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Like most of you I had never heard of the Atlantic Bridge charity.  It was founded and designed to promote the "special relationship" between the UK and the US.  Over the past couple of days the Guardian has been covering a scandal involving Liam Fox, UK's Defence Secretary.  I won't bother you with the detail of this scandal, except to say that it has been discovered that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) backed the Atlantic Bridge Charity along with Hedge Fund millionaire, Michael Hintze.

The story is full of mystery, corruption, corporate manipulation and involves many names (corporate, individual and political) we read about in the paper - including former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Of interesting note is that when stories about ALEC and the Koch's hit the news, ALEC's website goes down for "Maintenance".  In this case it went down yesterday as the Guardian's articles were published, exposing their involvement in the Atlantic Bridge Charity.  I have screen prints of what I find now when trying to access ALEC's site over the past 24 hours below the fold.

ALEC Site down

See what I mean? I have no way of knowing if the periodic coincidence of ALEC's site maintenance merely seems to happen when bothersome stories are published or if it is actually coincidence.

The basic stories in the Guardian; "Liam Fox, his adviser, and an irregular meeting in Dubai | Emails shed light on contentious legal battle as MoD admits MRSA superbug case was raised at meeting" and a previous article titled; "'Adviser' Adam Werritty ran charity from Liam Fox's office | Exclusive: MoD's top civil servant warned defence secretary over links to former flatmate" both name ALEC as funding and supporting the Atlantic Bridge Charity.  Both allude to the influence of ALEC regarding conservative ideology, describing ALEC accurately as to membership of legislators and corporate interests combined.

The latter article was published on Thursday the 6th and reads in part:

"The crisis facing the defence secretary, Liam Fox, over his links to his self-styled adviser and friend, Adam Werritty, has deepened after it emerged that Werritty ran a controversial charity from inside Fox's office in the houses of parliament.

"The Guardian has established that Werritty used Fox's room 341 in the MPs' block at Portcullis House as the official headquarters of a rightwing charity, the Atlantic Bridge, which works in conjunction with a major US business lobby group. The office was provided to Fox at taxpayers' expense while he was in opposition until last year.

Further down in the article the "business lobby group" is identified as ALEC:
"Soon after Fox founded the Atlantic Bridge charity, which was designed to promote the "special relationship" between the UK and the US, he asked Werritty to run the charity as executive director. The charity was backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) and the hedge fund millionaire Michael Hintze.

"The funding of the charity, which was supported by senior Tories and patronised by Lady Thatcher, allowed Werritty and Fox to frequently travel to events in America. In one instance Fox flew back from Washington to the UK in Hintze's private jet, the register of members' interests shows. It has been suggested that Werritty was also present on the jet."

But the foregoing opening of the article sounds familiar enough to those of us here in the U.S. who have become knowledgeable on ALEC and how they are all about diverting taxpayer money to fund their pro-corporate conservative agenda.    

"Fox founded the Atlantic Bridge to strengthen the relationship between the US and UK, and in particular celebrate the Reagan-Thatcher era. He installed Werritty as chief executive, but it has now been wound up following criticism by regulators that it was too political to qualify for charitable status.

"A string of senior Tories, including George Osborne, William Hague and Michael Gove, have served on the advisory board of the charity, and Baroness Thatcher was the honorary patron.

"Fox's parliamentary office was given as the charity's administrative office in UK charity files, and Werritty is listed as UK executive director in accounts filed in the US for the Atlantic Bridge Inc, the entity which controls the organisation's US arm."

"Official records show Werritty collected £90,000 in salary from the charity between 2007 and 2010.

So from 2003 through last week, ALEC had an office and influence right inside Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD).  To me that's similar to ALEC's Alumni having similar positions of power and influence inside both houses of Congress here in the U.S. The difference between the UK and U.S. situation involving ALEC, is that once discovered as being overly political, the Atlantic Bridge Charity was closed down last week on September 31st.
"The charity was finally dissolved last Friday after its remaining trustees – Fox had already resigned from the board – decided to close it down rather than address the Charity Commission's concerns.

Again the major difference is, the UK found the "Charity" was too political to qualify as a charity and was thus closed down.  Here in the U.S. we have no such luck.  Our IRS continues to allow ALEC to enjoy their 501 (c)(3) exemption status as a charity - regardless of the huge amount of lobbying and political pursuits of the organization.

Fortunately for Britain, they only had to put up with ALEC's vast influence for under eight years before they ousted them.  We've had them for forty and can't get rid of them.  In this I believe the current Administration has a lot to learn from our British allies.

In the Guardian article yesterday, the story is about a deal struck between Fox's MoD and another private company that developed something called Acolyte that is claimed to drastically cut the time it takes to identify MRSA infections.  Acolyte was sold to the U.S. company, 3M for £41m.  Somehow this "deal" included a Knighthood for 3M CEO, George Buckley but that that had been put in jeopardy when 3M refused to pay the full price for Acolyte:

"The meeting between the five men was a pleasant and jolly affair, but the disputed conversation turned toxic the next day.

"In the early hours of the following morning Boulter fired off an email to 3M lawyers. "I had a 45-minute meeting with Dr Liam Fox, the British defence minister, on our current favourite topic … As a result of my meeting [with Fox] today you ought to know that David Cameron's cabinet might very shortly be discussing the rather embarrassing situation of George's [George Buckley, 3M's chief executive] knighthood."

"Boulter suggested that a settlement "at a headline of $30m+ will allow MoD to internally save face".

As most of us here in the U.S. know, 3M is a huge supporter and member of ALEC ( and heavily involved with the NCIA in using prison labor for manufacturing), so making it possible for that company to capitalize off of something coming directly out of Fox's Ministry of Defence office - where ALEC's Atlantic Bridge "charity" was conveniently located - was to be predicted.  However the MoD partner in developing Acolyte was British private equity boss Harvey Boulter who owned Porton Capital and he was upset because 3M had determined that Acolyte failed U.S. testing and reneged on the deal, refusing to pay the full £41m.

"The MoD's innovation unit had teamed up with Boulter's Porton Capital to commercially produce technology called Acolyte that is claimed to drastically cut the time it takes to identify MRSA infections.

"At first it was a major success and the pair sold it to US Post-it note conglomerate 3M in £41m deal. But 3M later claimed the technology failed US tests and refused to pay the full amount.

"Boulter was furious. He wanted to fight 3M all the way, but to do that he needed the might of HM's government. The 41-year-old businessman, who spends most of his life on a boat sailing the Gulf, spent weeks trying to get someone in government to listen.

So 3M's CEO gets a Knighthood promised to him in the U.K. in a deal to buy a joint MoD and Porton Capital pharmaceutical development.  The ALEC story just keeps getting better and better - or worse and worse - depending on which side of the Task Force table one is sitting on.  Many of ALEC's members and supporters were involved with the Atlantic Bridge Conservative think tank; GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Karl Rove, Rudy Giuliani, John Ashcroft, Lindsey Graham, Joe Liberman and others.  In his Presidential campaign, Giuliani boasted of receiving an "Atlantic Bridge" award.  Read more about this UK based ALEC think tank here: feel jealous that Britain is rid of them while we continue to fight them tooth and nail.  Of course it helps that over the decades they've been in existence, they have more than a hundred alumni in Congress and scattered throughout our federal government agencies right now, so throwing their asses out here is much more difficult.

I - and other DK diarists - have written articles about ALEC's International Relations Task Force and how they have exported their brand of Conservatism to many foreign countries over the past decade plus: Canada, China, Korea, Germany, U.K., Poland, Australia and New Zealand.  Many readers did not see the importance of this, even as I wrote about the harsh criminal justice laws being adopted by these countries, with concurrent contracting between those governments and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group for privatizing prison facilities.  From the Guardian articles we now see just how corrupt ALEC and their corporate members are, whether on foreign soil or here at home, as they chase every dollar they can eek out of taxpayer's wallets...

In another important development, Former Presidential Counselor, John Dean wrote an article yesterday: "Gaming American Democracy: A Perfect Storm in Which Republicans Disenfranchise Voters While Giving Corporations Unchecked Powers".  In this article he links ALEC's activities to at least a partial reason for the current Occupy Wall Street activism:

"On balance, ALEC has been amazingly successful in accomplishing its never-ending goals on behalf of conservatives, as well as its corporate agenda, at the state level.  It has written thousands of laws that benefit corporate America, and conservative causes—often at the expense of the greater public good, and more often, unknown to most Americans.  Needless to say, this process is certainly not an instance of government’s serving the general public’s interest. Rather, it is an instance of corporate money legally corrupting democracy, with its outsized influence, to obtain its special interests—the public be damned.

"For example, ALEC has been very busy working to change the nature of representative democracy by diminishing the power of the American people at the ballot box.  ALEC seeks to use is funding power to disenfranchise people who are likely to vote against the conservative social agenda or against corporate interests."

Mr. Dean closes this article prophetically with:

"Resolving the legality of the barrage of new election laws will be costly, and will take decades.  Meanwhile, Republicans will have gained and taken their unfair advantage, which will likely only encourage them to further game the system.  It’s the way they now play the game, and while it may be nasty and even un-American, they could care less, as long as they are winning.

"Republicans simply rely on the reality that an overwhelming majority of Americans do not know what is going on; that the well-funded Republican public-relations barrage targeting Americans will keep the American people focused on less than vital issues; and that the corporate underwriters who fund this devious behavior believe they are doing what corporation are suppose to do, which is to make profits, so they simply laugh all the way to their off-shore banks.

"No one knows how this will all play out, but as those who are gathering to occupy Wall Street and other public squares understand, this is not the way it should be.  Conservatives and their corporate backers should understand that democracy is fragile, and if they persist, it will break.

Just as their powerful, influential and well funded corporate members have become international, so has ALEC.  Hand in hand ALEC, Koch and their 300 U.S. corporations have been working for years to increase profits, lower wages, privatize, outsource and insource (prison labor) our jobs, fight union influence and to downgrade our education and social safety net programs.  They want the huge amount of money in our Social Security so they go after it.  They want the huge amount of money in our Medicare and Medicaid program, so they go after it.  They wanted the $2 trillion in home equity held by senior citizens, so they came up with their Reverse Mortgage Act to give them access to that money.  They want a large segment of the $75 billion spent annually on incarceration, so they have gone after that through privatization of everything related to corrections, prison or inmate services.  They want a large share of the money spent on education, so they have begun going after public education to transfer tax dollars away from public education and into the coffers of private companies opening up to provide "education" to our children.  In order to keep their control and influence, they realize that as a minority they must take steps to diminish the votes of those in the majority, so they write voter fraud legislation and dispense it nationwide to disenfranchise enough Democratic voters to keep themselves and their agenda in power.

This has been the blight upon our democracy and taxpayers for nearly 40 years now and counting.  Many of us have finally prevailed in exposing ALEC, their members - corporate and legislative, Alumni, agenda.  More and more notable and also influential journalists, columnists and writers have begun to notice and write about the activities of ALEC.  Suddenly ALEC is being pressured from all sides on a multitude of issues involving their interference with legislation and democracy itself.

This week that exposure broadens, coming from overseas borne out of the immoral export of ALEC's Conservative agenda to other parts of the world.  This British scandal has cracked the door to the relationship between former President GW Bush, former PM's Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher - a recipient of America's Medal of Freedom award from President Bush in 2008 and ALEC's Pioneer award in 2006.

I wish the Brit's Charity Commission would have a discussion with our IRS about the term and definition of "charitable" and how they were able to get rid of their ALEC cancer.  Maybe then we'd all get some relief from these bastards.

Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 10:01 AM PT: Take heart, DK Bloggers.  It was a UK Blogger that undid the Atlantic Bridge scam there in Britain.  It took him two years and we're just approaching the first anniversary of our writing about ALEC here on DK.  We have made great strides in identifying ALEC, their funders, benefactors, members and agenda.  We have accomplished much.  Now if we can just get the assistance of the IRS and government here in the U.S. to finish the job.

‘Atlantic Bridge lives on’ warns blogger who secured closure of Liam Fox’s UK charity.

The Manchester based blogger whose two year investigation of the Atlantic Bridge led to the closure last week of a charity established by Dr Liam Fox MP, and managed by his close friend Adam Werritty, has warned that the UK charity’s demise may be a smokescreen that hides far more serious wrongdoing than acknowledged by the Charity Commission.

The Atlantic Bridge was founded in 1997 by Dr Liam Fox MP, who was its chair and a trustee until the 2010 general election, with Adam Werritty acting as UK executive director. Its advisory council included the MPs George Osborne, William Hague, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Eleanor Laing and John Whittingdale, together with six US congressmen. Its patron was Baroness Thatcher. It was registered as a charitable think tank in 2003 with a US based non-profit established in the same year, but published no research.
 Fox had been recruited to front the Atlantic Bridge by right-wing US think tank the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC was most seriously exposed in 1998 when the US tobacco industry was forced to release thousands of internal documents as part of a multi-billion dollar settlement of dozens of lawsuits; these documents proved that the tobacco industry used ALEC to lobby US legislators. ALEC continues to be funded by the tobacco industry, but today is also supported by elements of the oil industry keen to promote climate change denial and of the pharmaceutical industry keen to block US health reforms. US members of the Atlantic Bridge led summer 2009’s high profile attacks on the NHS that formed part of their campaign to block President Obama’s healthcare reforms.

Originally posted to Bob Sloan on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 01:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by Earthship Koch and Exposing ALEC.


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