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Exposed: ALEC's new anti-environmental agenda in Chicago this week

New internal documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveal new methods that fossil fuel companies, agrochemical interests and corporate lobbying groups will influence certain state policies in the coming months through the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

ALEC's annual meeting is taking place in Chicago this week, just as Common Cause and CMD have filed a complaint to the IRS over ALEC's corporate-funded "Scholarships" for state legislators--ALEC is a tax exempt non-profit despite their mission of facilitating an exchange of company-crafted laws with state legislators in closed-door meetings.

ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force is drafting new model bills on behalf of its members like Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and Peabody. ALEC's anti-environmental agenda in Chicago is available for viewing (see E&E PM and Earthtechling). These are the new model bills ALEC and its energy, chemical and agricultural interests are finalizing this week.

The Market-Power Renewables Act and the Renewable Energy Credit Act: ALEC and other Koch-funded State Policy Network groups like the Heartland Institute haven't had much success with their attempts to repeal state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) laws through the ALEC/Heartland Electricity Freedom Act. The Market-Power Renewables Act and Renewable Energy Credit Act are two newer, more subtle attempt to weaken RPS laws by phasing in a renewable power voluntary program, creating space for existing and out-of-state energy credits to displace new clean energy, and eventually repealing the RPS requirements entirely.

To slow the growth of clean energy competition, ALEC's fossil fuel members wrote these bills to allow increasing portions of a states clean energy generation requirements to be fulfilled by Renewable Energy Credits, or RECs. RECs are allowed to qualify in some states' RPS laws already, often in limited amounts, and they are not created equal. For instance, the benefits of burning gas leaking from landfills--something waste management companies would be selling anyway--are not on par with the societal benefits from building new sources of clean energy and displacing older, dirtier sources. You can see why ALEC member companies like American Electric Power or Duke Energy may take issue with this, given their reliance on coal and gas electricity generation.

Increasing the amount that RECs can qualify for state RPS targets means allowing more out-of-state energy. This could displace in-state jobs and economic benefits from clean energy development. The RECs may also come from sources that aren't defined as "renewable" in some states' RPS laws, or are only allowed in limited amounts, such as hydropower, biomass or biogas, creating a lowest common denominator effect. At the end of any given year, the ALEC bill would allow states to bank any extra energy generated from RECs beyond what the RPS law requires and use them to meet RPS targets for the following year. This could continually delay the growth of new, clean energy.

Resolution in Opposition to a Carbon Tax: Despite support for a carbon tax from ALEC members like ExxonMobil, ALEC is creating a model bill to weigh in on what will become the keystone policy battle for climate change science deniers, a battle that is already creating a rift among conservative groups, like the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute against the R Street Institute. R Street formed when Heartland's Fire, Insurance and Real Estate program split away last year, after Heartland's insurance company funders were uncomfortable with the group comparing those who acknowledge climate change to the Unabomber.

Pre-Emption of Local Agriculture Laws Act: This bill would prevent governments under the state level (cities, towns, counties) from creating new laws or enforcing existing laws that have to do with the regulation of seeds and seed products--ie crops, flowers, and pretty much all food products grown in a state. This would allow companies like Monsanto (indirectly represented in ALEC through its membership in CropLife America, an agrochemical front group and ALEC energy task force member) to bottleneck regulations of their GMO seeds and products at the state government level and stop community resistance to their abusive patent laws and enforcement through lawsuits.

For examples of what ALEC has already been busy with this year, check out PR Watch's roundup of 77 anti-environmental ALEC bills that have popped up in state legislatures in 2013, supporting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project, rolling back renewable energy incentives and making it illegal to document animal abuse, among other issues.

More info on ALEC's broader corporate agenda can be found on ALEC Exposed.

Heritage Foundation crisis clogs Koch Brothers outreach to Hispanic voters

The Heritage Foundation isn't helping billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch reach Hispanic and Latino voters.

If you were the Koch brothers and you wanted to connect better with Latino and Hispanic voters, after you just dumped millions of your own cash into a presidential election that didn't go in your favor, you'd probably be annoyed if one of your favorite front groups started undermining your voter outreach.

That's exactly what's happening with the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation. Heritage is having a public relations crisis after releasing a contentious report claiming that immigration reform would cost $6.3 trillion over the next 50 years, indebting taxpayers to support people who live in the U.S. illegally. The offensive kicker is that the Heritage report's freshly-resigned co-author, Jason Richwine, previously published a dissertation claiming that Hispanic and Latino immigrants have lower IQs than White people.

Here's a helpful meme for Mr. Richwine:

As Heritage Foundation is one of the billionaire Koch brothers' favorite groups to implement their political agenda--receiving more than $2.7 million from Koch-controlled foundations since 2005--this is a poor start for the Kochs' new interest in reaching Hispanic and Latino voters in the U.S.

Amid the fiasco, Heritage pulled out of Buzzfeed's forum on immigration sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute. See infighting over Heritage's assumptions about how so-called "illegals" contribute to the U.S. economy from the Koch-funded Reason Foundation, of which David Koch is a trustee.

Hispanic & Latino Voter Engagement is Central to the Kochs' Refined Political Plans:

After coordinating hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat President Obama with the direct help of other billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, Foster Friess, and Philip Anschutz, the Kochs are meticulously refining their methods of controlling U.S. politics from behind the scenes. Some of those methods already involve serious marginalization of U.S. immigrants from Latin-American countries, as I've previously written:

It’s worth noting that the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council distributed Arizona’s controversial racial profiling law, SB 1070, to states around the country so private prison companies can rake a profit off the incarceration of immigrants.

At the Kochs' most recent political strategy and fundraising meeting, the Kochs prioritized outreach to Hispanic voters, according to leaked material published by Mother Jones. Kevin Gentry, a Koch Industries employee and Koch World's central fundraiser, explained the new priority in his invitation to "several hundred of America's top business owners and CEOs" attending last month's Koch meeting:

Among other topics, in April, we'll discuss how to more effectively engage growing demographic groups, such as Hispanic and Latino voters, and how to encourage principled and effective advocates of free enterprise to run for office.

Kevin Gentry then offered mild elaboration to invitees of the Koch meeting:

Hispanic, women and youth engagement. Allies will present an approach to more effectively communicate to these growing demographics, all of which will play a critical role in advancing free enterprise.

New Heritage President Jim DeMint's History with Koch World:

It's unclear if anyone from the Heritage Foundation attended the recent Koch meeting, although Heritage's new President and former U.S. Senator James DeMint has repeatedly attended the Kochs' secretive confabs in the past. In turn, the Kochs were one of the top contributors to Jim DeMint's political piggy bank while he ran and served in the Senate (2004-2012). Sen. DeMint's campaign and leadership PACs received a total $76,000 from Koch Industries and the Koch family (see p. 21 of Greenpeace's 2011 Koch report).

Either Jim DeMint and the Heritage Foundation didn't heed the notes from the Kochs' latest gathering, or Heritage staff didn't realize that calling people stupid isn't the best way to sell an ideology.

On a human level, the Kochs don't get it. Even ignoring the offensive work of the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, and other Koch front groups, the recent focus on Latino and Hispanic voter outreach is clearly a self-serving political tactic, where broadly-defined groups of people are used as a means to an end.

Koch Industries bid for U.S. Newspapers includes major Spanish outlets:

The Koch brothers could potentially influence U.S. Latino voters through Koch Industries' controversial bid for a pile of major U.S. newspapers owned by Tribune Company. Tribune Co's print news in Chicago and Los Angeles isn't limited to the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times; Tribune Co. owns Hoy, the nation's second largest daily U.S. newspaper published in Spanish, as well as two major weekly outlets in Florida: El Sentinel de Florida Central and El Sentinel del Sur de la Florida, published in conjunction with two Tribune daily papers written in English, the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Each Saturday, 127,000 copies of El Sentinel is distributed to its reader base, while Hoy's weekend edition reaches over one million homes in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Tribune Company's widely distributed English newspapers also include the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, and the Allentown, PA's Morning Call and Hampton Road, VA's Daily Press.

While Koch Industries doesn't yet own any media, a network of Koch-friendly media has shown it is capable of spreading misinformation on key topics like climate change. Due to the high possibility of warped editorial reporting if Koch buys Tribune, ten public employee unions and groups like Free Press, FAIR, Forecast the Facts, Courage Campaign, Daily Kos, and the Center for Media and Democracy have all urged the public and owners of the Tribune Company to reject an offer from Koch Industries.

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

Koch Industries bid for Tribune Co. newspapers could expand existing climate denial in Koch media

Brothers Charles and David Koch have spent decades and millions of dollars to influence the news we read in newspapers, see online and watch on TV. The Kochs regularly convene high security meetings with high society attendees, many of whom work in the media, influence it, or own it.   

Now reporters across the country are eyeing the Koch's first attempt to directly own media themselves. Last weekend's New York Times confirmed Koch Industries' bid for the Tribune Company as a way for the Kochs and their allies to "make sure our voice is heard." Tribune's newspapers reach tens of millions of U.S. citizens, an ideal captive audience for Charles Koch's self-serving philosophy to promote "economic freedom," and to end "crony capitalism," an ironic choice of words for the one of country's most infamous corporate political manipulators. Tribune Co. owns eight newspapers and 23 TV stations across the country including the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune and Hoy, the country's 2nd largest daily Spanish newspaper, a clear asset for conservative politicians still reeling from their underwhelming rapport with the U.S. Hispanic population in the 2012 election. Reaching Hispanic and Latino voters will be a major topic at the Kochs' secretive "billionaires caucus" next week, which was delayed three months so the Kochs could audit the results of their 2012 electioneering activities, bolstered by hundreds of millions of dollars raised at previous Koch meetings.{C}

It's worth noting that the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council distributed Arizona's controversial racial profiling law, SB 1070, to states around the country so private prison companies can rake a profit off the incarceration of immigrants.

Existing Kochtopus Media Publishes Climate Science Denial

Preceding their bid for the Tribune Company, the Koch brothers' network ties them to media outlets promoting the climate change denial campaign infamously bankrolled by the Kochs. Read the slaughter of science yourself at the Wall Street Journal opinion page, the Weekly Standard, the National Review, the Washington Examiner, and Breitbart.com. A Greenpeace investigation detailed key media outlet owners and pundits with ties to the Kochs through their secretive strategy meetings, as did Lee Fang's ThinkProgress article on the Kochs' pet "journalists." Here are some of the Koch's key allies that own or work in the media:

  • Stanley S. Hubbard, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting, which owns TV and radio stations in major cities across the country, including Washington DC's WTOP and WFED.
  • Karl Eller, who founded the world’s largest outdoor advertising company, Clear Channel Outdoor, and launched numerous TV, radio and newspaper outlets that were absorbed by Gannett Company. Gannett owns USATODAY and dozens of other U.S. newspapers and television stations, and Clear Channel Outdoor stemmed from a Gannett advertising subsidiary purchased by Eller. Karl Eller served on the board of Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN. He was chosen by the American Advertising Federation for its Advertising Hall of Fame in 2004.
  • Ramesh Pannuru, the senior editor of the National Review, an outlet funded by the Charles Koch Foundation. National Review's "Planet Gore" blog is dedicated to dismissing global warming.
  • Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, contributor to the National Review and frequent TV news pundit. Stephen Moore used to work at the Cato Institute, which was founded by Charles Koch in the 1970's and continues to be directed by David Koch and other Koch Industries associates. Moore advises the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and regularly collaborates with the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity. In 2009, Moore told attendees of the 2009 RightOnline conference, "What would we do without the Wall Street Journal and FOX News, Right? And Americans for Prosperity?" Moore is a former director of Donors Capital Fund, according to 2010 IRS tax filings.
  • Steven Hayward, who is affiliated with numerous groups financed by the Kochs as well serving as treasurer and board member to Donors Capital Fund. DCF and sister group Donors Trust hide money from the Kochs and other corporate interests to groups like the Heartland Institute, the Franklin Center, CFACT, Americans for Prosperity, and many other groups connected to Hayward--read more on Steven Hayward and the Donors Trust network. Steven Hayward frequently dismisses global warming in the Weekly Standard, the National Review, and Powerline Blog, run by attorney John Hinderaker, whose firm has represented Koch Industries.
  • Glenn Beck, the former FOX News hysteric who thanked Charles Koch on air for providing misinformation on climate change he presented during his show.
  • Dixon Doll, the co-founder and General Partner of DCM, a venture capital firm involved in telecommunications. Dixon Doll sits on the board of directors of DIRECTV.

The New York Times included the brothers' connection to oil and gas billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns the Weekly Standard, the Washington Examiner, and other outlets through Clarity Media Group (check out the Weekly Standard's  puff piece on the Kochs). Phil Anschutz, a fellow financier of climate science denial groups, is one of many elites who attends the Kochs' twice-annual strategy meetings, where millions of dollars are raised to influence politics through groups like the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Franklin Center, and the other members of the State Policy Network. The State Policy Network and its affiliates often gin up their own astroturf media, with the Franklin Center's "Watchdog" websites dishing out content to bolster the campaigns of Koch's flagship SPN operations like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC. The Franklin Center is 95% funded by Donors Trust, the "Dark Money ATM" that hides money from the Kochs and other secretive political manipulators.

Pressure from advocates and Tribune employees to reject Koch bid

Media Matters reported numerous accounts from Tribune Co. paper employees concerned they would be a "conservative mouthpiece" for Koch Industries. As reporters from Tribune's various newspapers voice their discontent, Forecast the Facts and Courage Campaign have obtained over 100,000 petitions to the Tribune Company against the Koch bid, citing Tribune reporting on climate change that could be threatened by Koch ideology. The public pressure has been acknowledged by @TribuneCo on Twitter, though the company remains noncommittal.

This post was crossposted from Greenpeace's The Witness: Koch Bros Tribune Co? Climate change denial in Koch-friendly media

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

Climate-denying Indiana Regulator helps ALEC Coal Companies Delay EPA Climate Rules

Click here to see the contents of the ACCCE USB drive from ALEC's 2012 States & Nation Policy summit.

You're probably familiar with the old "fox in the hen house" story, but what about when a hen joins the fox den?

This is the case with the recent American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Washington, DC. Leaked documents obtained by Greenpeace reveal that ALEC's anti-environmental jamboree was inundated with coal money and featured an Indiana regulator advising coal utilities on delaying US Environmental Protection Agency rules to control greenhouse gas emissions and hazardous air pollution.

At ALEC's coal-sponsored meeting, where state legislators and corporate representatives meet to create template state laws ranging from attacks on clean energy to privatization of public schools, Indiana's Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Management Tom Easterly laid out a plan to stall the US EPA global warming action in a power point clearly addressed to coal industry representatives at ALEC's meeting.

In a USB drive branded with the logo of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a folder labeled "Easterly" contains a presentation titled "Easterly ALEC presentation 11 28 12" explaining current EPA air pollution rules and how Tom Easterly has worked to obstruct them. The power points is branded with the Indiana Department of Environmental Protection seal. In the latter presentation, Easterly ended his briefing to ALEC's dirty energy members with suggestions for delaying EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions at coal plants.

Easterly's presentation, which is posted on his Indiana Dept. of Environmental Mgmt commissioner webpage, even offered a template state resolution that would burden EPA with conducting a number of unnecessary cost benefit analyses (which the federal government has done through the Social Cost of Carbon analysis) in the process of controlling GHG emissions.

 

 

 

The template resolution Easterly presented to ALEC was created by the Environmental Council of States (ECOS), a group of state regulators that create template state resolutions similar to ALEC, often with overlapping agendas that benefit coal companies. ECOS has some questionable template state resolutions for an "Environmental" organization, including a resolution urging EPA not to classify coal ash as "hazardous." Although its less regulated than household trash, coal ash contains neurotoxins, carcinogens and radioactive elements and is stored in dangerous slurry "ponds" that can leak these dangerous toxins into our waterways.

Almost too predictably, ECOS' work is sponsored by the coal fronts like ACCCE and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), both sponsors of the ALEC meeting where Easterly presented the ECOS model resolution. See clean air watchdog Frank O'Donnell's blog on ECOS for more.

Easterly's work, including his presentation to ALEC, is also promoted by the Midwest Ozone Group, a group whose members include ACCCE, American Electric Power and Duke Energy.

Commissioner Tom Easterly's suggestion of burdening EPA with tasks beyond its responsibility is concerning, as is his ongoing campaign to discredit the science of global warming--something he doesn't have the scientific qualifications to do. To this end, the Indiana regulator fits nicely into the coal industry's long history of denying problems they don't want to be held accountable for and delaying solutions to those problems. The same processes applied to acid rain, a problem the coal industry also denied for years--check out Greenpeace's collection of Coal Ads: Decades of Deception.

Climate Science Denial at Indiana's Department of Environmental Management

Even before Indiana's top enforcer of federal and state environmental regulations was advising coal companies on how to continuing polluting our air and water, it appears that denial of basic climate science is the state's official position on global warming--Indiana's 2011 "State of the Environment" report rehashes tired climate denier arguments such as global temperature records having "no appreciable change since about 1998." (see why this is a lie) and referencing the "medieval warm period" as false proof that current temperature anomalies are normal (they aren't, see Skeptical Science for a proper debunking). Similar arguments have apparently been presented by the Indiana government to ALEC since 2008--the ACCCE USB drive contains another Indiana power point created in 2008 full of junk climate "science." This level of scientific illiteracy is concerning, especially for the regulatory body responsible for overseeing pollution controls for the coal industry.

Remember, this isn't the Heartland Institute. It's the State of Indiana....working with the Heartland Institute, a member of ALEC's anti-environmental task force that has been central in coordinating campaigns to deny global warming. See Commissioner Easterly's full presentation to ALEC on climate "science."

ALEC States & Nation Policy Summit 2012: brought to you by King Coal

ALEC's brochure for last week's meeting shows a disproportionately large presence of coal sponsors. The brochure lists 14 sponsors, five of which are coal interests:

  • American Electric Power (AEP): the second largest coal utility in the U.S. now that Duke Energy and Progress Energy have merged.
    • Political spending since 2007: AEP has spent over $46.2 million on federal lobbying and $3.9 million on federal politicians and political committees.
  • Peabody Energy: the world's largest private-sector coal mining company, known for its legacy of pollution and aggressive finance of climate change denial.
    • Political spending since 2007: Peabody has spent over $37.9 million on federal lobbying and $690,769 on federal politicians and political committees.
  • American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE): a coal public relations front whose members include AEP, Peabody and other ALEC-member coal interests. ACCCE's new president is Mike Duncan, former Republican National Committee chairman and founding chairman of Karl Rove's American Crossroads. ACCCE spent over $12 million on advertising during the 2012 election to promote the fantasy of "clean coal." ACCCE reportedly spent $40 million on TV and radio ads during the 2008 election and over $16 million around the 2010 election. ACCCE was caught up in a scandal when a subcontractor forged letters on behalf of senior and civil rights groups urging members of Congress to oppose national climate legislation. For more, see ACCCE on PolluterWatch.
  • Edison Electric Institute (EEI): the primary trade association for electric utility companies, whose members include AEP, Duke Energy and numerous other members of ALEC's energy/environment task force.
    • Political spending since 2007: EEI has spent over $63.7 million on federal lobbying and over $2.1 million on federal politicians and political committees.

$15.3 million: total federal politicians and committees spending from these groups since 2007

$194 million: total federal lobbying expenditures from these groups since 2007

The collective millions spent on federal lobbying and politicians went a long way for these five coal interest groups. Their lobbying goals included weakening 2009 climate legislation and working to interfere with US EPA rules to reduce coal pollution or greenhouse gases.

All five of these groups have recently lobbied to prevent US EPA from controlling greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. These five interests only represent a slice of the coal interests spending money in politics, and just a few players among many in the coal, oil, gas and chemical industries that dump millions of dollars into public relations campaigns telling us that climate change is not a problem.

 
 

Americans for Prosperity's Lisa Thrun faces public scrutiny in NY RGGI lawsuit [VIDEO]

States participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

“I’m not a scientist, I’m an event planner,” explained Lisa Thrun when I asked her if she believed burning coal and oil contributed to climate change. Oh really, Ms. Thrun? If you’re just an event planner, what are you doing giving a presentation on the economic impacts of a regional plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? See the video:

 
Lisa Thrun, the chair of grassroots for the New York Chapter of Americans for Prosperity, was invited by the Tompkins County Republican Committee to speak about the economic impacts of RGGI. Pronounced “Reggie,” the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a cap-and-trade program, which promises to reduce CO2 emissions 10% by 2018 among Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  
Thrun is the lead plaintiff in a New York lawsuit against RGGI - a serious conflict of interest since Americans for Prosperity was started and is still funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers. David Koch is the chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, AFP's sister group. It’s pretty ironic that the lead plaintiff in a suit against plant emissions works for an organization that is heavily involved in the ongoing orchestration of campaigns to sell doubt over climate science. When I asked Thrun about this conflict of interest, she responded, "You know what? I don't know what the Koch brothers do. It just goes to show you our independence from the Koch brothers."See the video:

 

 
AFP's ongoing suit against RGGI in New York is ironic for another reason: Koch Industries, which funnels profits to AFP through the Koch brother's foundations, was involved in the very first trade of physical carbon allowances under RGGI. Thrun’s main argument focused on economic implications for states (and families) involved in the cap-and-trade program. One slide during the presentation demonstrated how initiatives like cap and trade can be detrimental to big business. The charts proudly boasted the logos of groups including the Heritage Foundation, the Competative Enterprise Institute, and the Beacon Hill Institute - all three of which have been involved in Koch-funded scandals. Thrun continuously warned that RGGI is a costly program, even though the average residential bill increases less than 50 cents a month and RGGI participating states show $3-$4 benefits for every $1 invested. The invested money then goes into state-designed consumer benefit and strategic energy programs, like home weatherization which can reduce household heating energy needs by 15 to 30 percent. (source: RGGI Proceeds Report Press Release) In response, Thrun implied that winterizing homes helps to save us money and energy, but “we should be doing it on our own.”
 
As the New York lawsuit is pushed forward by the polluter apologists running Americans for Prosperity, we will see if AFP is can finish pushing New Jersey out of RGGI. Gov. Chris Christie caved to AFP pressure last year, announcing New Jersey's withdrawal from the profitable program and then bragging about it right to the Koch brothers faces at their private political meeting in Vail, Colorado.
 
The Koch brothers are not running out of money. Their wealth has increased by $13 billion each in the last five years (Forbes, 2006 and 2011) and they will continue to bankroll ideological attacks on environmental initiatives that threaten their billions in private profits. What Charles and David have lost is the ability to ghost run the country in secret.
 
PolluterWatch will continue to track the development of Koch-backed attacks on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other dirty campaigns. For more, see PolluterWatch's profiles for Koch Industries and Americans for Prosperity.
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