until he got promoted and "went corporate." He's the athlete who played to bring a championship to his home town before following a larger contract to a bigger city. He's the buddy who was always around until he got into a relationship and didn't have time for you any more.

Fred Upton is the Republican congressman who used to have interesting ideas about reducing emissions and fighting climate change. But then he ran for chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Now, he has staffed his committee with lobbyists and today he wants to roll back Clean Air Act protections against pollution from factories and power plants.

(Break)

By listening to the dirty oil and coal industries instead of his constituents, Chairman Upton has lost touch with his district. I grew up in Bainbridge Township, outside of Benton Harbor, right across the river from the congressman’s hometown of St. Joseph. Before I moved to Washington, D.C., Upton was my representative, and, like everyone in the district, I called him Fred.

The people of Southwest Michigan are proud Midwesterners. We know our core values, and whether we vote for Republicans or Democrats, those core values guide us. For the first twenty years Fred served in the House, [Upton] was the same way.

But in the last two years, Upton has abandoned his principles."

(Emphasis Added)

This well-informed piece goes on with a long list of Upton reversals and missteps the author claims were not to be expected from the Fred Upton he once knew to include: imports of same tar sands on a pipeline that polluted a river that flows through Upton's own district into Lake Michigan, blocked carbon dioxide reduction legislation, denying of climate change particulars, making the case any “sensible regulations” on protecting the environment hurts the economy, and corporation funded regulatory battles with "a weird twist consistent with the whims" of his corporate backers like the Koch Brothers and organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council Exchange Council (ALEC) backing Upton.

Other environmentalists and organizations both local and national have been asking “What Happened to Fred Upton”. This from a Michigan local radio station WTVB in the CD-6 Branch County in January of 2011:

(WKZO) - Several local and state environmentalists are wondering what happened to Congressman Fred Upton, who used to be much more supportive of green efforts, the man who brought florescent bulbs to public buildings and has been a champion to clean up the Kalamazoo River. The [Michigan] Sierra Club’s Ann Woiwode says since his appointment as chair of Energy and Commerce, [Upton] sounds more like he is in the pockets of big oil.

Cindy Roper at Clean Water Action says given the Enbridge Oil Spill so close to Upton’s district, they had hoped they might pursue tighter restrictions on pipeline operations>. Instead Upton is backing the construction of a new Pipelineforgotten about the Enbridge spill and will pursue meaningful regulation.

Upton is not the only local Michigan politician that has been silent on the largest spill in the history of the Midwest by Enbridge Inc pipeline operations.  Local municipalities and townships are taking up the battle fighting to ensure the Marshall/Kalamazoo River oil spill is completely cleaned up, and the oil pipeline properly maintained, as well as voicing concerns about plans for new pipelines. From a story entitled “Michigan Pipeline Fight: Frustration Builds Over Elected Leaders' Silence” on October 17, 2012:
Amid puzzling indifference shown by elected officials over Enbridge's pipeline plans, townships are stepping up, opponents say—and giving them some hope. (break) In a blog that [activist Kate] Bodenmiller's husband, Jeffrey Insko, created to track the Enbridge project, he called out five politicians not only for their indifference but also for catering to Enbridge [including Fred Upton].

"Evidently, there is not one elected official at the state or federal level in Michigan who has the interest or the gumption to utter a single word of skepticism or criticism—or even concern—about Enbridge," Insko said. "I find this silence shocking and shameful, especially on the part of the governor."

Note: Enbridge Inc. and its partners DTE Energy and Spectra Energy have plans to construct a new pipeline that is proposed to run from Northeast Ohio through Michigan to Ontario called the “NEXUS Gas Transmission System”.

Where is Fred Upton on the Enbridge spill and clean-up?  
From a story on the 800 million gallon oil spill into one of Michigan’s longest tributaries, the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, MI that flows through Upton’s district, there was talk of a congressional investigation which so far has not materialized:

Rep. Fred Upton indicated Tuesday that there could be a congressional inquiry into the 2010 Enbridge pipeline spill, pending the final analysis of a federal investigation. (break) Upton said he has not delved much into the more than 5,000 pages of raw investigation documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board. He would not say whether he thought company missteps caused more environmental damage, or whether he personally favored a congressional hearing.
No investigation or “inquiry” has materialized even though Upton has the power now with his GOP chairmanships in his chamber to make them happen.

Upton: A Soldier for the Right-Wing, Defender of Mitt Romney
Upton’s Covering Fire for Romney Attack on “Green Technology” Investments

Upton continues to interject himself into the controversy surrounding the assertions of Republican candidate Mitt Romney despite all the fact checking and debunking of the statements of that “half of green businesses’ that received stimulus funds “have gone out of business”.  

FACT: “Most of the large projects that benefited from the Department of Energy loan program remain in operation -- contrary to Romney's assertion that "almost half" of them had closed” – CNN Election Center
In a Washington Post article on October 11, 2012 on a portfolio of 11 green technology companies Al Gore has said would slow global climate change, Upton is quoted as saying:
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee and is a leading critic of clean tech funding, said Gore’s portfolio “is reflective of a disturbing pattern that those closest to the president have been rewarded with billions of taxpayer dollars and benefited from the administration’s green bonanza in the rush to spend stimulus cash.”
Again that is a case of Upton joining into the national debate to support the national Republican narrative, in this case by Mitt Romney while debating President Obama, on ‘green technology’ investments and failures for this year’s election cycle, but there is a hitch.

One of the issues that Upton’s opponents raised is the fact that in 2005 Upton voted for a bill to “support companies looking to develop renewable energy projects”, in 2007 Upton backed legislation for the “Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program, targeting manufacturers and suppliers looking to retool U.S. factories to build high-fuel economy vehicles” and in 2009 Upton signed a letter to the Secretary of Energy and the Department of Energy by Michigan legislators supporting investments to several “green technology” Michigan-based companies including: Suniva, United Solar, Xtreme Power Solutions, and Clairvoyant.

Source: the E&E Daily and “Critic of Obama clean-energy loans lobbied Energy Department” in USA Today on September 26, 2011.

This year, in a statement on June 21, 2012, Upton joined in the chorus of “Solyndra” critics against the very technologies and companies he had supported for years before, all in the name of apparent political expediency.  This “flip-flop” by Upton drew immediate attention by just about all parties involved in the alternative energy and green technology debate.  In a Huffington Post article entitled “Fred Upton, GOP Energy And Commerce Chairman, Pushes Obama To Disclose, But Defended Bush” on June 21, 2012, Erin Mershon points out just how dramatic Upton’s reverse on Executive Branch disclosure:

“A House Republican chairman who once defended the Bush administration's non-disclosure is now blasting the White House for withholding information.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) sharply criticized the Obama administration in a recent Fox Business News interview for refusing to disclose key emails and information as part of an investigation into an alleged secret deal between White House and the pharmaceutical industry to pass health care reform. According to the committee, the Democrats promised to protect drug company revenues from regulations that could cut into their profits, like price caps on drugs.

(Break)

Although Upton tossed Obama's words back at the president, Upton himself had a different attitude toward disclosure when a Republican sat in the Oval Office.

In 2004, when Democrats demanded information from President George W. Bush about the activities of Vice President Dick Cheney's secret energy task force, Upton voted against the request for disclosure.

The story doesn’t end there.  Upton has been leading the charge on calling for and then leading an investigation of the so-called “Solyndra Affair” which has been ran non-stop on FOX News and the right wing “noise machine”.  

On top of all that there is this UNBELIEVABLE TWIST.  It seems that all during his criticism and calls for investigating Solyndra, Upton hired the top Solyndra lobbyist to work on his Energy & Commerce Committee Staff.  From an environmental blogger who has been tracking Upton (also on DailyKos) throughout his tenture as chair on the House E&C committee pieces together the story:

Meet Gary Andres, the Solyndra lobbyist - one of K Street's sleaziest operators - who Upton persuaded to take a $235,500 a year paycut to go from working at Dutko [Worldwide and Holland and Knight] (for $418,000 annually) to [work on] the House Energy and Commerce Committee (as chief of staff for $172,500 annually). (Break) Andres has contributed over $100,000 to Republican politicians - including Upton - since 2008…”
From the New York Times article “Solyndra Spent Liberally to Woo Lawmakers Until the End, Records Show” by John McArdle on September 16, 2011:
The 1,100 full- and part-time employees who were abruptly laid off two weeks ago aren't the only ones whose paychecks have been affected by the sudden and dramatic failure of bankrupt solar energy company, Solyndra Inc. Because for its brief lifespan, Solyndra proved to be pretty good for the lobbying community.

According to records filed with the Clerk of the House and a search of disclosure forms compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Solyndra spent nearly $1.9 million on lobbying activities over a period of 43 months from 2008 to 2011.

Solyndra has also had several big-name lobbying shops on its payroll, including established powerhouses Dutko Worldwide and Holland and Knight, which began representing the then-fledgling company in 2008.

While Holland and Knight helped the company with renewable energy tax credit issues, Dutko was brought aboard, according to its filings, to "identify decisionmakers and to assist with the client's loan application" through the Department of Energy.

Huh? - to “assist with the client’s loan application”? Just like those other Michigan companies did, with Upton assistance in 2009?  A story in The Hill by Kevin Bogardus and Rachel Leven entitled “Lobbyists took $100K cut in pay to work for members of Congress” takes us the rest of the way down the rabbit hole:
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has been a popular destination for ex-lobbyists. At least four other individuals who were registered to lobby at some point in 2010 now work for the committee: Gary Andres, formerly of Dutko Worldwide; James Barnette, once of Steptoe & Johnson; David McCarthy, who worked for Algenol Biofuels; and Michael Bloomquist, who lobbied while at Wiley Rein.

A spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the panel’s chairman, requires his staff not to work with their former employers.

“Chairman Upton has a policy that goes above and beyond the requirements of the House rules and requires staff to recuse themselves from working on issues that specifically affect a former employer,” said Alexa Marrero, the committee spokeswoman.

Andres, once a heavyweight at top-earning lobby firm Dutko, reported earning more than $418,000 last year from the firm. Now the former lobbyist will have a $172,500 annual salary [on the Energy & Commerce Committee Staff] , according to House records.

Ask yourself: If Solyndra was such a hot bed of corruption, why did Fred Upton hire Solnndra’s “top lobbyist” to work for him?

BUT WAIT - This was not the first time Upton has been called out for hiring industry lobbyists. From Politico on December 24, 2010:

In December 2010, Upton announced he had chosen a former health care lobbyist to serve in an all-purpose role on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Howard Cohen, president of the health care lobbying firm HC Associates, is expected to have “broad responsibilities overseeing health care issues for the panel”. Cohen has represented [lobbying for] a number of clients who have business before Upton's committee, including the Federation of American Hospitals, Genzyme and PhRMAJames.
Here's another one. Upton appointed Michael Bloomquist, who was the chief lobbyist for the American Natural Gas Association (ANGA) as his general counsel for the House Energy and Commerce committee.  ANGA is an organization formed by Aubrey McClendon and other national gas industry special interests / billionaires currently looking to expand fracking in Michigan.

These are just a couple of the cases in which Upton’s dealings and close relationships with lobbyists and industry insiders definitely FAIL to pass the “smell test”.

In 2012 alone, Fred Upton has received $238,253 directly from a long list of individual lobbyists and/or their family members.

READ the FULL STORY on the hiring of the Solyndra Lobbyist in “Fred Upton Has To Decide-- Is He More Incompetent Or More Corrupt?” on DailyKos.

Fred’s Future Not Michigan’s Future in Green/Alternative Transportation
How can companies invest with guys like Upton ginned up attacking Green Tech?

One of the major industries that have contributed to Fried Upton over the years are automotive OEMs and suppliers, that all received “billions of taxpayer dollars” (as loans mind you), one might Upton how many of “those closest” to him benefited from that.

Many of those companies are now investing heavily into clean and alternative powertrain, hybrid and electric drive zero-emission technologies and national policy over the long-term, not just investments made during the Recovery Act supported by the Obama administration.  These companies have facilities and investments in Upton’s home and adjacent districts, and since he has promised “100,000 new jobs by 2022” for his 700,000 constituents (that’s 1 new job for every 7 people in his district by the way), he might just had better do the best he can to work with the current administration, instead of tossing around rhetoric on FOX News supporting presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

Upton: A Solider for the Right-Wing  on Fracking in Michigan
What the Frack, Fred?

During the period 2001-2010, Fred Upton was the 3rd highest recipient of donations for firms interested in fracking across most of Michigan according to the list of “Top Michigan members of Congress as recipients of fracking money” list (Common Cause, Page 18).  In recent report by CBS News in “’Toxic Spending’ report investigates industry push for fracking” on October 24, 2012:

“The study, entitled "Toxic Spending," was released by the nonprofit advocacy group Common Cause. It states that most of the spending went to campaign ads, lobbying, and campaign contributions. For instance, in the current elections, the industry has given $23 million to Super PACs. House Speaker John Boehner received nearly $128,000 from individuals and political action groups connected to chemical firms, many of which are reportedly impacted by fracking. Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, took in $80,100 in donations and benefited from just over $200,000 in advertising.”
Upton: A Solider for the Right-Wing for Coal Profits
From the War on Fred to “Fighting off the War on Coal”

Following the meeting with the oil & gas and big energy company representatives and lobbyists, Fred Upton and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), a leading climate change denier, struck out with a “flurry of corporate bills” and initiatives from right off the corporation lobbyists filing (and ALEC’s) cabinets, instead of supporting his struggle farming constituents back in his home district.

O’Brien, an experienced organic farmer himself, has taken Upton seriously to task on the lack of a new Farm Bill which was tabled when Congress went on recess for the 2012 Elections.  Agriculture is a critical industry in Upton’s district and thousands of jobs were seriously threatened by a combination of a cold spring and drought in this past summer.

From Upton's own statement well before the fall recess of Congress on July 2, 2012:

“Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) applauded yesterday’s disaster declaration by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for southwest Michigan fruit farmers who are facing one of the worst crop losses in decades.  A mild winter followed by unseasonably warm temperatures in March caused Michigan fruit trees to bud early, only to be wiped out by typical April freezes.” (break) “While today’s announcement is an important and welcome step, this historic disaster further underscores the urgency of passing a Farm Bill that accounts for the needs of our area’s specialty crop growers.”
So where was Upton?
Immediately after the break for the 2012 campaign season, instead of returning to his home district to meet with constituents, Upton embarked on a trip to support the Republican Party National agenda and the Mitt Romney campaign in Pennsylvania.  In an Op-Ed that appeared in Politico on September 20, 2012 with the title “Fighting off the war on coal” Upton (and Sen Jim Inhofe (R-OK) writes:
The House on Friday plans to launch a counterattack to the [Obama] administration’s relentless efforts to regulate coal into oblivion, by voting on the Stop the War on Coal Act to prevent more job losses and plant closures. This is a series of bills that aim to stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory assault on the U.S. coal power sector.

There has been a lot of discussion on how close we are to achieving North American Energy Independence by developing our bountiful domestic petroleum resources and partnering with our neighbors in Canada on important infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline.

We often take for granted, however, that we are already electricity independent, since we have abundant and reliable resources to power homes and businesses for centuries - unless the Obama EPA gets its way. The Obama administration’s “all of the above but nothing from below” energy policy threatens our electricity independence.

What has been coming out in this year’s 2012 election cycle is that the US coal industry is lobbying hard for less regulation and EPA oversight, and making the argument that coal is critical to making America “energy independent” when the data shows that most of the additional taxpayer subsidized US coal production is actually being exported outside the US to countries and markets that have fewer emissions and environmental controls than the US, adding to the degradation of the global climate and health of everyone on the planet.

In fact the same logic came into play concerning the controversial Keystone XL pipeline during the second O’Brien vs. Upton debate, as it did during the first debate.  From the Kalamazoo Gazette on October 23, 2012:

The candidates [O’Brien and Upton] also sparred on energy policy. Both candidates are in favor of an "all of the above" energy policy. Upton said fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada to the U.S., would help create jobs in the district as well as lower energy costs. He added that renewable energy should be part of that mix.

O'Brien said he is against the Keystone XL pipeline due to the risk it would pose and because he said that oil would be shipped to the Gulf of Mexico and then exported. "We won't see that oil and it won't change the cost one penny at the pump," O'Brien said.

Upton was #1 in a list of the “10 Biggest Enemies of the Earth” in 2011 according the LA Times Editorial Board stating:
Upton is the gatekeeper for many of the disastrous anti-environment bills that have been approved or proposed in the House this year. Ironically, he was once known among his state's conservatives as "Red Fred" because of a somewhat pro-environment voting record, but a recent electoral challenge from his right changed all that. Because of he powerful position and newfound disdain for green regulation, [Upton] represents one of the biggest threats to planet Earth on planet Earth.”
Between his new-found positions on climate change, the environment, the EPA and his avoidance of completing a new Farm Bill, Upton now finds himself on thin ice with many supporters.

Upton: A Soldier for the Right-Wing – Not Real Soldiers
Forward for the neo-conservative crusades, but not the Veterans they created

One of the local issues that the Mike O’Brien for Congress campaign has driven home is that of the positions and voting records of Fred Upton on Veterans issues.  During this 2012 campaign veterans have been lining up behind O’Brien, an ex-Marine, rather than with Upton, whose retreat on veterans issues has become an injury to those that have been in harm’s way.

Southwest Michigan is an economically disadvantaged region of Michigan, much like it’s counterparts in Northern and Upper Peninsular Michigan where economics and strong patriotic traditions mean a lot of folks signing up for military service.  While many locals might not be sure about many of this years national issues like deficits, national debt and tax policy, one thing they do understand is how veterans should taken care of, many of these Michiganders being vets or relatives of service men and women that were in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom or OIF) and elsewhere, or still serve in (Operation Enduring Freedom or OEF) in Afghanistan.

Writes a senior Southwest Michigan retired military officer about his research on the race between O’Brien vs. Upton:

Last May, I retired to Southwest Michigan after 28 years of service in the U.S. Navy. During my service time, I served in the Persian Gulf War and the war in Iraq {OEF]. I knew that my government would stand with me during and after my service, but after researching both of the candidates running for Congress in Michigan’s 6th District, I have some serious concerns about Congressman Fred Upton’s lack of support to our military and veterans.

The first thing that caught my eye was [Upton’s] support of $11 billion in cuts of services used by veterans. Being a combat veteran, I use the Veteran's Administration like many veterans and the VA right now is struggling to meet all of the requirements from our current two wars and those from wars past.

I started digging deeper on Upton and discovered in October 2003, Upton voted against funding “to pay for the medical and dental screening of military reservists, for family assistance centers, for pre-paid phone cards for the troops in Iraq, for the transportation of troops on rest-and-relaxation leave, for the construction of water treatment and power plants for the deployed troops, and for the repair and replacement of damaged equipment.”

Additionally, In August 2007, Mr. Upton voted against life enhancement and periods of rest for our troops, and in July 2004, Upton voted against increased funding for military housing improvements.

(Break)

I believe [Upton] has lost touch with Michigan, the military and our veterans. I believe he is part of the pollution in Congress right now.

(Emphasis Added)

Then on ex-reconnaissance (Recon) Marine OBrien:
I met and spoke with Mike O’Brien at one of his rallies. He understands the military and veterans issues because he is one of us. (break) This November, I'm casting my vote for O'Brien and I encourage all of my fellow veterans to consider this, too.
While O’Brien downplays his military service and past public service it is clear in his stump speeches, he knows a lot about not just veterans issues, but he is able to talk in interact on a very personal level with fellow citizens one-on-one, looking them straight in the eye and impressing them just as he did this three decade serviceman, something the three decade politician, Upton has lost.

VIDEO by the Mike O’Brien Campaign on “Leadership”

Upton: A Solider for the Right-Wing including Koch Industries
Fred Upton – Another Tea Party “Koch” Addict

The reality is that in order to win the 2012 GOP Primary, Fred Upton has become a de facto member of the Michigan Tea Party, has co-authored articles with Americans for Prosperity and Koch Industries was among Upton’s Top Contributors in the 2010 election cycle.  From “Upton Argues Obama Plans To Destroy America In The Name Of Global Warming” by Brad Johnson following the Upton Op-Ed:

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, incoming energy chair Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) joined Americans For Prosperity (AFP) president Tim Phillips, a global warming denier, to support the lawsuits by global warming polluters against climate rules. One of the companies leading the charge against the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas endangerment finding is Koch Industries, the private pollution giant whose billionaire owners have been directing the Tea Party movement through its AFP front group.”

Koch brothers now at heart of GOP financing of new “SuperPAC” behind Mitt Romney and dozens of candidates across the country, Upton is no exception.  From “Koch Brothers now at the Heart of GOP Power” on February 06, 2011:

“The billionaire brothers' influence is most visible in the makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where members have vowed to undo restrictions on greenhouse gases.”

"Perhaps the Kochs' most surprising and important ally on the [House Energy and Commerce] committee is its new chairman, Rep. Fred Upton. The Republican from Michigan, who was once criticized by conservatives for his middle-of-the-road approach to environmental issues, is now leading the effort to rein in the EPA.

"Upton received $20,000 in donations from Koch employees in 2010, making them among his top 10 donors in that cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In recent months the congressman has made a point of publicly aligning himself with the Koch-backed advocacy group, calling for an end to the 'EPA choke-hold.'"

It is hard to say just how much money Upton might have received from the Koch brothers in the 2012 cycle. In fact, it may be quite possible that much of the Koch money in his district was spent to in the failed bid to unseat him.

Not just the Koch Brothers, More Buddies in Big Oil & Gas Industries
It’s the Private Polls Upton listens to now-a-days, the ones whispered in his ear

While these polls of private citizens are interesting (discussed in a previous post), it is the private polls of oil and energy industry insiders that Upton appears to heed most. From the article “GOP staff, energy lobby in closed-door talks” in Politico in 2011:

Top staff members for key House and Senate Republicans met in a closed-door session Tuesday with energy industry interests to work on strategy to handcuff the Obama administration’s climate change agenda.

With the backing of GOP caucus leaders, aides for House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) are seeking unwavering support from a host of industries for an all-out push to block federal and state climate rules. (break) The roster of those attending the invitation-only gathering is being kept under lock and key, though it is believed to include the American Petroleum Institute, National Mining Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others.


Shades of Dick Cheney’s infamous, secret Energy Task Force meeting of 2004?
Sure looks like it, and even though is still not verified and documented IF Fred Upton was included in Cheney’s secret Energy Task Force cabal, one has to loudly wonder if he would have been made the congressional kingpin of energy as Chair of the US House Energy and Commerce without being there.

From the piece “Fred Upton, GOP Energy And Commerce Chairman, Pushes Obama To Disclose, But Defended Bush” earlier this year on the Huffington Post June 8, 2012:

A House Republican chairman who once defended the Bush administration's non-disclosure is now blasting the White House for withholding information.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) sharply criticized the Obama administration in a recent Fox Business News interview for refusing to disclose key emails and information as part of an investigation into an alleged secret deal between White House and the pharmaceutical industry to pass health care reform.

(break)

Although Upton tossed Obama's words back at the president, Upton himself had a different attitude toward disclosure when a Republican sat in the Oval Office.

In 2004, when Democrats demanded information from President George W. Bush about the activities of Vice President Dick Cheney's secret energy task force, Upton voted against the request for disclosure.

(break)

Those aides carefully guarded the guest list for the invitation-only gathering, which was held just before Upton introduced a bill to block the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Here we see the "new" Fred Upton, the 13-term formerly “moderate” turned party man, using the tricks developed by lobbyists and corporate insiders to protect the their special influence and power brokering at secret big oil and energy meetings.

Where’s Fred’s Aspen?
Since Upton is off and running around earning the support that he has gotten from the corporate lobbyists, and he has traditionally been off campaign for others supporting his new, big oil and energy friends, just where else has Fred been?

Just one example of how popular Fred Upton is in lobbying and insider circles in is revealed by the $63,384.95 that “private donors/contributors” related to Oil & Energy paid just for Upton’s travel alone to attend their annual conferences.  So generous were the supporters of the right-wing Aspen Institute have paid for Fred to spend time with them across the world in (get this): Vienna, Austria (2011), Valencia, Spain (2009), Rome, Italy (2008), Shanghai and Beijing, Peoples Republic of China (2007), Istanbul, Turkey (2005) and White Sulphur Springs, WV back in 2001.

The major funders of the Aspen Institute are Exxon-Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute, along with billionaire radical right-wing foundations including: David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation which along with the Koch Brothers is behind the conservative think tank in “Wisconsin Policy Research Institute” and the American Legislative Exchange Council or "ALEC" the key players in the support of Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and legislative campaigns such as anti-labor, anti-unions and collective bargaining, shoot-first laws, climate denial and anti-EPA bills, the roll back of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as well as voter ID and suppression laws in Wisconsin and across the entire country in GOP controlled State Houses and Governors’ Mansions, Lansing included.

Upton has been also been a member of the Apsen Institute’s “Board of Advisers” records show.

Has Upton become just another “PAC Rat”?
There are nearly 70 PACs currently on the Upton donor lists, and he receives the vast majority of his campaign funding from SuperPACs, trade and business lobbies and special interest donors, both from the mega-wealthy 1% and corporations, some of which are companies that have a vested interest that Upton remain in his position as Chair of the Energy & Commerce committee. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network on May 14, 2012:

The state [Michigan Chamber of Commerce] and national [US Chamber of Commerce] spent $128,000 for television spots touting Upton’s service. The U.S. Chamber and the American Chemistry Council are in the midst of a new three-week TV ad campaign praising Upton. The Chemistry Council is spending $240,000 and the U.S. Chamber is spending $118,000 in the Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo media market.
As of September 30, 2012, Upton has raised nearly $3.8 million to support his reelection, compared to less than 6% of that by his challenger Mike O’Brien, who has received almost entirely in small, individual contributions much of it from his hometown family and friend, and other citizens he has met walking the small towns and rural areas of the 6th District. Check O'Brien out you might like Mike.

READ a ARTICLE on PAC Contributions to Fred Upton

Entrenched, Corrupted, Corporate-funded Politicians Must Go
Has Fred Upton crossed the line? Has he gone too far? Voters will decide.

This is part of the story of Fred Upton's 26 years in Congress. Those that know him well over that period of time, see that he is simply not the man that many helped to get started in politics.  Originally supported by citizens of both parties and independents to remove a corrupted incumbent, many of the behaviors he now exhibits are a serious concern to many inside and outside his home 6th Congressional District.  Like the former friend, Howard Wolpe, many have given Fred warnings and shared these concerns about him become a "right-wing extremist".  On his current path, he may soon not recognize himself, the "old" Fred and the "new" Fred.

As Upton's capable opponent put it during their second debate:

Our founding fathers never intended that there to be “professional politicians” in Congress.  They expected former soldiers, businessmen, farmers and citizens of all stripes would run for office, not professional politicians.”
- Mike O’Brien, from notes taken during the second debate October 23, 2012
It may be time for a change, and this cycle he has a serious challenger in Mike O'Brien, on November 6, 2012 the voters decide which Fred Upton they want. Our choice is clear, new Fred must go.

VIDEO from the Mike O’Brien campaign a “Clear” choice.

READ the FULL INTERVIEW of Mike O’Brien posted on October 18, 2012 on Michigan’s own Eclectablog.  O’Brien talks about the race tightening, several emerging issues in the campaign, parallels between Upton and Mitt Romney

RELATED: MI-06 Mike O'Brien Shreds Fred Upton in first debate: Polls show Michigan Congressional Race Closing (October 23, 2012)

Permissions and Disclaimer: The authors of this post are not employed by or members of the O’Brien campaign and it is an independent piece not endorsed by the candidate or campaign staff. A couple of the contributors to this piece have know Fred Upton for decades. PERMISSION is GRANTED to re-post any portion or full content of this work, as long as a link to the original is used.

Discuss

As the national presidential debates come to a close, it is time to return to local debates and races where Democratic challengers are gaining ground, one of those is the Mike O’Brien for Congress campaign closing race with 26-year Republican incumbent Fred Upton, GOP Chair of the Energy and Commerce committee in the US House 6th Congressional District in Michigan.  O’Brien dominated the first debate on October 9, 2012, the next debate is set for tonight - October 23, 2012. Check this one out - you just might like Mike.

MI-06 A Race in a Dead Heat?
Mixed Emotions, Results and Messages in a Split District

Recent polls show conflicting results on the support of the 26-year incumbent Fred Upton.  From the Democratic sources, Mike O’Brien has closed the gap to the closest CD 6 has been in decades, on the other hand the Upton campaign is now pushing their own polls to convince voters there is no match, despite the positive statements and stories that have been running locally on the challenger, O’Brien.

From the Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest on October 11, 2012:

MI-06:
"Though GOP Rep. Fred Upton occupies a district that went for Obama by eight points in 2008, the race in MI-06 hasn't gotten a lot of attention this year. Despite facing down an unsuccessful Club for Growth-fueled primary challenge, Upton still has a huge campaign warchest, while his opponent, Marine vet Mike O'Brien, had only raised about $100K as of mid-July. But sometimes background factors matter more than candidate dynamics, and that appears to be what O'Brien's trying to demonstrate with a new internal from Myers Research that shows [Republican Incumbent] Upton leading [Democrat Challenger O’Brien] by just a 47-42 margin, with Libertarian Christie Gelineau taking 7 percent. That's still quite a climb for O'Brien, but what's most notable is how unfriendly this sample is [in the same poll]: Obama actually trails Mitt Romney 48-47..."
These Poll results (n = 400 likely voters, +/- 4.9%) are also posted on the Huffington Post “Election Dashboard”.

According to Myers Research memo on the numbers in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District (CD) or MI-06:

Coming off a wave of television advertising by the Mike O’Brien campaign, our recent survey of Michigan’s 6th Congressional District finds incumbent Congressman Fred Upton in the danger zone for any incumbent, sitting well below majority status.  Indeed, from the outset of our survey the content is locked in a statistical dead heat, with Upton ahead by just 5 points, 42 to 47 percent, while Libertarian candidate Christie Gelineau attracts 7 percent of the vote.

(Break)

Clear signs of incumbent burnout emerge throughout this survey, highlighting the trend we see overall.  First, Upton’s personal standing is tepid, with 92 percent of the electorate able to recognize him, yet just 43 percent give him warm, favorable ratings, with 32 percent give him cool, unfavorable ratings, and a near neutral 52-degree personal feeling thermometer as measured on a scale of 0 to 100.

(Break)

Bottomline, Upton is incredibly vulnerable today and should the O’Brien campaign have the resources to continue to communicate, this contest could be extremely close come Election Day.

READ the entire report with actual questions and methodology details HERE.

From the Michigan Democratic Party in “Mike O’Brien Added to DCCC’s 'Emerging Races' List: O’Brien Now in Statistical Dead Heat with Upton in 6th Congressional District" on October 15, 2012:

LANSING – The Michigan Democratic Party today announced that now a fifth race in Michigan is drawing national attention and support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which has added Mike O’Brien and the 6th Congressional District to its list of “Emerging Races.”

Mike O’Brien is running a top-notch campaign, and he is successfully making the case to voters that Congressman Fred Upton has lost touch and no longer represents the people of southwestern Michigan,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer. “With a background as a Marine and small-business owner, Mike has the experience and leadership that voters of the 6th District want to see in a candidate. They don’t want someone that votes in lockstep with his party like Upton.”

Early during the GOP primary fight, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel stated:
"The problem that a bunch of Republicans have is that as far to the right as they've gone they still face primaries from the far, far right," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York yesterday. "If a tea party candidate defeats Fred Upton, that district is one that we would look at with added focus. It's historically a fairly moderate district and we would look at it."
So far, no major progressive organization has stepped up to assist O’Brien to unseat his weakened incumbent opponent, and his campaign is funded largely by small donations.

Upton goes Right-Wing: Losing Touch with the 6th District
How weakened, ragged and scarred is Upton by his GOP Primary Battles?

The GOP primary in the 6th District was generously "acrimonious" at best; downright "dirty" at it’s worst.  The once “moderate’ positioned Upton has continually moved more and more to the right, adopting right-wing and “free enterprise” positions to weather attacks by those in the Tea Party and right-wing of the Michigan Republican Party (like Dick and Betsy DeVos) that have openly opposed Upton for years, cycle by cycle.  According to a GOP challenger (and Tea Party radical-conservative favorite) Jack Hoogendyk following his loss to Upton, and bowing out of the US Senate race too:

Hoogendyk, reached by phone Tuesday, pointed to lower voter turnout this year than during the 6th District race two years ago. He said Upton’s negative campaigning was one reason for the low voter turnout.
Hoogendyk has joined Western Michigan GOP maven, Pete Secchia, and is now front, center and way right in the fight to change Michigan into a “Right to Work” for less state.

Coming to Upton’s rescue against the onslaught of challenges from within his own party were the executives from a long list of big corporations and the US Chamber of Commerce (USCC) that endorsed and spent hundreds of thousands on advertising shielding Upton.  From the USCC ad to save Upton from Club for Growth attacks:

[NARRATOR:] There’s a lot standing in the way of American energy production and it’s costing us. Fred Upton is fighting to create more American energy jobs. Upton says the Keystone pipeline will create jobs and will strengthen energy security, so he’s fighting back against President Obama’s decision to block it. And Upton is fighting the bureaucracy that is standing in the way of new American energy development. Tell Fred Upton to keep standing up for American energy.
[U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 5/8/12]
According the Bridge Project and their in-depth analysis of the US Chamber Ad supporting Fred Upton (May 2012):
An ad from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce relies on a set of unfounded suppositions about American energy in order to bolster Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The question is:
Did all these negative, largely localized and direct campaigning shut down the Republican and GOP-leaning voters’ will to turnout for Upton in the general election?  Does this give O’Brien an opening this November?

VIDEO: Watch a clip of (a groggy?) Fred Upton during his GOP Primary victory party/celebration in St Joseph, MI on August 7, 2012.  If any of his statements sound the same, they are, no matter what the venue or event, these are Upton’s standard talking points.

The Fred Upton for Congress campaign, led by Joe Wicks “who served as chief of staff and campaign manager for Tim Walberg… endorsed by Club for Growth” a right-wing billionaire organization that fought “the War on Fred Upton” that included an ad campaign that opposed Upton, has run polls of its own. From “Fred Upton's campaign claims big lead in the polls” story posted by the Upton-leaning local AM Radio station WKZO on October 17, 2012:

DOUGLAS (WKZO) -- Mike O’Brien may be making more headway when it comes to fundraising than former Democratic opponents, but the Upton Campaign says according to their polls, he is trailing with voters.

The Upton Campaign has countered by releasing the results from a poll that they say shows that Upton is leading among voters by 58 to 27%.

They say only 19% of the electorate knows enough about Mike O’Brien to have an opinion. The poll, Conducted by Hill Research Associates [SIC] has a plus or minus margin of error of 5.7%.

From another newspaper story echoing the narrative pushed by the Upton campaign:
Upton's poll pegged name recognition as a leading problem for the O'Brien campaign's with 19 percent of respondents knowing enough about him to have either a favorable or unfavorable opinion.  Also, of polled likely voters casting ballots for Barack Obama, 31 percent said they also planned to vote for Upton.
Somehow the math just doesn’t add up (not just the missing 15% of the electorate – presumably Libertarian or undecided still) in this poll by the Upton campaign.  But then again it wasn't designed to add up.

Upton’s poll was conducted the Houston-based [David] Hill Research Consultants used by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Texas Governor Rick Perry and other Republican and conservative organizations, including being a favorite source for oil & gas industry and other right-wing lobbying firms.

Local Newspaper Offers Late-Break Split Opinion on Upton vs. O’Brien Race
Confusion Not Just in the Polls, but in the Local Papers – the Cause?  A real challenger
In a late election cycle editorial published by a former Chicago Tribune investigative reporter, one gets some sense of just how close this race has become.  From Mickey Ciokajlo on October 18, 2012:

Voters in the 6th congressional district have a good problem on their hands: They have two good candidates to choose from. We believe that either Republican Fred Upton or Democrat Mike O’Brien could ably serve the district for the next two years.

(break)

Sadly, our politics have become increasingly strident and acrimonious in this country and, frankly, Upton has not been immune to this. We think, for example, that [Upton] spent too much time and energy on failed symbolic attempts to repeal [Obamacare] President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. We also were extremely disappointed with the failure of the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or so-called “super committee,” on which Upton served.

We understand that Upton needed his [National GOP] party’s support to ascend to the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee and to earn that support he had to play into the Republicans’ efforts to stop Obama’s agenda over the past two years. But we expect the next two years to be different.

Upton is plenty different already, but it's not by being in the slightest way 'bipartisan', in fact he is diving deeper and deeper into the dark radical side of his party, and in several cases since the primary has been the front man, to demonstrate his loyalty to GOP leadership.

Then the Kalamazoo Gazette has some good words for the challenger, Mike O’Brien:

O’Brien, making his first bid for public office, has run a good campaign. As a former Marine who has worked in farming, business and other ventures, he brings an impressive resume to the voters. But we don’t think he has made the case for replacing Upton.  O’Brien has much to offer the 6th District and, should he lose on Nov. 6, we hope he stays involved in the public arena.

Then the feeble, weak appeal for the second half of a third decade of Upton in office:

But we believe Upton deserves two more years in office and we hope he uses his chairmanship in a bipartisan way to demonstrate strong leadership and to improve the 6th District.
So what is this Kalamazoo Gazette reporter saying in this endorsement? To paraphrase, it says what many others have said frequently about Fred during his third decade in office: “Vote for Fred one more time, maybe, just maybe, this time he will lead, and not be part of the problem.”

Vote for Fred” even though he is only the shadow, politically, of the man he once was, is just not hacking it anymore down in Southwest Michigan, a region of the state that has serious local issues in unemployment, environment and economic development.  This time he may not make it through, and the credentials and positive ‘we can do better’ time for some “courage” campaign has made a serious dent on the already declining popularity of the “Washington DC insider” version of Fred Upton.

In a recent interview this week Mike O’Brien talked about how well the race is going and the fact that this campaign has been one of the strongest Upton has ever faced in the MI-06:

Mike O’Brien: “It’s going really well. We’re getting a ton of traction. You know, it’s a fascinating thing because, everywhere I go, traveling in this district, I am met with all political stripes, all parties. Not just Democrats, but Republicans and Independents and Libertarians. I’d even sprinkle in a few tea party folks who come up to me and say they’re going to support us and that’s fantastic.”

(break)

“So, we’ve been running a very strong, lean and mean campaign. You know guarding the funds carefully, eating bread and water, if you will, and it’s getting results. One of the things that I’m most proud of is that we’ve been able to raise more from individuals in the district than any campaign to run against Fred Upton before. That’s not braggadocio about the money — obviously he’s hugely independently wealthy as well as his war chest — but each of those donations is a vote. It’s a vote of confidence. It’s a vote of support.”

While the Upton poll claims a lead and nearly a third in Obama crossover votes, O’Brien’s own polling shows that where he gains exposure, he is also gains undecided votes.

Bottomline on Polls: To Know Upton is to Vote for O’Brien
One can tell a lot about a man by his friends - Fred’s are now in DC, not Southwest Michigan, and on the ground O'Brien is making quite a few

Going back to the recent polling by Myers Research on October 3-4, 2012, if voters can get the message from the Obrien campaign and have the right information on Upton full record, including local, hot button environmental like fracking and oil pipeline leaks, O’Brien gets the edge over Upton:

By the conclusion of the survey, after voters admittedly hear an unbalance amount of information critical of Upton’s tenure in Congress, O’Brien leads by 4 point, 49 to 45 percent, again within this survey’s margin of error.
Earlier this week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has listed the Upton vs OBrien contest as an “Emerging Race”, but it still remains to be seen if the locally funded O’Brien camp will get a fraction of the support Upton has already received and continues to get from outside SuperPACs, industry lobbies, and other national and special interest groups.

Whether or not voters in this district pay attention to such polls or not, or whether local issues and concerns, such as fracking and oil spills in which many have a personal stake, are enough to sway the recent traditionally moderate to conservative leaning district more to the center, the fact is the gap between challenger Mike O’Brien and and the 26-year Republican Fred Upton incumbent is closing.

READ the FULL INTERVIEW of Mike O’Brien posted on October 18, 2012 on Michigan’s own Eclectablog.  O’Brien talks about the race tightening, several emerging issues in the campaign, parallels between Upton and Mitt Romney, and his next debate with Upton.

Visit Mike O'Brien for Congress or like Mike on Facebook.

Support Mike O’Brien for Congress HERE or on Act Blue HERE.

UPDATE POSTED: MI-06 Who is the “New” Fred Upton? Debates with Mike O’Brien Reveal Much in MI 6th District (October 26, 2012)

Disclaimer: The authors of this post are not employed by or members of the O’Brien campaign and it is an independent piece not endorsed by the candidate or campaign staff. Full disclosure - however, one contributor did taste one of Mike's organic chickens for Christmas once... it was great.

Discuss

Jim Hightower outlines in a well-researched piece the dictatorial nature of the Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder's Emergency Manager Law (PA 4) to be challenged on the 2012 Michigan Ballot Proposal #1 in November and its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and implications to both Michigan and other US States.

UPDATE: Vote NO on Voter Referendum Proposal #1 - the ballot language may be confusing:

PROPOSAL 12-1
A REFERENDUM ON PUBLIC ACT 4 OF 2011 – THE EMERGENCY MANAGER LAW

Public Act 4 of 2011 would:

  • Establish criteria to assess the financial condition of local government units, including school districts.
  • Authorize Governor to appoint an emergency manager (EM) upon state finding of a financial emergency, and allow the EM to act in place of local government officials.
  • Require EM to develop financial and operating plans, which may include modification or termination of contracts, reorganization of government, and determination of expenditures, services, and use of assets until the emergency is resolved.
  • Alternatively, authorize state-appointed review team to enter into a local government approved consent decree.

    Should this law be approved?
    Yes __
    NO, NO, NO, NO!  X

In the piece “There's Been a Dictatorial Coup -- Koch Bros. Have a Bunch of Czars Running Cities Across Michigan” on Septmber 25, 2012, Under the Subtitle of “Michigan Goes Bezerk” here is social justice and labor activist Jim Hightower:
"Rick Snyder must've studied there [Garry Trudau’s fictional “Great Bezerkistan”], for he had barely taken his oath of office before suddenly teaming with leaders of the Republican-controlled statehouse and senate to ram into law an astonishing measure of despotic rule. It only took two weeks in March of 2011 for the ponderously titled "Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act" [LGSDFA Act] to be rushed through both houses of the legislature and signed by Snyder. Before the public knew it--BAM! --the governor was authorized to establish his own autocratic republic: Michiganistan.

At bottom, the LGSDFA Act is a doozy of autocratic mischief-making. It lets the governor seize control of any local government he deems to be in fiscal trouble, suspend the people's democratic authority, impose a corporatized version of martial law, and install his own "emergency financial manager" to govern by diktat (like some hybrid of Soviet czar and tinhorn potentate--a Bmzklfrpz, in other words)."

Actually the Michigan Emergency Manager Law also allows for the seizure of whole school districts too. Why does Hightower call this a “coup”? Because in his words:
This isn't merely un-democratic--it's aggressively anti-democratic.
Hightower, who has frequently appeared and visited in Michigan for many years, goes right to the heart of Michigan woes, and why CEO Snyder’s approach is just hitting the poor, to support more special interest tax breaks for Michigan corporations (several of which did not pay ANY federal taxes between 2008-2010) and the Michigan hyper-politically active mega-wealthy like the DeVos clan and Snyder’s personal business cronies. Again Hightower:
That's just mendacious political claptrap spewed by those wanting an excuse to impose their anti-union, government-shriveling, privatizing, partisan agenda on vulnerable people.

It's no accident that the cities presently under state siege (including Benton Harbor, Detroit, Flint, and Pontiac) are heavily populated with low-income, union, African American, Democratic-voting households. While it's true that these places are in deep budgetary holes, there are real reasons for [Michigan's] fiscal woes, including:
.

  • The implosion of the auto industry that's central to these local economies, resulting in massive joblessness and drastically downsized family incomes.
  • The tanking of housing values, destroying the one source of wealth that working people had, creating a sudden plummeting of property tax collections that finance schools and city services.
  • The grim (and largely successful) corporate campaign to crush unions and bust middle-class wages.
  • US trade policies and tax subsidies that encouraged Michigan corporations to move manufacturing offshore, eliminating good jobs and forcing a large number of former taxpayers to leave their cities in search of work.

Oh, let's not forget another major cause that Snyder & Company don't want discussed: [Snyder’s] $1 billion cut in corporate taxes. This increased the state's budget hole, which he helped fill by slashing or eliminating state funds and tax credits that went to local school districts, low-income workers, and seniors.

(Emphasis Added)

Hightower could have added any number of additional actions taken by Snyder (and Snyder's Engler staffers using the same bag of tricks) and the ALEC invested, GOP controlled Michigan State Legislature including: eliminating tax credits for charities, reduction and restrictions in food stamps, redefinition of “seasonal employment” and reduction in unemployment benefits for most low incomes, and the reduction of the Michigan portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and its ripple effect, just to name a few.

What is happening in Michigan?
The Michigan League of Human Services in their analysis said back in February 2012 in “Historic tax shift hits low-income families 1,000 times harder: Top 1 percent of wealthiest households pay a pittance on average” stated:

Michigan’s wealthiest households — the top 1 percent — will be barely touched by income tax changes approved last year by Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature, while all other groups will pay substantially more in income taxes, a new analysis from the Michigan League for Human Services concludes.

"Tax Changes Hit Low-Income Families the Hardest" [Report in .pdf] finds that the lowest-income households, those earning less than $17,000 a year, will pay the most in new taxes as a share of their income (1 percent). But the top 1 percent, those earning $334,000 or more, pays the least – only an average of $7 more or .001 percent.  That’s an impact of 1,000 times more on the lowest-income households.

“This is clear evidence that the sweeping tax changes approved last year picked winners and losers. Working poor families and seniors paid the biggest price to help pay for business tax cuts while the most wealthy households were barely asked to contribute,’’ said Michigan League for Human Services President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs. “It’s apparent that those at the top who are the most able to help were given a complete pass.’’

The tax increases, which begin to take effect in 2012, will raise $1.4 billion more in income taxes that paid for a business tax cut of $1.6 billion. More than half of Michigan taxpayers will pay more in individual income taxes while two-thirds of all businesses will pay no state business income taxes at all.

(Emphasis Added)

What we see now in Michigan is a long line of 1% and business special interests passing bills right and left more rad-right, many of them ALEC models or potential ALEC models. Many of these businesseses and their lobbyists are directly represented in both Rick Snyder Administration and the Tea Party Republican State Legislature that include organizations like the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce (i.e. Snyder Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore) , the Insurance, Chemical and Energy industry lobbyists (like Richard D. McLellan founder or the Mackinac Center and lead insurance lobbyist and former Citizen United legal team, and the Business Leaders for Michigan (the real guys behind Rick Snyder selection as candidate for governor, and who also funded Democratic primary candidate for governor, former Democratic Party State House Speaker, Andy Dillon, also a former Republican, that is now the head of Emergency Management in Michigan, as Michigan State Treasurer).

Corporatocracy isn’t coming to Michigan, it’s here, and as long as leadership in the opposition, both party leaders and union leaders, fail to see just how Michigan is now the laboratory of choice for new ALEC models and strategies (the latest here is diversion of public education funding led by McLellan), what happens in Michigan matters to the rest of you too.

Related POST: Hightower: Sneaking the Plutocratic Agenda Into (Michigan) State Law (June 2011)

UPDATE: Read Kossack Electablog's latest crusher on Michigan EM Law and the GOP or follow his EM Law tag.

RECOMMENDED for more information on ALEC - LINKS:
INVESTIGATION of ALEC in Michiganlong history and background
REPORT on Michigan ALEC - current bills/laws and members
BILL to stop ALEC in MichiganALEC Accountability Bill
STORY of Michigan Gov Rick Snyder and ALECDisaster Capitalism and Attacks on Public Education

For more on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on Kos visit ALECexposed.org (new report on ALEC ties to GOP and the Heritage Foundation) or for industrial strength investigations on ALEC go to Kos contributor collaborative work on VLTP.net (on Lifetime ALEC Memberships and Federal Task Force, ALEC International activities, ALEC corruption in the Federal Government and Agencies, ALEC in our nation’s courts and the ALEC Amicus Brief Project, and the latest call for another IRS investigation.)
Cross-posted to Blogging for Michigan - Permission to repost granted by authors.
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Michigan needs the “ALEC Accountability Act” NOW or yesterday or actually over a decade ago.

Since it should be abundantly clear by now that the Michigan State Legislature, like dozens of other states, has a special interest infestation and corporate corruption problem something should be done. But what to do about it?

This week dozens of identified ALEC model bills were exposed that have been passed into law or introduced just in the last 20 months, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which has a long history in Michigan is also the source of materials / content / data / concepts being used by the Snyder Administration for a number of policy campaigns (Budget and Education come to mind at the moment – Read about ALEC’s “Rich States Poor States use in GOP majority states), BUT there is a easy way to fix that.

All any Legislator has to do is use the time honored “cut and paste” method hundreds of ALEC members in Michigan and across the country have done thousands of times, probably ever since the “cut and paste” appeared as a software feature.

Here are the EIGHT Easy Steps:
Requires a computer and web connection, and limited presence at the Capitol Building in Lansing. STEPS 1-7 should only take about 5 minutes.

STEP 1) Open up a copy of the “ALEC Accountability Act” and highlight the content.
Be careful to INSERT the name of the State as “Michigan” and remove any introductory paragraphs or descriptions.

This has been a problem in some states where ALEC members have forgoten to remove “INSERT name of State here” and the ALEC description content (not kidding) in ALEC “Government in a Box” States like Kansas and Virginia (VA is the current ALEC model bill record holder having 50 ALEC models submitted in 2011 and 2012).

STEP 2) Open up an email window on your computer.
STEP 3) Address email to the “Legislative Services Bureau” in the “TO:” line.
The LSB are the ones that will take your “draft model” content and create the legislation in MI bill formatting.
STEP 4) “CC:” email to the “Michigan State Law Council” and the Chairman of the MSLC for review and analysis.
The MSLC Chair with other lawyers (and maybe a couple dozen lobbyists too on the side) will check the bill for conflicts with the Michigan Constitution and other laws, and advise on any “improvements” or modifications (See also BELOW).
STEP 5) “Paste” the highlighted content of new Bill into the email.
Remember to very briefly verify the name of the state is correct as mentioned in Step 3.  Be careful because this is the most time consuming step in this new form of “cut and paste” third party model legislation democracy, and the part where legislators earn their pay representing the citizens they elect to write, opps… to “Cut and Paste” correctly their laws.
STEP 6) Click “SEND”.
Use a personal or temporary account to avoid those nasty FOIA requests by pesky citizens or watchdog organizations.
STEP 7) Watch your “IN BOX” for the return of the draft bill from the LSB and print and officially submit bill at the little table in the front of the chamber you are a member of (State House or Senate) in the Capitol building.
This step requires actually being in Lansing, all other steps can be done from home or a fund raising mixer by smart phone.  May require an actual signature.
STEP 8) Vote and pass the Bill into Law.
This step requires personal political courage and also requires attendance.
STEP 9) OPTIONAL - Celebrate a victory of “Citizen Government” over corporate sponsored “Corporatocarcy” in the great traditions of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
A Michigan sparking beverage of choice following the vote, is also OPTIONAL after working hours and should be consumed without risking a DUI, of course. With or without a nice buzz, gloriously bask in making Michigan a better State, and a little bit less corrupt improving Michigan's 44th close to the bottom national ranking in “Corruption Risk” in stuff like legislative transparency, campaign and foundation financing disclosure, lobbying, profiteering, privatization deals, crony capitalism, etc.

What is the “ALEC Accountability Act”?
Example Content of the ALEC Accountability Act draft “model legislation”:

Intro of the ALEC Accountability Act of 2012
AN ACT to amend (LIST of YOUR STATE’S Laws); and to create LIST OF NEW/AFFECTED LAWS and STATUES; relating to: attempts to influence action upon model or similar proposed legislation, prohibiting the expending of certain moneys by members of the legislature, and reporting by certain persons providing or state public officials receiving certain things of value for scholarship purposes.
Putting a stop to Taxpayer Funding of ALEC thru State reimbursed “Membership Fees”:
Payment of Membership Fees to certain organizations.  No member of the legislature may expend any moneys allocated for the operation of his or her office for membership fees in any organization that proposes uniform, model, suggested, or recommended legislation for consideration by the legislatures of this state and other states.
Defining ALEC core activities as “Legislative Action”:
“Legislative action” also includes the development, drafting, consideration, modification, adoption, rejection, or defeat of uniform, model, recommended, or suggested legislation by any body that recommends proposed legislation for consideration by the legislatures of this state and other states.
Correcting ‘Lobbying” Loop-hole used by ALEC:
“Lobbying” also includes the practice of attempting to influence legislative action by oral or written communication with any person who is a member, employee, or agent of a body that proposes uniform, model, suggested, or recommended legislation for consideration by the legislatures of this state and other states.
Reporting ALEC “Scholarships” or payments by ALEC to their members:
… every official required to file who receives for a published work or for the presentation of a talk or participation in a meeting, any lodging, transportation, money or other thing with a combined pecuniary value exceeding $50 excluding the value of food or beverage offered coincidentally with a talk or meeting and every official required to file who receives for attendance at a meeting or conference any thing of pecuniary value for scholarship purposes shall, on his or her statement of economic interests, report the identity of every person from whom the official receives such lodging, transportation, money or other thing during his or her preceding taxable year, the circumstances under which it was received and, the approximate value thereof, and whether the thing of value was received for scholarship purposes.
READ more about the use of the “ALEC Accountability Act” in Wisconsin and Arizona HERE.

PS – If Steps 1-8 seem too complex or time consuming…
Just email a LINK of this blog entry to a highly educated Michigan public university Michigan State Legislature official Page or Intern (you might use lobbyist Wayne Kuipers, former ALEC member behind the Michigan ALEC asbestos bill, but he will charge you for it).  They should be able to mange this new form of legislation generation of the “bill mill” with no hiccups.

MUCH MORE on MICHIGAN and ALEC Models and the Story of Mackinac Center founder Richard D. McLellan AFTER the JUMP.

Continue Reading

The mega-retailer Wal-Mart announced yesterday their “suspension” of their corporate membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), they were also joined by Medtronics Corporation, who like several members claimed to have given up ALEC membership much earlier in 2010.  But the question remains - Will Michigan’s “Detroit 3” (GM, Ford and Chrysler) also drop their ALEC membership?  GM has already dropped their support of the Heartland Institute.

In a letter to ALEC's national chairman, State Rep. Dave Frizzell (R-IN) and executive director, Ron Scheberle on May 30, 2012, Wal-mart informed ALEC that their political and business agendas were no longer aligned.  According to Maggie Sans, Wal-Mart Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Wal-mart:

"Previously, we expressed our concerns about ALEC's decision to weigh in on issues that stray from its core mission 'to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets.”

"We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC."

There are still over two-dozen Michigan-based major corporations and foundations (such as the Mackinac Center for Public Policy) that are ALEC corporate members.  Included in that list are the “Detroit 3” formerly known as the “Big 3” or automotive OEMs of General Motors (GM), Ford Motor Company (Ford) and Chrysler Corporation (Chyrsler).

Earlier this year GM (and ten other major corporations) discontinued funding to the Heartland Institute, one of many Heritage Foundation associated radical right-wing think tanks, due to pressure of customer concerns about their activities in the denial of climate change movement, promotion of oil & gas industry myths and messaging, as well as other political hot-button related issues.  Heartland and ALEC work closely in tandem on a broad range of political issues that go beyond just business into other increasing controversial topics such as the NRA/ALEC promotion of the Florida “Shoot to Kill” law (at the center of the Trayvon Martin case), which as proved by the Sunlight Foundation, most closely matches a 2006 Michigan gun law.

UPDATE:
Commerce, Insurance & Economic Development Task Force
2011 Annual Meeting
Friday, August 5
2:30 pm – 5:30 pm
2. Model Legislation and Presentations
Amendments to the ALEC “Resolution on Franchise and Business Agreement Legislation
Mr. Jeff Perry, General Motors
Mr. Troy Flanagan, International Franchise Association & Parquet Public Affairs
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy: Heritage's State-Level Darling & ALEC Lab
Mack' Attack: Serving up ALEC and Heritage Rad-right Services to the 1% for decades

Ties between ALEC and the Mackinac Center have been well documented and the two organizations have co-authored, coordinated and promoted multiple publications and issue campaigns ranging from anti-collective bargaining and union activities and legislation to public education, environmental and social issues. Most recently the Mackinac Center and their relationship with ALEC was linked to the “Emergency Manager” law in Michigan.

Since the Mackinac Center does not adhere to the basic principal of transparency and freedom of information (tools they used frequently against their political opposition and as tactics to eliminate and/or privatize government functions) make its funders or membership public, it is not known if GM and other Michigan corporations will also drop their funding for the Mackinac Center.

In a story by the Mackinac Center media outlet “Capitol Confidential”, the uneasiness of right-wing network of think tanks and “charities” is becoming more pronounced.  As Tom Gantert, formerly a reporter at the Ann Arbor News, reported in “Intimidation, Threats Take Place of Civil Discourse”.  This coming from an organization that basically admits such tactics while criticizing critics as promoting an “endgame (that) is putting the other side out of business”.  Ask any of the Mackinac Center opponents if there is any mercy and one will find very little, if any out of the mavens of Midland, MI.

US Representative Sandy Levin has made a call for an IRS investigation of the Mackinac Center, similar to the calls being made on ALEC and a growing list of Heritage state-level think tanks pushing ALEC policy and “model legislation” and their circumvention of lobbying restrictions and financing laws.

Michigan Now the Most Active ALEC Laboratory
Caught like lab rats in a Maze of ALEC/Mackinac Legislation

There now have been over a dozen ALEC model bills added to several identified last year that are now current Michigan law; include a law to give favored liability protection for businesses related to Crown & Cork embroiled in decades long law suits and damages claims by people killed or disabled by asbestos.  Media Matters, a national media watch organization, observed that there was absolutely no Michigan media coverage of the limited discuss or passage of the asbestos bill into law earlier this year. In fact, there was no official announcement by the Michigan government or governor’s office of the signing of the bill into law at all.

The ALEC asbestos model which was introduced three times by Michigan ALEC members started with Wayne Kuipers in 2006, appeared on a 2011 spreadsheet listing ALEC model bills across the nation made available by a leak of ALEC internal documents. The first leak of ALEC documents (over 800 “model” bills and additional support materials) occurred in April of 2011 and are posted to the tracking portal ALECexposed.org.

At the ALEC National Task Force conference in Charlotte, NC last month at least 5 bills with Michigan origins were presented (three personally presented by Paul Kersey of the Mackinac Center and two others by the Goldwater Institute based in Arizona, also based on related Michigan legislation) as future potential “ALEC Models” for use by ALEC legislative members (both legislators and corporations) across the country, once they have been reviewed, refined and “voted” upon by corporate legal staffs and ALEC corporate members. Since ALEC does not allow any media/press or transparency in their Task Force meetings, a full list of what their future “models” will look like is not yet available publicly, but only accessible to ALEC corporate and legislative members.

UPDATE:
Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force
2012 Spring Task Force Summit
Friday, May 11, 2012 2:00 PM – 5:15 PM Grand A

Tentative Agenda
Presentations and Model Legislation 2:30 PM
The Financial Accountability for Public Employee Unions Act
Mr. Paul Kersey, The Mackinac Center
The Election Accountability for Municipal Employees Act
Mr. Paul Kersey, The Mackinac Center
The Decertification Elections Act
Mr. Paul Kersey, The Mackinac Center
Prohibition on Paid Union Activity (Release Time) by Public Employees Act” [also MICH - added Facilities banned from Union any activities]
Dr. Byron Schlomach, The Goldwater Institute
Public Employee Paycheck Protection Act” [also MICH- Passed into Law 2012]
Dr. Byron Schlomach, The Goldwater Institute

ALEC’s main mission as revealed by a “coordinated and well-funded intimidation campaign” (…lol) of dozens of organizations and hundreds of activists opposing ALEC, is to serve as a clearing house or “service provider” of pre-written, pre-fabricated laws that support the ALEC organization and members, which is 98% funded by corporate and foundation ALEC members. Opponents called ALEC activity illegal lobbying under the guise of a “charity” 501(c)(4) and decry that their processes circumvent and/or subvert the basic principals of the democratic law making process to the advantage of corporations and special interests, thereby threatening citizen government as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison envisioned they might.

ALEC in Michigan
Worse off than Wisconsin and don't even know it...

Over 150 former and current Republican Party members and legislators have been identified as ALEC members in Michigan going back to the 1980’s and 90’s, John Engler had a “founding role” among other GOP figure heads from the Koch, Scaife, Olin, and Michigan’s DeVos and Van Andel families, and the ALEC National Convention was held in Traverse City, MI in 1993.

Currently 11 (less Blue Cross Blue Shield which dropped their membership on April 17, 2012) of 68 corporate members of the “Business Leaders for Michigan”, backers of the candidacy and election of their final choice, Rick Snyder, for Governor of Michigan are currently ALEC members, including the Detroit 3. Hundreds more ALEC corporate members due business in Michigan and across the country, and activists continue to protest at various HQ following a national day of action called for by Occupy Portland last #F29, 2012.

At least 7 major elements of the “ALEC State Budget Toolkit”, which was first presented at the Mackinac Center, and then subsequently to the Michigan State Senate, by Michigan Northwood graduate, Jonathan Williams, Director of the ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force, and co-author of ALEC’s “Rich States, Poor States” one of several ALEC publications highlighted and referenced as justification for policy (business tax cuts, regulation rollbacks, K-12 and higher education funding shifts to private organizations, new bills supporting unfettered fracking, etc) in Snyder and BLM presentations and plans which now serve as the “Blueprint” for Michigan.

This past week, at the Detroit Chamber of Commerce’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference 2012 on Mackinac Island, over 3 hours of presentations were made by members of the “Business Leaders for Michigan” (BLM), and their future plans, presumably to also be executed by the Rick Snyder administration, for Michigan.  Snyder announced in one of two speeches that the “time for planning” was over and this year was to be “a time of action”.  The BLM has published a number of “Michigan Turnaround Plans” dating back to their time as the “Detroit Renaissance” under current BLM Executive Director, and former Snyder administration member, Doug Rothwell.  BLM plans nearly precisely match the checklist of Snyder’s official stated “accomplishments” for 2011, and Rothwell has stated publicly that “things are ahead of schedule” in the Michigan legislature and governor’s office, which he and his wife, Sharon Rothwell, organized as part of Snyder’s original transition team. Many of members of the Snyder team were in the Engler administration and a clear repeat of several Engler strategies are underway.

Sale of a State (Just Part of the Story)
Corporatocracy isn’t coming to Michigan, it’s here...

Michigan’s ALEC and corporate takeover problems are now infesting other States.  Not only is Snyder getting kudos directly from ALEC, but many ALEC observers at the national level exposing ALEC have expressed their deep concern about ALEC activity in Michigan, which continues unabated.

In many US States, ALEC has become one of the core elements of campaigns and investigations (Arizona, Maine, Missouri, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin) leading to mass defections of State Legislators from ALEC, most recently in Pennsylvania, where 18 members quit.  Despite plenty of warning and some limited exposure, ALEC remains solidly in place, alive and well in Michigan.

So where other States are waking up to all this, and corporation after corporation opt “out” of their support of the ALEC state policy agenda and programs, Michigan is still betting the farm on the ALEC/BLM path to corporate “business prosperity” ala the ALEC “Rich States, Poor States” snake oil using “Top Ten” ranking and metric arguments, and remains “all-in” irregardless the costs to the average, or even more despicable, the battered, poor and disadvantaged Michigander.

Cross-posted from Blogging for Michigan.

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Occupy Detroit, teaming up with the Michigan Coalition Project, “The 99% Spring” and local students, temporarily shut down Bank of America downtown Detroit main branch yesterday, May 8, 2012, with a flash mob to point out BoA’s role in the plight of students and student loan costs, homeowners and foreclosures, and BoA unfair treatment of customers on the eve of a National Day of Action by Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and a coalition of organizations at the May 9, 2012 BoA shareholders meeting in Charlotte NC and across the nation.

Amazing VIDEO posted by Occupy Detroit “Bank of America Monopoly (Home Foreclosure edition)”:

Around 50 performers/occupiers/protesters staged a “Human Monopoly” game to demonstrate and protest Bank of America’s role in a multitude of issues affecting the "99%", all listed out on the various property cards from their version on “Monopoly” board game.

From CBS affiliate WWJ:

The Michigan Coalition Project, a local offshoot of the Occupy movement, played a game of human Monopoly in the lobby of Bank of America in the Guardian Building to protest greed.

They want banks like Bank of America, which received bailout money, to work with struggling homeowners.

From the Detroit News:
There was a celebrity appearance of sorts at the downtown branch of Bank of America in the Guardian Building on Tuesday, and bank officials weren't happy about it.

A man dressed as top-hatted "Rich Uncle Pennybags" — the tuxedo-clad, uber-capitalist from the iconic Monopoly board game — strolled into the landmark building at about noon.  "Good morning, we're here to play a game of Bank of America Monopoly," shouted Pennybags.

With that remark, about 50 Occupy Detroit members, who had been sipping coffee and working on their laptops, jumped up and formed a square, while accusing the bank of making money from taxpayers while foreclosing on their homes.

Protesters, many of whom were holding up Monopoly boards, rolled a pair of giant dice while chanting, "Bank of America, quit playing games."

From Detroit Fox 2 (more VIDEO):
The Bank of America branch temporarily shut down during the demonstration. Managers would not comment on the protest, but a spokeswoman from Chicago did send us a statement saying, "I can tell you that the well being of customers and employees is our number one concern."

Protesters also plan to disrupt a shareholders' meeting for Bank of America in North Carolina on Wednesday.

As for Occupy Detroit, they plan to be back at the Guardian Building Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. for another game of human Monopoly.

Detroit and the Union Guardian Trust
History repeats itself, same stuff different Century

The Bank of America Detroit branch is housed in the “Guardian building”, the very building that was the former grandly gilded headquarters of the “Union Guardian Trust” bank which played a major role in the banking holidays declared in 1933.  On February 14, 1933 after attempts by Senators Arthur Vander Berg and James Couzens, city and state officials in negations with local business leaders, like Henry Ford a depositor and board member of the bank, the then governor William Comstock declared a statewide Michigan "bank holiday."  The Union Guardian Trust banking crisis then spread across the country until a newly inaugurated Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to declare a "national banking holiday" on March 5, 1933.

In another historical event that parallels current events in the Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s appointing an emergency “Financial Review Board” and the resulting declaration of “emergency” to take over Detroit government roles and decision making, Detroit Mayor Frank Murphy presented to the US Senate Judiciary Committee on March 2, 1933 a bill to declare a “moratorium” on Detroit’s debt.  The purpose of the bill stated as:
“This will give us a breathing spell.  There is no repudiation involved.  We ill pay one hundreds cents on the dollar.  We will work it out.  A creditor will eventually receive every dollar that is due to him.”

Today in Detroit, which has lost 61% of its population since 1950, and has one of the highest unemployment rates in urban America, there is simply no mathematical formula to describe just how the remaining 700,000 residents surrounded by miles of properties abandoned by companies, can pay back the $16.9 billion that the city owes.  Michigan Republicans in complete control of Michigan’s State Houses and governorship are actually cutting Business Property Taxes further starving not just Detroit, but nearly every municipality in the state.  The GOP end game, led by the Heritage Foundation / ALEC subsidiary in Michigan, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy appears to be the use of EM laws wresting control of first Pontiac's and now Detroit’s public assets from citizens in order to privatize those facilities and resource including the city municipal utilities, parking and lighting, and the privately donated historical Detroit Water Works, that provides some of the best quality water to over 70 cities and townships, a source of city revenues that some sources value at nearly $8 Billion.

The bottom line, as these protesters point out, is that the current crisis and Snyder and the Michigan GOP’s use of ALEC and Emergency Management legislation in Michigan, the scavenging of Detroit City properties, now spreading to others US states like Indiana and Pennsylvania, is clearly focused on insuring that banks get their money first on piles of loans and bond deals structured with swaps, and most likely infamous derivative financial “products”.  Trouble is, now that Snyder’s EM team has emptied much of the documentation of Detroit’s City government records and files physically from Detroit City Hall, the public may never know what may be covered up by Michigan State Treasurer, Andy Dillon, and his team of Emergency Managers, accountants and lawyers.

Detroit and Michigan Again at the Center of American History
Facing Emergency Management and even more foreclosures Detroiters are fighting back

Detroit was ground zero of the sub-prime loans market expansion plans of banks and mortgage companies very early on, and thousands of Detroit residents have either lost their homes, or are facing or threatened by foreclosure, currently a primary activity of Occupy Detroit and a number of allied organizations like “Occupy Our Homes” and “Moratorium Now” are seeking to reverse.  Together with nearly a dozen local and neighborhood groups, a growing number of homes have either been saved, or are in the process of getting foreclosure actions reversed.  Home saving direct actions and organizing efforts, which include a growing number of local lawyers and legal groups, continue to expand across Detroit’s affected neighborhoods and are being looked at as a national model for anti-foreclosure action.

Note: “The 99% Spring” is not a part of the “Occupy” movement to which “Occupy Michigan”, “Occupy Detroit” and “Occupy Wall Street” are associated.  The “99% Spring” however has gotten support as it staged two major demonstrations in Detroit recently starting with the GE Shareholders meeting on April 25, 2012 and the DTE Energy Shareholders meeting on May 3, 2012 in which protesters pointed out DTE not paying fair share of taxes and environmental issues. Both events were well attended and are part of a string of April and May marches, including the Occupy Detroit May Day March on May 1, 2012 and the re-launch of the “Recall Rick Snyder” petition campaign by Michigan Rising last Saturday, May 5, 2012, starting off what looks like a very busy spring and summer in Michigan.
The main Protest of Bank of America in Detroit is scheduled for later today at 4:00 PM back at the Guardian Building at 500 Griswold, downtown Detroit, May 9 2012 to coincide with a National Day of Action against Bank of America.

Permission granted to repost as you may see fit.

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This just out from MediaMatters.org with the title "No Oxygen: Michigan Media Silent As State Passes ALEC Bill Limiting Compensation For Asbestos Victims":

"Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) approved a bill that curbs the ability of asbestos-exposure victims to recover losses from some companies that are legally responsible. The bill was pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Crown Holdings, Inc., a Fortune 500 corporation trying to legislate its way out of compensating cancer and mesothelioma victims who were exposed to asbestos by a company it purchased. According to a Media Matters analysis, Michigan's two largest newspapers, the Detroit Free Press and the Grand Rapids Press, have been utterly silent on the bill from introduction to its passage."
Actually, not being on MLive.com means the story is not a multitude of Michigan media outlets, many of whom have yet to run only occasional stories on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) currently embroiled in controversy.

This is Just One State where the ALEC Story Blackout Continues

Michigan - Last fall the ALEC Asbestos bill was submitted by crony capitalist Michigan Republicans AGAIN for the THIRD TIME. Here's the timeline and docs:

House Bill 4601 (20112-12)
Sponsor:  State Rep. Joe Haverman (Not yet a documented ALEC Member but close associate of Wayne Kuipers who was an ALEC member and submitted the same bill in 2005-2006)
Summary
House Bill 5167 (2009-2010)
Sponsors: Primary Mark Meadows (D-East Lansing) AND Tonya Schuitmaker(R) (ALEC MI State Chair)
Committee: Judiciary
Complete to 10-13-09
Summary
Senate Bill 591 (Substitute S-3) (2007-2008)
Sponsor: State Sen Wayne Kuipers
Committee: Judiciary
Passed by the GOP Senate
Data Submitted: June 2007
Date Completed: 8-13-08
Bill as Passed by GOP Michigan State Senate
Note: Kuipers was term-limited, confirmed ALEC member and still all-around troublemaker, Kuipers referenced ALEC in his publicly accessible submissions. Kuipers PAC very good candidate for NPR-style ALEC contribution tracing from that time period. This ALEC model was covered in our first MI ALEC investigation.

FROM a posting this morning on Blogging for Michigan Daily Briefing on ALEC:

Blue Cross Blue Shield was the first Michigan-based corporate member to withdrawal from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) or “not renew” its member to the right-wing ‘service provider” that has been the source for “model legislation” being introduced in multiple US States for decades, including Michigan. In the statement by BCBS, they declared covered by a story in The Hill:

"The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association's decision not to renew our membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was made in February 2012 as part of our budgeting process, and was independent of any outreach or campaign by another organization."

In a stunning statement, ALEC announced that ALEC was shutting down its “Public Safety and Elections Task Force” one of ten working groups where State Legislators and Corporations meet to write legislation or ALEC Models that are then voted on and approved by the “Private Sector” members, nearly a dozen of which have dropped ALEC membership recently fearing ‘brand damage’ to their products and services.

From one of a blizzard of stories on the announcement this one by Paul Abowd at the Center for Public Integrity (@iWatch):

ALEC spun its announcement by declaring that it was “refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles.” The statement from ALEC national chair David Frizzell, an Indiana state representative, said the group was eliminating its Public Safety and Elections Task Force and “reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy.” (break) “While we recognize there are other critical, non-economic issues that are vitally important to millions of Americans, we believe we must concentrate on initiatives that spur competitiveness and innovation and put more Americans back to work.”
Sounds familiar right? Because its exactly the same stuff Snyder is using.

By the way, watch out for Paul Abowd, a native Michigander, has done other stories on Michigan issues including a piece in Mother Jones “Michigan's Hostile Takeover” that focused on Emergency Manager issues in Pontiac and he shows the connections between Lou Schimmel, the writings and forming of PA 4 legislation or Emergency Manager Law, and his denial of connections to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, proponents of the privatization of Michigan’s public assets.  Schimmel literally wrote the book on EM.

A list of identified Michigan ALEC Corporation Members was posted earlier on BFM and also an interesting piece with a bunch of ALEC related links  on Snyder and ALEC in Michigan on a fairly new blog in the progressive Michigan blogosphere was getting a lot of hits yesterday as well.

Seeming oblivious to all the fuss about ALEC, which has been stretched for weeks across the headlines of other US States, Michigan’s press remains largely quiet, or continues ALEC “business as usual”.  This example from the Detroit Free Press, doing a cut and paste (just like the bills are made law by the way – not kidding) on the ALEC “Rich States, Poor States” used by Rick Snyder and Michigan Republicans to justify their overwhelming business over people legislation:

The state placed 17th in an economic outlook ranking that is part of the 2012 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index.  That's up from No. 25 last year and the highest level since 2008, when Michigan also ranked 17th. (break) Last year, Michigan's Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder overhauled the state's tax system, reducing or eliminating taxes for many businesses in an effort to spur job growth.
Another top (so-called “rich”) state is that of Utah, from which Snyder’s Budget Director John Nixon was drafted (pun intended).  Utah is a state with a history of ALEC legislation and use of the “ALEC State Budget Toolkit” elements of which are in the Snyder budgets.  

Groups around the country are starting to debunk the ALEC report, here is an example from a critic from the Idaho Statesman in ALEC ranked #6 Idaho:

Among the top 10 states, eight have GOP governors. Republicans control the House in all 10 states and hold the Senate in eight states. Looking at the bottom 10, seven have Democratic governors, and Democrats control the Senate in seven states and the House in seven states. The outlier is Maine, a Republican state that ranked No. 47 in the study.

(break)

My problem with the ALEC study is in its labeling. If this were called a scorecard on tax rates or even “the cost of doing business,” I wouldn’t have any heartburn. But this study suggests that the lone true path to prosperity comes by low-balling the cost of state government. That’s political spin, pure and simple. And it helps explain why ALEC, despite its claims of non-partisanship, is viewed with such suspicion.

Not only are the ALEC rankings spurious, they are unreliable. Consistently conservative Idaho has ranked in ALEC’s Top 10 three of the four previous years. If we’re so poised for economic recovery, wouldn’t we be doing better?

Michigan associated ALEC Corporate  identified and documented so far by ALECexposed.org includes:
Amway (Alticor) (former but highly suspected as current)
Amisure-Michigan Mutual
AT&T
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Chrysler
Comerica
CMS Energy (Consumers Power)
Dow Chemical
DTE Energy
Ford Motor Company
General Motors
Hannover Insurance
PNC
Sara Lee
SBC
Upjohn
There maybe be more, nobody but ALEC knows due to the fact they do not release their membership lists of State Legislator or Corporations, Foundations or Associations belonging to the organization that is "ALEC-tro-fying" our Nation's State Legislatures and State Laws.
Note: The Center for Media and Democracy corporate (corporations, associations, law firms, etc) members list is now somewhere around 406 now (less 11 this past week and a half), but the working list among researchers is at 671 corporations  includes past and present – and companies that were major sponsors of ALEC annual conferences and events which costs about the same a formal ‘membership’.
The working LIST of MICHIGAN individual ALEC State Legislators, US Congressman and several non-political members (like Andrew Card) past and present is now over 150.

This time it's the Michigan MSM that has been smoked.

RELATED: First State Level Investigation of ALEC in Michigan
RELATED: Simple but popular post on ALEC's "Donate Now" Button

Discuss

Remember this one... This is a website screen shot of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)  April 13, 2012. The day they all, the Koch Brothers and their mega-wealthy cabal, greedy CEOs, and hundreds of US and Multinational Corporations which are ALEC Members, a number which is falling rapidly...

...got a Wake Up Call!


PS Do not donate to ALEC or what people are calling a "radical right-wing organization" or that is what they say we call them, and they are right. You might donate to the orgs below instead.

...  and it took decades, hundreds of individuals, bloggers, OWS, dozens of orgs from across the spectrum, and just 14 months this round to get them to answer the phone.

For more on ALEC on Kos, Voter Legislative Transparency Project (Kos Group Abolish ALEC) and ALECExposed.org.

Also highly RECOMMEND for the advanced "ALEC spelunkers" out there the collaboratively researched VLTP report "ALEC Federal Government and Corrupt Practices".

####

Why are they (ALEC) asking for donations when they are just an "social networking" organization of "bipartisan state legislators"? Because if those "thousands" of politicians that are ALEC members all doubled their annual dues that would only raise the ALEC budget by another 2%. The rest of their money comes from Corporations and their "Corporate Royalty".

Keep working folks, this is just the very nose of the end of the beginning, a huge media, marketing campaign is sure to follow.
Thanks to everyone who has taken up this very important battle. KEEP GOING! If you are watching #ALEC and it makes you furious, donate or JOIN IN!


"We are free today substantially but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. A republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when that day comes, when the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions."
- James Madison, in an interview during his presidency (1809-1817) by the New York Post (cited by George Seldes, Great Quotations)


"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to his friend George Logan, 1816

QUESTION: What would Madison or Jefferson say to us today?

######

UPDATE: Americans for Prosperity Message (This is the AFP OH version)
SUBJECT: Stop the Left from Attacking Our Free Market Ally

"The Left is desperate to disparage free market principles and the current target is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting state legislators while they work to promote
free market policies in Columbus.

ALEC is critical to the free market here in Ohio. ALEC works with our State Legislators to provide model legislation that supports limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.  Most recently here in Ohio, we worked with ALEC on important tax and education issues that affect the everyday lives of Ohioans.

ALEC has been highly effective promoting free-market policies and for this, they are being demonized and state legislators who work with them are being harassed."

RESPOND to AFP by making THIS VIRAL:
ALEC/NRA Animation by Pulitzer Prize winning Mark Fiore
by Pulitzer Prize winning Mark Fiore, March 28, 2012

Says it all in less than 2 minutes

UPDATE April 14 Day After ALEC's "Friday the 13th":
Yesterday was a day of cable news pleas, email from AFP and other orgs in the extended Heritage/CNP power structure, and their attempts at steadying their ranks. While reading about more corporate members bailing, got a note saying that not only is this post a first page Google hit for awhile, but also frontpaged on DailyKos. We thank you for reading & tweeting - get that awesome animation out to all your rightie friends.

This is all entertaining to the some of the researchers we have been working with because this was a 5 min iPhone piece, not an extensive weeks, or months long effort like the first State Level ALEC Michigan investigation (collecting all things "ALEC" prior to Feb 22, 2011) and testing research methodologies) or the Response to ALEC Defensive Press Release last April which is peppered with Jefferson quotes.

Speaking of Jefferson (and Madison), some bonus material, for those that are interested.

####

Why ALEC's Use of the term "Jeffersonian Principals" is so Fundamentally Flawed
Just one example of the outrageous twisting of our heritage

Thomas Jefferson in an excerpt from a Letter to James Madison on October 28, 1785:

In his own words - Jefferson's travels in France:
...I set out yesterday morning to take a view of the place.... As soon as I had got clear of the town I fell in with a poor woman walking at the same rate as myself and going the same course. Wishing to know the condition of the laboring poor I entered into conversation with her.... As we had walked together near a mile and she had so far served me as a guide, I gave her, on parting, 24 sous. She burst into tears of a gratitude which I could percieve was unfeigned, because she was unable to utter a word. She had probably never before recieved so great an aid.

This little attendrissement, with the solitude of my walk led me into a train of reflections on that unequal division of property which occaisions the numberless instances of wretchedness which I have observed in this country and is to be observed all over Europe.

His Reflections on his Observations:
"The property of this country is absolutely concentrated in a very few hands, having revenues of from half a million of guineas a year downwards. These employ the flower of the country as servants, some of them having as many as 200 domestics, not labouring. They employ also a great number of manufacturers, and tradesmen, and lastly the class of labouring husbandmen. But after these comes them most numerous of all the classes, that is, the poor who cannot find work. I asked myself what could be the reason that so many should be permitted to beg who are willing to work, in a country where there is a very considerable proportion of uncultivated lands?" (break)

"I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind."

Emphasis added and use of clips.

Read the Full Version and others like it in the quintessential source for the writings of Thomas Jefferson in the University of Virginia eText version or the eBook version of The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Edited by John P. Foley (Funk & Wagnalls, New York/London 1900)

##

James Madison in Federalist Papers No. 10 and No. 51 and the Virginia Convention:

The Federalist Paper No. 10
"The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society."

"The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice."

The Federalist Paper No. 51
"Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit."

Address to the Virginia Convention, June 6, 1788
"Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. On a candid examination of history we shall find that turbulence, violence, and abuse of power by the majority trampling on the rights of the minority, have produced factions and commotions, which in republics, have more frequently than any other cause produced despotism. If we go over the whole history of the ancient and modern republics, we shall find their destruction to have generally resulted from those causes."

Emphasis Added.

From History of the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788, vol. 1, p. 130 (H.B. Grigsby ed. 1890).

View images of the actual Federalist Papers 10 & 15 or browse the Jeffersonian Cyclopedia.

Discuss

A new report shows that Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law in the middle of the Trayvon Martin tragedy was written by the NRA and pushed in multiple State Legislatures by ALEC finds that a Michigan 2005-2006 Bill most closely matches the controversial Florida law.  Even as all that is happening, the Michigan ALEC member sponsor of that bill is pushing for guns in churches.

ALEC/NRA Animation by Pulitzer Prize winning Mark Fiore, March 28, 2012:

This MUST VIEW animation on Mark Fiore’s website and Dailykos.

Over a Dozen US States are using the Florida ALEC/NRA Model
Which State has the most identical ‘Stand Your Ground’ Bill? The envelope please…

Details on the Sunlight Foundation report from the Orlando Sentinel:

The Sunlight Foundation, a D.C.-based non-profit watchdog group, says that 10 other states have passed “stand your ground” legislation that’s virtually identical to the statute passed in Florida in 2005. The law — originated by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and, after it passed in Florida, pressed in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — has won notoriety because of the Trayvon Martin case, in which a 17-year-old unarmed black victim was shot by a white Neighborhood Watch captain who said he felt threatened and was acting in self-defense.

The foundation identified the 10 states with near-identical laws as Michigan, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Kansas and Mississippi.

From the Sunlight Foundation press release “10 States Copied Florida's ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law” on March 28, 2012:
The analysis was able to detect striking similarities and identical phrases across multiple bills [in multiple states], including the phrase, “[a] person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm …,” which is just one of the provisions of the law that is intended to protect people who may have killed another person from being arrested or prosecuted.

Michigan’s House Bill 5153 that passed the state legislature in 2006 was the most similar to Florida’s bill, according to the analysis. When compared to the Florida bill it returned the highest rate of matches than any other bill did at 146 fragments matched. The state bill with the lowest matching rate to Florida was Mississippi Senate Bill 2426 at 20 matching fragment counts.

In The Nation magazine, which along with the Center for Media and Democracy (PRWatch) in Wisconsin has been the center of mass Exposing ALEC with their original series of articles on ALEC, John Nichols sees the last NRA/ALEC scandal is more of the same stuff he has been observing in "How ALEC Is Creating Florida-Style Messes in Other States"  on March 26, 2012:
“ALEC-aligned lawmakers in states across the country began promoting the model legislation—sometimes in mirror form, sometimes with modest alterations—advanced. After Republicans gained complete control of state legislatures in states such as Wisconsin after the 2010 elections, the process accelerated. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, which organized the ALEC Exposed project, “Since becoming an ALEC model, sixteen states have passed laws that contain provisions identical or similar to (Florida's law)."
MORE Gun-crazy Legislation in Michigan This Week
What Peacemaker is Jesus Packing?

Also this week, in another bizarre blow’em away bill, pushed by State Senator Mike Green (R- Mayville, 31st District) an ALEC member since at least 1997 in the State House and member of the ALEC Task Force on Education, is expanding the gun-toting rights of nearly a quarter of a million gun carriers in Michigan.  

From Ethics Daily in “Mich. Bill Would Allow Guns in Churches, Colleges” reposting a Peter Luke story flipping back to January 28, 2011:

Individuals with valid concealed weapons permits could carry guns in Michigan areas currently prohibited by law, including schools, churches, bars and sports stadiums, under proposed legislation.

The state’s current gun restrictions date to 2000 as part of a law that relaxed permitting requirements. The original House sponsor of that law, Republican Mike Green, is now pushing to relax those rules as a member of the state Senate.

Green has introduced legislation allowing the 255,870 permit holders in Michigan to carry firearms into hospitals, casinos, entertainment facilities with a seating capacity greater than 2,500, churches (if the presiding official doesn’t object), and college dormitories or classrooms.

Fast forward to this week, Tim Skubick is also baffled “Mich. Senator's Plan Would Allow More Guns in More Places: Concealed weapons in church, arenas and more” on March 23, 2012 by Green’s crazy comments:
“What would Jesus think about this? Concealed weapons in a church? OMG.

Sen. Mike Green thinks it’s a splendid idea and has legislation to not only allow guns in church, but in schools, sporting arenas and bars.

Give the Mayville Republican credit, he has not wavered on his pro-gun beliefs. The father of the original shall-issue bill to legalize concealed weapons proved the experts wrong when they predicted Michigan would turn into the Wild, Wild West if everyone was packin’ hidden heat.”

Mike Green has been on the soap box also supporting the ALEC-based voter suppression or ‘Voter ID’ bills recently passed in Michigan.  Says Green:
“"There's so much stuff like that that goes on, that this process that we think is pure and clean, isn't pure and clean anymore."
Got that right buddy, we know what goes on.  You and your fellow ALEC members, representing largely out-of-state corporate and the mega-wealthy special interests, have hijacked the entire legislative process in our State.

Even as the story of ALEC is appearing in dozens of states on the front page and investigative journalists nationwide from Bloomberg to The Nation fight their way to winning the ALEC story Pulitzer, as of this posting not one major Michigan media outlet has covered the prevalence, political relationships and extensive historical use of ALEC models in Michigan legislation.

Can you hear us now? Or does (and packing politicians better pray it doesn't) somebody need to get shot first?

Crossposted from Blogging for Michigan.

RELATED: "Gov Rick Snyder Sellout? Prefabricated Corporate Michigan (Government) Courtesy of Koch & ALEC Excl." the first state-level investigation of ALEC in 2011.

Discuss

On the eve of Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s second year 2012 Michigan State Budget announcements, this ANALYSIS, in simple pictures, looks back at what historical data says.  Facts found in this fountain of tables, graphs and charts reveals much, and in many cases, might surprise many Michiganders.  It gives a unique view not only into where we are, and where Snyder Policy is trying to take us, but also where we have been and how we got there.  

Facing Wisconsin style protests across the state through most of his first year 2011, some of the largest marches in Michigan’s history continuing into early 2012, Snyder’s consultants published several reports and benchmarking metrics early in 2011 that include over 200 measurements of Michigan Government performance metrics and trends.

Missing in this pile of PowerPoints is any trace of the Republican Holy Grail, proof that massive business tax break ($1.6 billion) and education budget cuts (nearly $1 billion from public education) and policies focused on plans prefabricated in 2009 and released in 2010 and updated in January of 2012 by business leaders in Michigan that will, as their stacks of slides state, create “500,000” new Michigan jobs.

The Nerd and his small army of outside consultants did us all a great favor in the early months of his tenure by publishing Michigan’s data, learn to embrace it.

But, before going into what Snyder’s Data tells us about 2011, his turbulent first year as “CEO”, let’s take a look back and see what historical truths are included in those facts and figures going back to 1998-2008.

This first installment will focus on data from the terms of former Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) and Republican Governor John Engler (R).

The core documents used for this ANALYSIS come from supporting documents for Snyder’s Dashboard or “MiDashboard” and budget related metrics, tons of benchmarking rankings and data points from Snyder’s Citizen’s Guide to Michigan Financial Health or "Dollars and Sense: How State and Local Governments in Michigan Spend Your Money."

Michigan’s Myth of the ‘Lost Decade’
From Michigan economist Lou Glazer on December 2, 2010:

“That’s right, the state’s lost decade started years before the election of Governor Granholm. And how the state organized and delivered its economic development programming in the Granholm years had almost nothing to do with the decline.”
In their current campaign to support the big business and ‘profitization’ policies in which Michigan public assets and taxpayer monies will be redirected in privatization projects across Michigan, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy continues day in and day out ‘mything’ what we call “Mackinac Math”, or the myth of Michigan’s ‘lost decade.  

Using Rick Snyder own data sets, let’s explore the myth we have been hearing for years.  And let’s look at the policies of former Republican Governor John Engler at the beginning of this supposed “Lost Decade” going as far back as the Snyder data will let us.

Michigan’s “Lost Decade” in Pictures:

FIRST
Republican Governor John Engler DEPLETES Michigan Rainy Day Fund…to the tune of $1.2 BILLION

UPDATE: Snyder Data says $1.38 Billion

Snyder’s latest goals, first announced in his first State of the State presentation included increased revenues to rebuild the “Rainy Day Fund” and improving Michigan’s bond ratings, both destroyed by current Snyder staffers and advisers under the last years Republican Gov John Engler.

SECOND
Engler Taxes Cuts kick in reducing State Revenues… Cuts $4.2 BILLION as he is going out the door…

It is surprising that Revenue remains relatively stable under Granholm until Global Financial Crisis of 2008 hits following unregulated greed of Wall Street speculation.

Snyder’s $1.6 billion cut in 2011 to bailout Michigan business is just the start.  Because Michigan has a balance budget amendment, one of the tricks used to justify even greater future cuts will be the health of the Rainy Day Fund, not just at the state level, but now as policy at the City, Village, Township (CVT) and County and school district levels.  Same tactic, different pitch.

THIRD
Engler Cuts to Tax Base and Revenues CREATE DEFICIT at the end of his administration…

Leaving the budget situation for Granholm, and a REPUBLICAN BLOCKING MAJORITY in the Michigan State Senate (since 1985), to deal with it.

One footnote, according to the Detroit Free Press on December 11, 2010:

Granholm said that unlike three previous governors, she will leave her successor with a balanced budget and a $400-million surplus.”
Everyone is now talking about Michigan’s new surplus and what Snyder plans to do with it. Where did it come from? One person’s surplus is another’s justified revenue, but some of these funds were already there, despite the cries of ‘we are broke’ from capitol chambers and the Michigan conservative media noise machine, and used to cut taxes for rich and tax the poor.

FOURTH
Engler Tax Cuts and Revenue cuts continue to impact into the next administration making it next to impossible to balance the budget…

An event better look at these trends is in the charts on State Revenue Sharing over this time period that show where cities and municipalities took the most of the budget hits, particularly in the daily stalemate stories of Bishop vs. Dillon (now Snyder’s State Treasurer) and the two government shutdown brinkmanship overnighters in 2007 and 2009 (More on Revenue Sharing and How Michigan Funds Municipalities and Snyder Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP) when the revisions are announced).

FIFTH
Only Republicans can make Government more efficient…?

Another key ‘myth’ is that Granholm and ‘the Democrat Party’ grew, or would grow in the future if they ever had total control, the size of Michigan’s State Government, when in fact the total number of State Employees decreased by over 8,000 FTE’s or Full-Time Equivalents or Total State Employees under Granholm, who was forced to make deals with the GOP Majority in the State Senate.  A decrease of over 13%...

In fact, Michigan Government won numerous awards nationally for ‘efficient government’ policy and services, like having one of the highest levels of ‘on-line’ services in the country for example (also a stated Snyder goal), under Granholm even during a very politically and economically turbulent second term.

SIXTH
Michigan’s Bond Ratings began falling under Engler, not Granholm…


In his 2012 State of the State PowerPoint ‘presentation’, Snyder touted stabilization in Michigan’s bond ratings. The accompanying myth is that the Granholm administration was responsible for the fall of bond ratings, and his actions are correcting Granholm’s mess, not quite right.

There are a number of sources, but we will use this Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency report “Michigan’s Bond Rating and Related Information” dated February 20, 2007:

December 19, 2001 (Last year under Gov John Engler)
Moody’s revises outlook for the State of Michigan from “Stable” to “Negative”

March 27, 2003 (Less than 90 days after Granholm takes office)
S&P also revises outlook for the State of Michigan from “Stable” to “Negative”

July 18, 2003 (Slight bump 1/2 through Granholm’s first year)
Moody’s revised outlook to “Negative” from “WatchList Negative”

November 14, 2003 (Two months before end of Granhom’s first year)
Moody’s downgraded to “Aa1” from “Aaa” the first actual drop in the rating.

Engler created Michigan’s Debt/Rating debacle by slashing state revenues and starving municipalities going into a tough economy. Bond ratings drops were well on the way down during the Engler administration, and further drops resulted directly to his fiscal and tax policies in Granholm first years in office.

So if all that the Engler administration did for twelve years was to ‘fix’ Michigan why did Michigan’s Bond Ratings drop, the first fall in Michigan’s Bond Ratings for generations? Directly following these 12 years of the “slash and burn” policies of the Engler Revolution, Michigan wasn’t a paradise, it was a starved, scorched state of affairs.  

If tax cuts and massive budget cuts alone were the answer, Michigan should have been the Promised Land by the time Granholm took office.

Snyder’s team, comprised largely of Engler retreads, call their new strategy ‘reinvention’.  If it didn’t work for us leading into the downturn of 2001, why will these same tactics work now following the global financial crash of 2008 at the end of the Bush years?  We call it for what it is, “Slash, Burn  and Repeat”.

People that know this history and economic development theory and practice, know that no business will be attracted to a State that can’t fund their infrastructure and improvement of its own ‘civilization’ (assets in our cities, villages, towns and counties) and adequately educate its youth and talent in a new, innovation driven economy.  Starved, low wage states might be just great for processing chicken, but they are not the sort of states that build out high wage innovation economies.

Snyder’s Business Tax cuts may prop up struggling business who can't manage their own books (2/3 will now pay no taxes at all), and make the rich richer, but it will never create a State people are attracted to and want to live and work by in creating a MARKET in assets, core capabilities, talent and consumer DEMAND necessary for Michigan’s real recovery.

Facts are stubborn things, and those are the FACTS, period.

MORE DISCUSSION on all this Continues BELOW...

Continue Reading

The Colbert Report is making a bunch of noise since yesterday when Steven Colbert listed the Top 22 Super PAC donors revealing half of all Super PAC money came from their $67 million in contributions alone.

From NYT coverage, Colbert says:
"I am sure that the good government goo-goos out there are saying this is just handing all the power to the 1% when in fact 22 people in a population of 300 million: That’s 7 one-millionths of 1 percent," Colbert said, tapping away on his trusty calculator until it spewed smoke. "So Occupy Wall Street, you’re going to want to change those signs."

Two of the 22 donors were Bob Perry (TX), who gave $3,600,000 to "Make Us Great Again" supporting Rick Perry, and Paul Singer (NY) donating $1,000,000 to "Restore Our Future" backing Mitt Romney's candidacy in the Republican Presidential Primary flooded with billionaire money.

But did you know that Perry and Singer are TWO of the Michigan Republican Party's Top 10 donors for 2010? Yep, that's a fact (Page 94).

To Michigan Republican Related PACs

Snyder, Richard & Sue (Campaign)     $5,943,702
DeVos, Richard, Sr. & Helen (FL) (Rich)    $1,199,904
Lynas, Robert & Joyce            $1,007,000
Perry, Bob (TX)                $1,000,000
Koch, David (NY)            $988,604
Singer, Paul (NY)                    $783,400
Cohen, Steven (CT)                    $482,604
Jandernoa, Michael & Susan        $416,655
Weiser, Ron & Eileen            $418,247
Johnson, Ruth (Campaign)        $354,834
Mills, Ted                $339,500
Meijer, Frederick & Lena        $339,000
DeVos, Dick & Betsy            $334,754
Moroun, M.J. & Nora            $333,225
Nicholson, James & Ann            $302,704

Actually, as you can see, if you add Koch and Cohen to the list, FOUR of the Top Donors to the Michigan GOP are billionaires from out-of-state.

You might just check in YOUR STATE.

Welcome to a new country, and states too, bought and paid for, thanks to Citizen's United and the 1% (inside and outside) your state, as this shows.

Cross-posted from Blogging for Michigan. If it's Michigan, it's on BFM.

Discuss

In one of the boldest, brashest moves seen in Michigan in quite some time, Ken Braun the recently 'former' Managing Editor of CapCon at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, has threaten Republican Governor Rick Snyder to either join the "Right to Work" (for a lot less) forces, or be circumvented by 'citizen' introduced legislation that will completely bypass the Nerd using the Tea Party Republican majorities in the Michigan State House and Senate and a loop-hole in the Michigan Constitution.

Just out from Ken Braun of the Mackinac Center:

Michigan's tea party activists are suffering right to work envy while watching the Indiana governor march his Legislature relentlessly to the finish line on that issue. Our Republican governor recently said right to work is too divisive and he doesn't want the Legislature to send a bill to his desk.

(Break)

Article 2, section 9 (of the Michigan Constitution), provides citizens (like the Tea Party) with the power to initiate laws and send them to the Legislature for approval. If both chambers vote by simple majority to approve the bill within 40 days, then it becomes law.

The governor has no role in the process and can neither sign nor veto the measure.

What? Read Braun's FULL POSTING HERE.

Within the posting(s) are links to articles on Rick Snyder’s statements on his reluctance address any "Right to Work" (for Less) legislation, saying he doesn’t want it 'on his desk' and that the issue is 'too divisive'.

Also mentioned in the piece are references to the efforts of the Michigan "Tea Party" to recall Michigan Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville for his statements on the controversial legislation also being pushed through in Indiana by Republican Governor Mitch Daniels.

Richardville is characterized by Braun as being too ‘skeptical’ and ‘outright hostile’ on the issue, which if brought up this year would certainly put just about everything on anyone’s agenda but the already troublesome, dictatorial “Emergency Manager” Law out of sight and mind completely.

The ties between the Mackinac Center, American for Prosperity (AFP), both with shared funders, supporters and participants, and their ties to various “Tea Party” organizations in Michigan are well documented, and no secret.  The head of AFP in Michigan, Scott Hagerstrom, claims to be supported by, or is providing support to dozens of Tea Party groups in the state.

Ken Braun, while at the Mackinac Center, personally has been seen and actually videoed leading wayward Tea Partiers during marches in Lansing. The Mackinac Center media outlet Capital Confidential is wall-to-wall with "Right to Work" (for Less) articles and content.

Some have speculated about Snyder’s relationship with the Mackinac Center before, and the Mackinac Center has both privately and publicly attempted to lay down the law to Snyder.

It is getting more and more clear that Snyder Administration is the "first totally irrelevant 'Republican' Administration in Michigan history", but this strategy of completely ignoring the governor to pass any bill they please… well, that’s a new one.

Driven by Heritage Foundation subsidiary in Michigan, the Mackinac Center and Americans for Prosperity, funded and led by mega-wealthy individuals like Koch, Olin, DeVos and business interests in the State, supported by tons of out-of-state, pre-written legislation by the Koch funded American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, this tactic could really mean "Prefabricated Corporate Michigan (Government) Courtesy of Koch & ALEC" with or without Snyder’s involvement at all.

Braun’s piece appeared on the Detroit News neo-conservative web portal (which feeds Mackinac Center content), the Michigan View on the morning of January 26, 2012.  A link at the bottom of the posting goes to the personal blog of Ken Braun “Charlie Marlow’s War” which has this disclaimer tagged to it:

"These are the rantings of Ken Braun alone and do not necessarily represent those of his employer, friends, family, and so forth. (However, one of his dogs is convinced he can do no wrong.)"

Charlie Marlow is a character in Heart of Darkness a novella written by Joseph Conrad published in 1903 about an Englishman’s travel during the Belgian colonization of the jungles of the Congo at the turn of the century.

Ken Braun has definitely entangled himself with this one, and just may be up the water of the Zaire without a paddle… or is he?  Maybe he’s bored with his 'puppy training' of Michigan politicians which he suggested in this Braun classic "Politician Puppy Training: What the tea parties can learn from the dogs":

"Training legislators, as with training puppies, must be done with care and common sense. Puppies don’t learn to bark before going outside because their masters have set an example by peeing in the backyard themselves. That type of “communication” would just confuse a puppy (to say nothing of the neighbors).  Instead, an external system of rewards and punishments is used to guide the puppy toward doing the right thing."
(break)
"Like the trained puppy, your lawmakers will follow the training that has been driven into them beforehand. Trying to teach these at the last minute is usually as effective as racing out and peeing on your own back yard as soon as you see the puppy lift his leg on the rug. Representative democracy, like puppy training, means you teach the big idea well in advance and then trust the politician or the puppy to do the right thing with the specific details when the big moment arrives."

Is this some lap dog with years at the Mackinac Center that has got a case of rabies and is working alone in some sort of stupor, OR is this really the thinking and planning of the brain trust of the Mackinac Center in Midland, who knows.  

One thing is certain, we all will know soon enough.

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