-By Paul Blumenthal
April 27, 2012- A court ruling requiring non-disclosing political groups -- including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity -- to disclose their donors is one step closer to going into effect after a district court refused to stay its ruling in the face of an appeal.
On March 30, a district court ruled in Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) that a loophole in FEC rules that allowed certain independent group campaign efforts to keep private the names of donors was invalid and needed to be rewritten or reset to the original language.
-By Mike McIntire
April 21, 2012- Desperate for new revenue, Ohio lawmakers introduced legislation last year that would make it easier to recover money from businesses that defraud the state.
It was quickly flagged at the Washington headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a business-backed group that views such “false claims” laws as encouraging frivolous lawsuits. ALEC’s membership includes not only corporations, but nearly 2,000 state legislators across the country — including dozens who would vote on the Ohio bill.
One of them, Bill Seitz, a prominent Republican state senator, wrote to a fellow senior lawmaker to relay ALEC’s concerns about “the recent upsurge” in false-claims legislation nationwide. “While this is understandable, as states are broke, the considered advice from our friends at ALEC was that such legislation is not well taken and should not be approved,” he said in a private memorandum.
-By Julian Brookes
April 20, 2012- If the Koch brothers didn't exist, the left would have to invent them. They're the plutocrats from central casting – oil-and-gas billionaires ready to buy any congressman, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape, or shirk any (tax) burden to push their free-market religion and pump up their profits.
But no need to invent – Charles and David Koch are the real deal. Over the past 30-some years, they've poured more than 100 million dollars into a sprawling network of foundations, think tanks, front groups, advocacy organizations, lobbyists and GOP lawmakers, all to the glory of their hard-core libertarian agenda. They don't oppose big government so much as government – taxes, environmental protections, safety-net programs, public education: the whole bit. (By all accounts, the Kochs are true believers; they really buy that road-to-serfdom stuff about the the holiness of free markets. Still, you can't help but notice how neatly their philosophy lines up with their business interests.) They like to think of elected politicians as merely "actors playing out a script," and themselves as supplying "the themes and words for the scripts." Imagine Karl Rove’s strategic cunning, crossed with Ron Paul’s screw-the-poor ideology, and hooked up to Warren Buffett's checking account, and you’re halfway there.
-by Rebekah Wilce
April 18, 2012- Shortly after issuing a press release announcing that it was disbanding its "Public Safety and Elections Task Force" after 30 years, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held a training for the right-wing blogosphere.
ALEC Director of External Relations Caitlyn Korb spoke yesterday at a Heritage Foundation "Bloggers Briefing," begging conservative bloggers for help while prepping "a very aggressive campaign to really spread the word about what we actually do." Korb appears to be a new ALEC employee who recently worked for the Cato Institute. Both ALEC and Cato have received funding from Koch family foundations. The Heritage Foundation is an ALEC member.
-By David Ferguson
April 17, 2012- A state senator from Georgia, Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) has left the American Legislative Exchange Council, the controversial legislative organization better known as ALEC. In a statement to the citizens’ action group Better Georgia, Orrock denounced the group, calling it “radical,” “dangerous” and accused it of “impeding democracy.”
“As a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council for several years, having joined ALEC with the primary goal of better understanding the corporate-dominated organization, I know first-hand that ALEC is not the innocuous organization it claims to be,” Orrock said.
Republicans save an unpopular tax loophole that favors the super-rich, and they might just get away with it
-By Steve Kornacki
April 17, 2012- Senate Republicans used a filibuster to kill the Buffett Rule last night. There was no surprise in this. Without substantial GOP defections, there was no way Democrats would have the 60 votes needed to force an up/down vote. They ended up with 51, with one Republican (Maine’s Susan Collins) crossing over to side with them, and one of their own (Arkansas’ Mark Pryor) joining the GOP blockade.
-By Jesse Drucker
April 17, 2012- If you have lots of money, Tuesday, April 17, was one of the best tax days since the early 1930s: Top tax rates on ordinary income, dividends, estates, and gifts remain at or near historically low levels. That’s thanks, in part, to legislation passed in December 2010 by the 111th Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. Starting next January, rates may be headed higher.
For the 400 U.S. taxpayers with the highest adjusted gross income, the effective federal income tax rate—what they actually pay—fell from almost 30 percent in 1995 to just over 18 percent in 2008, according to the Internal Revenue Service. And for the approximately 1.4 million people who make up the top 1 percent of taxpayers, the effective federal income tax rate dropped from 29 percent to 23 percent in 2008. It may seem too fantastic to be true, but the top 400 end up paying a lower rate than the next 1,399,600 or so.
-By Andy Kroll
April 11 2012- McDonald's, it turns out, isn't the only fast-food giant to have cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded organization that writes up model bills for thousands of state lawmakers nationwide. Wendy's said on its official Twitter feed on Tuesday night that it, too, had left ALEC. "We decided late 2011 and never renewed this year. It didn't fit our business needs," the company tweeted. Wendy's is currently not a member of ALEC, it stressed.
Bob Bertini, a spokesman for Wendy's, confirmed the move. "The tweet is correct. Wendy's is not a member of ALEC. Last year, we made the decision not to renew for 2012," he wrote in an email to Mother Jones.
-By Lee Fang
April 13, 2012- In recent weeks, gas prices around the country have surged to levels unseen since the 2008 oil spike. However, market fundamentals are not driving the nearly $4.00/gallon gas prices. In fact, under the Obama administration, oil production is at record highs and there is adequate global supply of crude. As Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) commissioner Bart Chilton has explained, rampant oil speculation, which is at its highest level on record right now, is to blame for current prices.
-By Paul Blumethal
April 12, 2012- A split is opening up between two forces that helped to launch the Tea Party in 2009. FreedomWorks, a free market/limited government advocacy group, released a statement Thursday criticizing the move by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch to sue for majority control of the libertarian Cato Institute.
"As representatives of FreedomWorks, a grassroots organization that fights for constitutionally-limited government and individual freedom, we have grave concerns regarding the potential damage to the cause of liberty that will result from the dispute that has erupted between the Board of Directors of the Cato Institute and various parties at Koch Industries," says the statement from FreedomWorks' top three officials -- Chairman Dick Armey, the former congressman from Texas; Co-Chairman C. Boyden Gray and President Matt Kibbe.
-By Salvador Rizzo
April 1, 2012- TRENTON — Let’s say you’re a state lawmaker, passionate about charter schools, and you want to turn this passion into laws that create social change. What you need are bills. And you want them fast — ready-made, just add water, written in language that can withstand partisan debate and legal scrutiny.
There is a place that has just what you want.
It’s called the American Legislative Exchange Council, a little-known conservative group headquartered in Washington, D.C., and funded by some of the biggest corporations in the United States — most with a business interest in state legislation.
Huffington Post: Koch Brothers, Chamber of Commerce Face Possible Campaign Donation Disclosure After Ruling
-By Paul Blumenthal
March 30, 2012- WASHINGTON -- On Friday evening, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling that could begin the process of revealing the identities of secret donors to groups connected to Karl Rove and the Koch brothers.
The court ruled in Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission that the FEC rules that restricted campaign donor disclosure are not valid and must be changed to provide for disclosure.
"We are very happy to see the judge got it right," says Paul Ryan, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance watchdog that was a part of the team challenging the FEC rules.