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Today, Common Cause, Sierra Club, Forecast The Facts, the American Federation of Teachers, and AFSCME are delivering petitions telling Pfizer to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at the company's headquarters....but we need your help.

We are just 200 signers short of reaching 100,000. Click here and sign the petition tell Pfizer to dump ALEC.

Here are six reasons Pfizer should leave ALEC, via Common Cause:

Six Reasons Pfizer Should Stop Funding ALEC

As more major companies leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate lobbying group, it’s a wonder why Pfizer remains a member. Over 80 public interest, religious, environmental, labor, public health, civil rights, and investor organizations have sent a letter to Pfizer asking them to ALEC.

Here are six reasons why Pfizer should cut ties with ALEC:

1.       Pfizer & ALEC’s views on climate science don’t match up

Pfizer states on its website that “climate change is a global environmental and public health issue that requires more action on the part of industry, the government and the public.” Pfizer has linked the impacts of climate change to increasing rates of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, diarrheal disease, malaria, dengue and others. Yet, ALEC lobbies on behalf of major oil and coal companies, pushes legislation that denies the science of climate change and blocks renewable energy, and holds trainings for legislators to promote the denial of climate science.

2.       They don’t see eye to eye on healthcare either

Pfizer has been supportive of the Affordable Care Act and improving Americans’ access to healthcare. Forbes magazine even recently reported that the Affordable Care Act could increase profits for the drug industry by an astounding $35 billion. Yet, ALEC has been key in attempting to overturn the Affordable Care Act and stopping Medicaid expansion.

3.       ALEC lobbies for the tobacco industry

Pfizer has also been a leader in helping Americans stop smoking, yet Pfizer continues to fund ALEC, which is sponsored and supported by tobacco companies Reynolds American and Altria. ALEC lobbies for the tobacco industry on a wide range of issues, including opposing plain packaging laws, FDA regulation of tobacco, and state smoking bans.

4.       Pfizer could face back taxes for its support of ALEC

When we blew the whistle on ALEC’s abuse of tax loopholes to let its corporate members write off lobbying expenses as charitable gifts, we specifically asked the IRS to “disallow the tax deductions taken by ALEC’s for-profit corporate members, and collect taxes due from such [private sector] members.”

5.       Shareholders are questioning Pfizer’s ALEC membership

Pfizer has not yet heeded requests, including a shareholder proposal at the company’s 2014 annual meeting and a pending proposal for 2015, to reevaluate their membership in ALEC, despite the fact that ALEC’s agenda is severely out of step with Pfizer’s corporate culture and may bring significant reputational and business risk to the company.

6.       Many of Pfizer’s competitors have already dumped ALEC

Among Pfizer’s pharmaceutical peers, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Sanofi have all announced they have left or were leaving ALEC in recent years.

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As more major companies leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate lobbying group, it’s a wonder why Pfizer remains a member. Over 80 public interest, religious, environmental, labor, public health, civil rights, and investor organizations have sent a letter to Pfizer asking them to ALEC.

Join us and tell Pfizer to leave ALEC today!

Here are five reasons why Pfizer should cut ties with ALEC:

1.       Pfizer & ALEC’s views on climate science don’t match
Pfizer states on its website that “climate change is a global environmental and public health issue that requires more action on the part of industry, the government and the public.” Pfizer has linked the impacts of climate change to increasing rates of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, diarrheal disease, malaria, dengue and others. Yet, ALEC lobbies on behalf of major oil and coal companies, pushes legislation that denies the science of climate change and blocks renewable energy, and holds trainings for legislators to promote the denial of climate science.
2.       They don’t see eye to eye on healthcare either
Pfizer has been supportive of the Affordable Care Act and improving Americans’ access to healthcare. Forbes magazine even recently reported that the Affordable Care Act could increase profits for the drug industry by an astounding $35 billion. Yet, ALEC has been key in attempting to overturn the Affordable Care Act and stopping Medicaid expansion.
3.       ALEC lobbies for the tobacco industry
Pfizer has also been a leader in helping Americans stop smoking, yet Pfizer continues to fund ALEC, which is sponsored and supported by tobacco companies Reynolds American and Altria. ALEC lobbies for the tobacco industry on a wide range of issues, including opposing plain packaging laws, FDA regulation of tobacco, and state smoking bans.
4.       Pfizer could face back taxes for its support of ALEC
When we blew the whistle on ALEC’s abuse of tax loopholes to let its corporate members write off lobbying expenses as charitable gifts, we specifically asked the IRS to “disallow the tax deductions taken by ALEC’s for-profit corporate members, and collect taxes due from such [private sector] members.”
5.       Shareholders are questioning Pfizer’s ALEC membership
Pfizer has not yet heeded requests, including a shareholder proposal at the company’s 2014 annual meeting and a pending proposal for 2015, to reevaluate their membership in ALEC, despite the fact that ALEC’s agenda is severely out of step with Pfizer’s corporate culture and may bring significant reputational and business risk to the company.
6.       Many of Pfizer’s competitors have already dumped ALEC
Among Pfizer’s pharmaceutical peers, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Sanofi have all announced they have left or were leaving ALEC in recent years.

We’re asking Pfizer to join the over 100 corporations that have left ALEC in recent years. Sign our petition today!

This article was originally published on CommonCause.org

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By Jay Riestenberg, research analyst, and Jack Mumby, digital producer, at Common Cause.

With major tech companies’ recent departure from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate lobbying group, it’s a wonder why eBay remains a member. We’re asking them to leave – add your voice today!

Here are five reasons why eBay should cut ties with ALEC:

(1)   eBay & ALEC’s views on climate science don’t match up
While eBay has actually called for legislative action on climate change, ALEC’s model bills and meeting presentations deny the basic science around climate change, and the organization actively opposes efforts to combat it. ALEC’s climate record isn’t lost on eBay CEO John Donahoe, who recently said his company is “not with them” on the issue.
(2)   They don’t see eye to eye on net neutrality either
Donahoe also said that the corporation remains in ALEC for one issue: “internet.” That’s odd, because while eBay strongly supports open internet protections, ALEC has advanced bill after model bill to undermine them.
(3)   ALEC membership could hurt eBay’s sales
According to a consumer survey by Forecast The Facts, 74% of eBay customers would be “less likely” to use eBay in the future if they learned about eBay’s funding of groups that deny climate science, like ALEC.
(4)   Silicon Valley has already dumped ALEC
As public outcry mounts, eBay’s competitors and fellow tech giants like Amazon, Overstock.com, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yelp, and Yahoo have all left ALEC – the lobby group has become toxic in the tech community.
(5)   eBay could face back taxes for its support of ALEC
When we blew the whistle on ALEC’s abuse of tax loopholes to let its corporate members write off lobbying expenses as charitable gifts, we specifically asked the IRS to “disallow the tax deductions taken by ALEC’s for-profit corporate members, and collect taxes due from such [private sector] members.”

We’re asking eBay to join Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and other tech leaders in the ALEC exodus. Sign our petition today!

This article was originally posted on Common Cause's Democracy Wire.

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The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate lobbying group, has a lot of enemies. Over the years, ALEC has not shied away from calling them out. They like to call leaders of organizations that fight for better working conditions and higher wages "big labor bosses." The call leaders of the movement to protect people from pollution and address the pressing issue of climate change "radical environmental activists." They've called us partisans, radicals, uninformed, socialists, and communists.

But today, in a desperate fundraising email, ALEC decided not to do that. Instead, ALEC attacked Common Cause, a good government group that works to protect voting rights, get big money out of politics, and promote government transparency, and the Unitarian Universalist Church, a religious movement that has historically supported radical things like the end of American slavery and voting rights for women.

It is clear, now more than ever, that ALEC has lost its way. In their fundraising email, ALEC even attempted to say that it "plays a vital role in the democratic process." ALEC cites the fact that they bring politicians and corporate lobbyists behind closed doors to "learn from one another" as their vital role in our democracy. I, like most Americans, actually disagree with the idea that politicians and corporate lobbyists sitting behind closed doors to rewrite our laws is good for democratic process. It fact, this secretive and non-transparent process goes against everything democracy is supposed to be about.

ALEC is facing a crisis as major companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo all recently cut ties with the organization over its denial of climate science. This desperate fundraising email shows ALEC is completely out of step with the American people. It is puzzling why any elected official or respectable corporation would want to affiliate itself with this corrupt organization.

See ALEC's full fundraising email below, and instead of giving them money, make sure you vote on November 4th to show that people matter more than ALEC's corporate special interests.


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ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling cited an organization policy against disclosing members and donors but balked at environmentalists' suggestion that it promotes "climate denial." The organization does not weigh in on the science of man-made warning, he said, any more than it does on "jelly beans."

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Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said some very bizarre things on Tuesday as he and his colleagues debated the Democracy for All amendment, which would overturn the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision and allow Congress to again regulate campaign spending. Some of these statements were so off base, or just factually wrong, that we need to set the record straight:
CRUZ: The Democracy for All amendment would restrict the “NAACP from speaking about politics”
Actually, the NAACP supports the Democracy for All amendment, recently noting in a press release that “big money is the main reason Congress is increasingly out of step with the interests of everyday Americans.” It is odd to see Sen. Cruz align himself with the NAACP, considering his opposition to  high-profile legislation that would benefit people of color, including restoring the Voting Rights Act and raising the minimum wage.
CRUZ: The Democracy for All amendment “would give Congress the power to ban movies and books”
“The Amendment does nothing of that sort,” says Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law and one of the nation’s foremost constitutional scholars.
CRUZ: The Koch Brothers Don’t Spend That Much, They Are Only Number “59”
First, if Cruz is using the Center for Responsive Politics’ data he cites, Koch Industries is actually number 58 on the list of top political contributors since 1989. But that’s not really the point. The listings cover only disclosed spending. The Koch network’s undisclosed spending is astronomical; their secret Koch network of mostly anonymous donors reportedly plans to spend $300 million on the 2014 election alone. This is nearly three times the amount that Act Blue, a Democrat-aligned network that is the top spender on the list Cruz used, has spent over 25 years’ worth of political contributions.
CRUZ: Supporters of the Democracy for All amendment are “abandoning civil liberties”
The truth is that just this week, six prominent civil liberties experts -- all former leaders of the ACLU -- wrote to members of the U.S. Senate denouncing the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions and noting that Congress can regulate campaign spending without interfering with First Amendment rights.
CRUZ: SNL writers & cast members “could be put in jail” because of the Democracy for All amendment
This may be Sen. Cruz’s most bizarre argument. The proposed amendment permits Congress to put limits on the raising and spending of campaign money. It wouldn’t put anyone in jail. Interestingly, its vocal supporters include Sen.  Al Franken, a former Saturday Night Live cast member, who has called Citizens United “one of the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court.”
CRUZ: “Secret money” is not that big of a deal, because only “$315 Million” in dark money was spent in 2012
There are a couple major problems here. First, Senator Cruz is factually wrong. A lot more than $315 million was spent by groups that do not disclose their donors in the 2012 election cycle. In fact, the Koch network alone spent $400 million. Furthermore, even if the total was only $315 million, isn’t that still an outrage that needs to be addressed by Congress?
CRUZ: The Democracy for All amendment “could prohibit labor unions from organizing workers”
Cruz did not specifically argue this yesterday, but has in the past. The argument ignores the fact that most major labor unions, representing millions of workers across the country, have called on Congress to overturn Citizens United. The list includes the National Education Association (NEA), the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) also opposes the Citizens United ruling and has testified to its disastrous effects, saying in 2010, "It’s not worth the couple of extra dollars we could spend—it’s not worth it to us to have voters’ voices completely silenced by corporations."

This article was originally published on Common Cause's Democracy Wire

Follow Jay Riestenberg on Twitter: @JayRiestenberg

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From Common Cause:

Common Cause and 54 other organizations joined Wednesday in asking Google to drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate lobbying group.

In a letter to Google offices across the country, the coalition partners urged Google to follow its motto of “Don’t Be Evil” by giving up its ALEC’s membership. The groups cited ALEC’s hidden role in writing state laws; a Common Cause complaint to the IRS challenges ALEC’s status as a nonprofit charitable organization and asserts the group functions as a lobby for its corporate members..

The letter, which comes just a few weeks after Microsoft announced its departure from ALEC, also argues that ALEC’s opposition to clean energy and net neutrality does not fit Google’s public policy agenda. ALEC, which is heavily funded by telecom and fossil fuel giants including Comcast, AT&T, ExxonMobil, and Koch Industries, has pushed “model” legislation undermining the development of clean energy and opposing net neutrality.

ALEC has been called a “stealth business lobbyist” by the New York Times. The group brings state legislators and corporate lobbyists together in private, often at posh resort hotels, to fashion a variety of legislative proposals that advance the interests of its corporate members, often at the expense of the American people.

Over the past three years more than 80 corporations and at least 400 state legislators have dropped their memberships in ALEC.

Organizations signing the letter to Google include environmental, labor, religious, citizen action, and public interest groups. The signers agreed that “in the spirit of what Google purports to be, and in the spirit of what is best for the American public: it is time for Google to end its membership in ALEC.”

You can read a copy of the letter here.

The list of organizations who have signed the letter is below:

AFL-CIO
American Family Voices
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Americans United for Change
Alliance for Retired Americans
Center for Effective Government
Center for Media and Democracy/ALECExposed
Christopher Reynolds Foundation
Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Climate Parents
ColorofChange.org
Common Cause
Communication Workers of America (CWA)
Courage Campaign
CREDO Action
Democracy for America
Demos
Energy Action Coalition
Forecast the Facts
Free Press
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
Good Jobs First
Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, U.S.A.
In the Public Interest
International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)
Jobs With Justice
League of Conservation Voters
Money Out Voters In (MOVI)
Montana Environmental Information Center
MoveOn
New Energy Economy
Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment
People For the American Way
Progress Now
Progress Florida
Progress Missouri
Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order Milwaukee
Public Campaign
Public Citizen
RootsAction
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Sierra Club
Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Share Action
Social Security Works
Stand Up to ALEC
SumOfUs
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)
United Steelworkers (USW)
USAction
We Act Radio
Working America
Zevin Asset Management

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard.

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Today, The Nation and The Huffington Post published speeches from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and three otherGOP Senate candidates, Rep. Tom Cotton (AR), state Sen. Joni Ernst (IA), and Rep. Cory Gardner (CO), at a secretive donor summit hosted in June by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

The candidates make the case for overturning Citizens United and getting big money out of politics better than we ever could.

Check out these samples, with our analysis:

“All Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times.” – Mitch McConnell
The “playing field” surely is not level for American voters -- Citizens United invited corporations and special interests to spend freely to amplify their speech and drown out the rest of us. That’s the opposite of “free and open”.
“The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law in the early part of his first Administration.” – Mitch McConnell
McConnell has long been the chief opponent of the historic McCain-Feingold campaign finance law in 2002, which Common Cause helped pass. We never knew he took it so personally.
“The exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you -- that really started my trajectory." – Joni Ernst
Senate candidate Ernst, running for an open seat in Iowa, credits the Kochs’ political network for her rise; it makes you wonder how she’ll pay them back if elected.
“We understand that a number of you are in the retail business… You really would prefer to keep you confidentially. We are not pressing you to do anything that’s beyond – for your survival.” – Koch Industries executive Kevin Gentry
Here, one of the Kochs’ top fundraisers assures the roomful of millionaires and billionaires that their political contributions can remain secret. By way of background, you should know that Gentry formerly served as an advisor to former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, now on trial on charges that he failed to disclose gifts from a well-heeled supporter.
“And we looked at the House of Representatives – you all pooled your resources - $100 million dollars in 2010. Very prioritized, and it was very strategic, very systematic. And with your help, we were successful.” – Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips

Phillips takes credit for flipping control the U.S. House in 2010 without mentioning any voter who cast a ballot in that election; behind closed doors, everyone knows that special interest money speaks louder than people.

“I want to start by thanking you, Charles and David, for the important work you’re doing. I don’t know where we’d be without you.” – Mitch McConnell
It’s no secret that McConnell has relied on the Koch brothers (Charles and David) in the past. The “important work” McConnell refers to is their use of dark money groups to further their political and economic interests.
“I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech.” – Mitch McConnell
After Citizens United and McCutcheon, which opened the floodgates to unlimited political spending, there’s little to be “proud” of when it comes to this Supreme Court and political speech.

In this comments, Sen. McConnell also criticized Common Cause for supporting public financing legislation that would truly level the playing field between voters and big-money special interests, like the Kochs.

After these revelations, it’s all the more important that we pass the Democracy for All amendment, which would let Congress place sensible regulations on campaign spending. The Senate votes on September 8. Contact your senator today.

This article was originally posted on Common Cause's Democracy Wire.

Follow Jay Riestenberg on Twitter: @JayRiestenberg

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Microsoft, one of the nation’s largest corporations, has ended its membership and support of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate lobbying group. Microsoft had been a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force.

Here is Microsoft’s statement regarding its ALEC membership:

“As we discussed, in 2014 Microsoft decided to no longer participate in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Communications and Technology Task Force, which had been our only previous involvement with ALEC. With this decision, we no longer contribute any dues to ALEC…we are no longer members of ALEC and do not provide the organization with financial support of any kind.”

Microsoft’s message was sent to The Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott and Coolidge and Walden Asset Management. The Sustainability Group is a Boston-based socially responsible investment group that had questioned Microsoft’s ALEC membership in light of the company’s expressed support of renewable energy.

Microsoft joins more than 90 private sector members, including major corporations like Coca-Cola, General Motors, Bank of America, and Proctor & Gamble, that have dumped ALEC. The exodus was triggered by public exposure beginning in 2011 of ALEC’s carefully-hidden efforts to write and secure passage of legislation including “Stand Your Ground” bills, restrictive voter ID requirements, anti-union measures, and  proposals blocking the development of renewable energy.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, named for Microsoft’s founder, stopped financially supporting ALEC in 2012; over 400 state legislators have also dropped their affiliation with ALEC.

Common Cause has filed a tax whistleblower complaint against ALEC with the Internal Revenue Service, charging the group with masquerading as a charity and violating the terms of its nonprofit status by under reporting its lobbying activity.

Follow Jay Riestenberg on Twitter: @JayRiestenberg

This article was originally posted on Common Cause's Democracy Wire.

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Charles Koch's August 5th op-ed in USA Today is laughable. He spills out his vision of a country that works for the biggest corporations and richest 1% (like himself & Koch Industries), all while claiming that his agenda will help struggling American families.

Here are the five major problems I see with Charles Koch's op-ed:

(1) He quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. I'm actually usually a fan when conservatives quote Dr. King, because King's message transcends partisan politics. Unfortunately, though, Charles Koch shouldn't be allowed to do this. New research from the Center for Media and Democracy shows that Charles Koch was a member of the far-right John Birch Society, which strongly opposed racial equality and civil rights. Koch has supported groups that push voter suppression laws that make it harder for people of color to vote. Koch supports busting unions, despite the fact that Dr. King was a strong supporter of unions and was assassinated on a trip to Memphis to support union sanitation workers' strike. Charles Koch does not get to co-opt Dr. King's message to fit his own, because Charles Koch stands against everything Dr. King stood for.

(2) He finds a way of attacking the minimum wage without saying it. In his op-ed, Charles Koch says  "we should eliminate the artificial cost of hiring." He never mentions the minimum wage, but we know what he is talking about. It is no secret that the Kochs oppose mandating that American workers get paid a a minimum wage. In fact, they not only oppose raising the minimum wage, they oppose its very existence. This is despite the fact that research has shown raising the minimum wage would actually help the economy and alleviate poverty.

(3) He quotes two right-wing think tanks that receive significant Koch funding. There is nothing like promoting research to prove your point that you helped fund. In the piece, Charles Koch uses research from the Mercatus Center and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Nowhere in his piece, though, does he mention the amount of money those groups get from himself, his brother David, and Koch Industries. In fact, the total amount is unknown. Charles Koch and Koch Industries exec Richard Fink sit on Mercatus's board of directors and the think tank has received millions from Koch sources over the years. The Koch fortune also heavily funds the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Yet, to the average reader, those organizations seem like independent sources to validate Kochs' misguided free-market arguments, when the truth is they validate Kochs' arguments because the Kochs' paid them to.

(4) If he hates welfare, does he support full employment? Charles Koch calls out "costly programs" that are "paying able-bodied people not to work" in his op-ed (despite the fact that over 90% of those receiving "entitlements" are either elderly, disabled, or members of working households). I have a feeling that if Congress was to ever consider legislation that provided full employment for American workers, Charles Koch and his front groups would call it a "big government mandate" or "socialism."

(5) His idea of the American dream is just not reality. Sure, there have been lots of people that start off with nothing and work their way up (although Charles Koch inherited his business). Those "bootstrap" stories, though, are becoming more rare. In his op-ed, Charles Koch says "most Americans understand that taking a job and sticking with it, no matter how unpleasant or low-paying, is a vital step toward the American dream." The problem with this is that most Americans in "unpleasant" or "low-paying" jobs actually have less of chance of making it than ever before. And that is largely due to the agenda that Charles Koch has pushed on this country over the last forty years. An agenda that rewards big corporations that pay low wages, ship jobs overseas, and pollute our planet. An agenda that limits workers' ability to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. An agenda that rewards the richest and wealthiest with big tax breaks because they are "job creators," when the people who actually earn and spend money to make the economy turn are left with higher bills for healthcare, college tuition, food, energy, and housing. And Charles Koch has done nothing to help pass legislation that would alleviate that pain. So, no, Charles Koch doesn't get to talk about the American dream for people in "unpleasant" and "low-paying" jobs because his basic idea of the American reality is flawed.

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by Jay Heck and Jay Riestenberg

In a split decision last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said the state can require voters to produce a state-issued ID card at the polls but can’t require them to pay for it.

The ruling adds a new and confusing wrinkle to an already befuddling scenario for the November election. The state legislature has not created a mechanism for providing free-of-charge IDs to voters and the court didn’t impose one. Meanwhile, a federal district judge has blocked enforcement of the ID law on other grounds, declaring that it’s unconstitutional and violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

Talk about a rock and a hard place.

Some clarity may come from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to rule before Election Day on Wisconsin’s appeal of the district court ruling striking down the ID law. If, as expected, the appellate court also rules against the law, it would be a win for Badger State voters, providing some relief from the impact of a reduction of in-person absentee voting opportunities, elimination of weekend voting, and stringent new voter registration requirements.

Among the new restrictions, Wisconsin’s Voter ID law dates to 2011 and is modeled off legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate lobby that brings state legislators and corporate lobbyists together to write and vote as equals – behind closed doors -- on “model” bills.

ALEC’s “Voter ID Act” has gained traction over the years.  Wisconsin is now one of 17 states requiring voters to show some form of photo ID at the polls; more than 30 states now require voters to present some form of identification.

While proponents say voter ID laws are meant to stop fraud, research has shown that voter fraud is extremely rare, and that photo ID requirements don’t protect against it. This intuitively and practically makes sense.  Every voter must sign a registry while face-to-face with an elections official, and the penalty for impersonation typically carries fines of up to $10,000 and prison terms. Photo ID, then, is a cure in search of a problem that simply does not exist.

Worse still, photo ID laws often suppress the voting rights of citizens of color, seniors, students, and those with disabilities.  Roughly 11% of the American population either can’t afford or does not have access to the kind of photo ID that Wisconsin now demands – and that several other states already require.  Given that the Wisconsin court found such little evidence of fraud – and, again, the kind of fraud that is not eradicated by the implementation of photo ID – it is perplexing that yet another state has put into play a law that does nothing but suppress turnout.

While the Wisconsin law is still being blocked by the federal court order, last week’s state Supreme Court ruling may leave voters scratching their heads over exactly what kind of ID they’ll need at the polls. “I think a lot of people are confused about whether it’s in effect or not,” said Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. Common Cause plans on educating voters about the law and is preparing for new voter ID legislation over the next few months.

The type of voter ID law at issue here undermines our democratic process; it creates greater obstacles to voting instead of protecting the interests of voters, particularly those who have long been at the margins of political participation.  The state court seemed irritated that a federal district judge had acted before it got the chance to weigh in.  But now it’s time for the 7th Circuit to demonstrate that voting issues don’t touch just on states’ rights but on fundamental protections enumerated in the federal Constitution.  And those rights deserve to be upheld for every American – in every state.

Jay Heck is the executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin. Jay Riestenberg is a research analyst at Common Cause in Washington, DC. This article was originally published on Common Cause's Democracy Wire.

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DALLAS -- With three swimming pools, a sculpture garden, one of the largest private art collections in North America, a lavish spa room, and a rooftop restaurant with $70 steaks and $40 glasses of wine, the Hilton Anatole is one the most luxurious hotels in Dallas – and maybe in all of Texas.

And this week, the Anatole is providing a comfortable – though entirely inappropriate -- setting for the writing of state laws at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) 41st annual convention.

Most of the conference of corporate lobbyists and state legislators is closed to the press and public. ALEC even barred local reporters from a keynote speech by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  Behind those closed doors, lobbyists and lawmakers whose airfares to Dallas and rooms at the Anatole were paid for by corporate-funded “scholarships,” are meeting and voting as equals on bills to privatize public schools, repeal environmental protections, and promote a proposed constitutional convention to pass a balanced budget amendment.

Endorsed by ALEC, many of the bills likely will re-appear at statehouses with elected officials listed as their sponsors and no acknowledgement of their ALEC DNA.

ALEC also is using the Dallas meeting to launch a subsidiary, the American City/County Exchange. The new group will attempt to extend ALEC’s corporate influence from the statehouse to local county and municipal governments.

Outside the Anatole, hundreds of activists from across Texas gathered on Wednesday to spotlight ALEC and discuss ways citizens can reclaim their government.

ALEC’s convention continues through Saturday. Inside the Anatole, the smell of cigars waffs through the halls as politicians and lobbyists mingle at the bar and plot strategies to advance their legislative agendas. All the while, ALEC continues to claim that it’s not a lobby. To say ALEC is a pay-to-play scheme is an understatement. ALEC is one of the biggest threats to democracy Americans face today.

This article was originally posted on Common Cause's Democracy Wire

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