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On July 13, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)  spokeswoman Raegan Weber responded  to the growing criticism of that the organization is a channel for illegal lobbying with a simple statement.

ALEC spokeswoman Raegan Weber denied the accusation, saying, "ALEC does not lobby. We employ no lobbyists."
 

Small problem with that statement.  

State records from North Dakota reveal that ALEC has in fact employed lobbyists.

The Public Record

North Dakota's secretary of state shows that from July of 2008 to June of 2009, ALEC employed two Washington based lobbyists:

AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE EXCHANGE COUNCIL
                 1101 VERMONT AVE NW 11TH FL
                 WASHINGTON, DC 20005-           202-466-3800

          #485 BEHRENS, MARK
                 600 14TH ST NW STE 800
                 WASHINGTON, DC 20005-2099       202-783-8400

          #484 SCHAECHER, COREY
                 600 14TH ST NW STE 800
                 WASHINGTON, DC 20005-2099       202-783-8400

As much as the mere fact that Ms. Weber so blatantly misrepresented the truth should bother us, it's the details of the case that are truly disgusting. See ALEC provides its corporate donors something far more valuable than lobbying ever could, it provides an air of legitimacy.

ALEC’s approach of brazenly promoting a corporate agenda as the product of a supposedly objective, nonprofit organization is especially effective in state legislatures, and especially attractive to the corporations that set its advocacy agenda.

Background

A bit of background is in order here.  What brought ALEC to North Dakota was asbestos, or more precisely, liability for asbestos. Although asbestos was widely used in a variety of insulation applications through the 1970s, evidence of that  asbestos caused harm, up to and including death, to those exposed to it had been published as early as the 1920s. EPA publications on asbestos identify three types of health threat from exposure:

a) Asbestosis - a lung disease first found in naval shipyard workers. As asbestos fibers are inhaled, they may become trapped in the lung tissue. The body tries to dissolve the fibers by producing an acid. This acid, due to the chemical resistance of the fiber, does little to damage the fiber, but may scar the surrounding tissue. Eventually, this scarring may become so severe that the lungs cannot function. The latency period ( meaning the time it takes for the disease to become developed) is often 25-40 years.

b) Mesothelioma - a cancer of the pleura ( the outer lining of the lung and chest cavity) and/ or the peritoneum ( the lining of the abdominal wall). This form of cancer is peculiar because the only known cause is from asbestos exposure. The latency period for mesothelioma is often 15-30 years.

c) Lung Cancer - caused by asbestos. The effects of lung cancer are often greatly increased by cigarette smoking ( by about 50%). Cancer of the gastrointestinal tract can also be caused by asbestos. The latency period for cancer is often 15-30 years.

Between 1979 and 2001, at least 43,073 people died from asbestos related diseases. Below is a map of this.  Each dot marks an asbestos-related death.

Asbestos is everywhere. Just because you didn't work in a mine or manufacturing facility doesn't mean you haven't been exposed. If you went to school, have been treated at a hospital, or work in an office, there's a fair chance that you've been exposed.

Faced with the prospect of being held to account for the consequences of their actions, firms with potential liabilities in this area have resorted to bankruptcy reorganization in order to skip out on their responsibilities. One of the few saving graces has been the ability of those afflicted by asbestos related diseases to take successor companies to court for damages, to hold firms accountable for their actions. (Or lack thereof.) This is where ALEC comes in.

ALEC, or is it Crown Cork and Seal, Co.?, goes to Bismarck

In January of 2009, Mark Behrens and Corey Schaecher show up in Bismarck. At the time both worked for Shook, Hardy, and Bacon a Washington, DC law firm representing Crown Cork and Seal, Co.  a firm with a potentially large exposure to asbestos claims.  On January 15th, two pieces of ALEC model legislation dealing with these types of claims are introduced as bills in the legislature.  Behrens and Schaecher showed up on the 12th to shepherd the bills, but don't even bother  registering as lobbyist until the 23rd.

On the 27th, Behrens testifies before the Judiciary Committee "on behalf of the American Legislative Exchange Council."  Although both Behrens and Schaecher are registered as lobbyists for Crown, Cork, and Seal, Co with the secretary of state, they represent themselves to the committee  as acting on behalf of ALEC.

A quick look at the bills reveals why they sought the air of legitimacy that come from acting on behalf of what is supposedly a non-partisan organization acting in the public interest.  HB 1430 (An Act Concerning Successor Asbestos-Related Liability) is based on ALEC model legislation of the same name. It limits liability for asbestos-related damages to the market valuation of the predecessor firm at the time of purchase by the successor. HB 1384 is based on ALEC's Transparency in Lawsuits Protection Act. It would limit the ability of a private individual to take legal action where a firm (or other party) has created a liability under the letter of state law.  Beyond being grossly unconstitutional in attempting to retroactively strip rights of action, these model bills create practical problems. For example, limiting an implied private right of action deriving from state law could make it impossible for custodial parents to sue where the ex-spouse refuses to pay child support. That's right.  ALEC wants to leave kids who've already suffered through a divorce in the lurch when the parent that doesn't have custody wants to be a deadbeat.

If these lobbyists represented themselves as acting on behalf of Crown, Cork, and Seal, Co. a firm with direct  financial interests in the passage of these acts, the appearance of public-mindedness falls to the wayside.  Corporate greed is revealed.  ALEC shields these naked interests beneath the allure of a non-partisan "best practices" organization.  And to top it off, ALEC throw a little soiree for their members the following day.  No doubt attended by Behrens and Schaecher, allowing them to push for the passage of both bills once they exit the committee. All while using the ALEC affiliation to lobby while being registered as a lobbyist for Crown, Cork, and Seal.

So, on January 29th, North Decoder posts a story about this whole clusterfuck. That post is the source of all the information I've got here about the incident.  It's the hard work of folks like North Decoder (ht chet) that allows us to track ALEC's path of destruction. And it was the unwelcome attention this post drew that forced ALEC into drastic action.  Caught in the act, ALEC attempted to cover their tracks by retroactively covering their ass by sending a "letter of authorization" to the North Dakota Secretary of State that afternoon.

Despite this, nothing happened. ALEC got off scott free. God knows how many times they've run this scam  in statehouses across the country without getting caught. I sincerely doubt this is an isolated incident.  And I seriously hope that the IRS will consider this when they review ALEC's 501 (c) 3 status.

We need your help.  We need folks to look through the archives at Alecexposed.org and find where state legislators have used ALEC model legislation. Then we can start the process of digging out the rest of the dirt like this.

Join us in New Orleans when we protest at ALEC's national meeting. We deserve a democracy.  We won't get it until we can get ALEC out of our state governments.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Maybe ALEC's (10+ / 0-)

    for asbestos because they think it will help them not burn when they get to Hell.

    http://www.economicpopulist.org

    by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 09:25:33 AM PDT

  •  The big winners from asbestos (0+ / 0-)

    ligation have been lawyers.

    The victims have received relatively little . . ..  

    This diary makes it clear that nothing in that regard will change soon.

  •  Two quick clarifications: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hector Solon
    Beyond being grossly unconstitutional in attempting to retroactively strip rights of action

    The implied right of action model legislation is prospective, applying to legislation passed after the adoption of the model bill.  
    ALEC wants to leave kids who've already suffered through a divorce in the lurch when the parent that doesn't have custody wants to be a deadbeat.

    The legislation exempts from its scope causes of action that sound in tort and contract.  Child care payments will either result from contract (via separation agreement) or from family law and will have been ordered by a judge.  So they're still fully enforceable.
    •  Read the model bill. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hector Solon

      Read the model bill. (Available here.) This seems to throughly debunk your argument that this bill only applies to people who who were made sick after the bill was passed.  This is about skipping out on the damage already done. But then again, you probably won't read even this far because your comments have established that you're a it of a troll when it comes to anything involving ALEC.

      “Successor asbestos-related liabilities” means any liabilities, whether known or unknown, asserted or unasserted, absolute or contingent, accrued or unaccrued, liquidated or unliquidated, or due or to become due, that are related in any way to asbestos claims (as defined by this Act, as well as any claims for damage or loss caused by the installation, presence, or removal of asbestos) and that were assumed or incurred by a corporation as a result of or in connection with a merger or consolidation, or the plan of merger or consolidation related to the merger or consolidation, with or into another corporation or that are related in any way to asbestos claims (including property damage
      claims) based on the exercise of control or the ownership of stock of the corporation before the merger or consolidation. The term includes liabilities that, after the time of the merger or consolidation for which the fair market value of total gross assets is determined under Section 4, were or are paid or otherwise discharged, or committed to be paid or otherwise discharged, by or on behalf of the corporation, or by a successor of the corporation, or by or on behalf of a transferor, in  connection with settlements, judgments, or other discharges in this state or another jurisdiction.

      http://www.economicpopulist.org

      by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 10:27:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was talking about (0+ / 0-)

        the Transparency in Lawsuits Protection Act.  So you were when you made the thoroughly weird comment about child support.  I don't really have to quote your own diary, do I?

        •  Whatever (0+ / 0-)

          you have a habit of coming in to downplay any diary on ALEC.  I don't know what your deal is, but we at Exposing ALEC have taken notice, and will be pointing out your comment record if you continue to try to downplay attempts to shine light on ALEC's misconduct.

          http://www.economicpopulist.org

          by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 10:40:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary. I hope it gets lots of... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Trotskyrepublican

    ...eyeballs.

    Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 10:05:31 AM PDT

    •  I hope so (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ohiodem1

      North Decoder really put all the materials there, it's quite easy to show that Raegan Weber is misrepresenting the truth once you follow all the documents that North Decoder put together.  Preparing to pass the North Decoder link along to a contact at Common Cause now, it might be useful to them as they challenge ALEC's tax-exempt status.  

      http://www.economicpopulist.org

      by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 10:34:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  They don't appear to have lied about it at all. (0+ / 0-)

    They make a present-tense statement about lobbyists, and you say it's a lie because they at some past point employed lobbyists.

    I mean, this is such an obvious problem you border on insulting the intelligence of your audience.

    Completely unrelated to that, we have this:

    Between 1979 and 2001, at least 43,073 people died from asbestos related diseases.

    That's only a large number because of the very large date spread.  By comparison, more people die from food poisoning ever year.  However, the legislation involved has nothing to do with asbestos being legal or not (It's been illegal in the US for ages)

    For example, limiting an implied private right of action deriving from state law could make it impossible for custodial parents to sue where the ex-spouse refuses to pay child support. That's right.  ALEC wants to leave kids who've already suffered through a divorce in the lurch when the parent that doesn't have custody wants to be a deadbeat.

    Implied private rights of action are limited all the time, and limiting one doesn't imply limiting all of them.  Your argument here is pure slippery slope insanity, as other posters have rightfully pointed out.

    •  That's right, only 2,000 people a year died (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Trotskyrepublican

      from asbestos related injuries, inclucing Steve McQueen, if you want to put a human face on your attempt to minimize the pain and suffering of both the patient and their families, the costs of caring for these folks, that would be cancer treatment, hospitializations, hospice care and funeral expenses.  To compare, "only" 1,000 of our soldiers have died in Afghanistan in 10 years of war?  Does that make them any less dead, or does it ease the pain of their families because this wasn't a "big war"?

      The legal issue is, did the industry minimize or cover up the health effects of asbestos so they could sell it, or get people to work with it, just like Big Tobacco, its toady Tobbaco Institute, and maybe not coincidentially, ALEC supporters?

      I'll let you lawyers fight out implied right of actions, but my guess is that ManfromMiddletown is right.

      Republicans are like alligators. All mouth and no ears.

      by Ohiodem1 on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 11:33:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You would have guessed amazingly wrong. (0+ / 0-)

        The legal issue is, did the industry minimize or cover up the health effects of asbestos so they could sell it, or get people to work with it, just like Big Tobacco, its toady Tobbaco Institute, and maybe not coincidentially, ALEC supporters?

        There is no industry here.  The proposed ALEC legislation is not even about any companies that ever manufactured or promoted asbestos.

        The company they're trying to shield from lawsuits never made anything with asbestos and is being sued over a brief association with a dormant division of a competing bottle cap manufacture over forty years ago.

        The diarist is using obvious appeals to emotion to cover for what is particularly egregious legal extortion.

        •  Good... (0+ / 0-)

          ... maybe you can explain WHY US-based companies, like a subsidiary of Dana Corp comes to mind in the mid west, are STILL MAKING and SELLING asbestos in countries other than the US?

          Guess killing workers in foreign countries, the same ones replacing US jobs at a accelerating rate, is just fine with the ALEC membership.

          Once ALEC, ALWAYS ALEC - and anything that ALEC promotes, it the responsibility of ALL of their membership, no exceptions.

        •  Partly right and partly wrong, MGross. (0+ / 0-)

          Many of the companies that used, manufactured or in some way were involved in asbestos products or applications, came under thousands of lawsuits once the carcinogenicity
          of asbestos was established.  Most filed for bankruptcy and closed operations.

          Ingersol Rand and a couple of other companies wished to purchase the equipment, property and rights to those bankrupted companies.  However, since there were outstanding litigation and judgments against them, they knew if they purchased the assets, they also bought the liabilities.  In an effort of acquiring the assets and limiting the liabilities that would come along with the assets, ALEC developed legislation titled: "Asbestos Claims Transparency Act" and "Successor Asbestos-Related Liability Fairness Act."  Once passed and adopted as state law, it limited the liabilities attached to assets of the old companies regarding asbestos.  It calls for retroactively applying this legislation to exempt new owners or potential buyers of the properties or facilities.

          This would provide a way around existing judgments and leave the holders of judgments or existing claims holding an empty bag.  This is why it was important for ALEC to lobby in ND (and elsewhere in WA. state and Texas, for instance) in support of "their" legislation developed to assist in this bypass of claims.

          This goes hand in hand with ALEC's other tort reform efforts that are corporate funded and obviously beneficial to them.  This is similar to the current battle over healthcare and ALEC's model legislation and resolutions in support of repeal.  They are doing the same thing with public appearances, testifying before state and federal legislative bodies in support, lobbying for passage of that model legislation and filing briefs in support in those cases now ongoing in that legal battle.

          "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled" http://piecp-violations.com/

          by Bob Sloan on Tue Jul 26, 2011 at 01:18:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  What you said doesn't contradict me at all. (0+ / 0-)

            Ingersol Rand and a couple of other companies wished to purchase the equipment, property and rights to those bankrupted companies.

            True, but they weren't involved in asbestos themselves in any way.

            Once passed and adopted as state law, it limited the liabilities attached to assets of the old companies regarding asbestos.

            Legally, there are no liabilities attached to these assets.  If a bankrupt company sells an asset, no liability from the actions of the bankrupt firm attach to it unless they are expressly assumed or the transaction is "fraudulent" or "collusive"

            However, the plaintiff's bar has gone well beyond traditional theories of liability to try and sue this group, in spite of their arguments being rejected by the courts.  Their hope is the sheer magnitude of asbestos liability claims will force a settlement in spite of lacking a valid legal argument.  This law would preclude them from using that particular approach.

            To quote a particularly evil example:

            Cadlo v. Owens-Illinois, Inc. (2004) 125 Cal.App.4th 513 is even more remote. That was an attempt to hold a manufacturer of asbestos insulation liable based on its historic role in the design, manufacture and marketing of the product, even though the manufacturer had sold the product line well before the plaintiff's exposure, and there was no evidence that it had any connection, whether design, manufacture or distribution, to the asbestos to which he was exposed. (Id. at p. 516.)

            •  Morally, there are PLENTY of liabilities... (0+ / 0-)

              ... attached to these assets.

              You said:

              "That was an attempt to hold a manufacturer of asbestos insulation liable based on its historic role in the design, manufacture and marketing of the product, even though the manufacturer had sold the product line well before the plaintiff's exposure..."

              You know VERY WELL under the case history of "strict liability" and current laws on the transfer of assets (and their obligations) that your position has a problem here.

              This is precisely why ALEC funders and corporate interests are seeking remedy through ALEC models and legislation at the State level.

              Without trying to repeat the educated comments that Bob made above, and repeat the numerous investigations and reports on what ALEC is attempting to put in place in our Country in regards to reduction and elimination of basic corporate responsibility and liability in our Society, we can continue down this path or choose a new path.

              Might suggest you examine your own personal moral compass and decide what your core values are.

              The fact that you are here on DK defending the actions of ALEC members/clients and usurpation of the rule of law and the fairness of corporate responsibility and liability (established in the United States well over 150 years ago) in this Country is a good sign.

              Search your heart and escape the quandary in which you find yourself entrapped, join us... or if you choose, continue the twisted logic that has become your personal and profession life (believe me I know what that is like), that obviously is causing you great incurable and unendurable pain.

              That choice is yours and yours alone. Wish you well.

              •  Morally? Why should they get other people's money (0+ / 0-)

                Listen, the money from the sale of the asset goes straight into the Bankruptcy trust, to pay out the outstanding claims of asbestos victims.  That happens with or without the legislation.

                The only thing the ALEC legislation would do is prevent them from going after additional money from the company that bought it, which they have no moral or legal right to in the first place.

                363 Sales severing liability from the asset are not controversial or unheard of. It happens every day in bankruptcy court.

                ALEC may have introduced plenty of dubious bills, this just isn't one of them.

    •  And, oh yes, the map concerning 43,073 (0+ / 0-)

      asbestos-related deaths is completely irrelevant because the ALEC and Crown Cork lobbyists were there to shepherd an Asbestos-related Model Legislation from ALEC that had been introduced only days before.  Totally irrelevant, I'd say.

      And the fact that this incident happened in the distant past of January 2009 is simply a case of "Don't pay attention to the man behind the curtain", isn't it?

      Let's just leave it there.  You decide.

      Republicans are like alligators. All mouth and no ears.

      by Ohiodem1 on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 11:40:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hmmm (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ohiodem1

      If you look at the last two pages of this document the President of the North Dakota Association for Justice begs to differ.

      Child support is only one of the areas he sees being affected.

      http://www.economicpopulist.org

      by ManfromMiddletown on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 12:03:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great story... (0+ / 0-)

    ...makes you wonder just HOW MANY events and lobbyists ALEC is really flying around.

    If you go State-to-State, in some cases ALEC is a registered "charity" and in others registering as a "lobbyist".

    Need to go state by state, but having done it a couple times, time consuming (different sites and names of lists/registration offices, etc).

    Great work. Like to see more.

  •  In Michigan this model... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt

    ... was put in place by then State Senator Wayne Kuipers in 2006 as we found in our first state-level investigation.

    This whole asbestos model and activity is DIRECTLY for the benefit of specific ALEC customers, for specific purposes - NOT in the benefit of the citizens (and their health) that ALEC members are elected and paid to uphold.

    Corruption plain and simple. Lobbying? Just a difference of semantics really isn't it?

    Kuipers, who has a long list of ALEC bill introductions, is now a professional LOBBYIST working with the Heritage/Mackinac Center and other profiteers (lately in privatizing/profitizing Public Education (last month), which a very common PATTERN for former ALEC members, and in particular former ALEC State Chairs.

  •  Slow on the uptake (0+ / 0-)

    I'm slow on the uptake, here.  I need to read DailyKos more often because I didn't see this until today.  

    I should note, too, that I did a follow-up blog post about this after ALEC filed their 2009 tax return and lied about whether they engage in any lobbying.  I posted it both on NorthDecoder and on  DailyKos  because I thought it was kind of a big deal.  

    Some of the commenters to the "lied on its 2009 tax return" posts suggested ALEC could answer that "no" they did not engage in lobbying activity because they did not engage in "a lot" of lobbying activity.  That's a bullshit argument, of course, because the question on the 990 does not ask whether they engaged in "a lot of" lobbying activities.

    If they engaged in "any" lobbying activities, the truthful -- i.e. non-tax-fraud -- answer would have been "yes," and then they would have been required to fill out some other forms in which they could have claimed it was an insubstantial amount of lobbying.  They chose, instead, to lie.  If you or I did that, we'd find ourselves in criminal court. I still wonder why the Justice Department hasn't perked up about ALEC's tax fraud.  

    Anyway... thanks or the hat-tip on this, and the links.  I also hope this issue draws more attention.  These corrupt, lying ALEC criminals need to be held accountable by someone, even if it's just some cheeto eating blogger like me.

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