Mary Bottari Archive

Koch Astroturf Army Cheers Union Busting in Kentucky

Mary Bottari The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed

On the first day that the Kentucky legislature got underway with a newly elected Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Republican governor, the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity group blew the whistle and legislators jumped to do their bidding.

This week, the Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover rammed through the legislature three bills to break the back of unions and lower wages for highly-skilled construction workers.

It was bare-knuckled partisan politics. "We can pretty much do whatever we want now!" crowed GOP Kentucky Rep. Jim DeCesare behind closed doors.

You have only to look at Trump's narrow victory in Rust Belt states to understand why the GOP is desperate to get rid of the Democratic Party's boots on the ground.

Trump won by narrow margins in Wisconsin and Michigan and took Indiana. These are three states where unions -- the only organized voice for working families able to stand up against CEOs and corporate elites -- were crushed by right-wing governors after Obama won them in 2008.

In Wisconsin, union membership is down an estimated 133,000 since Governor Scott Walker destroyed a 50 year tradition of peaceful collective bargaining for higher wages. Trumps margin of victory? Less than 30,000.

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Hypocrisy and Trumpism on the Agenda as ALEC Meets in Washington, D.C.

Mary Bottari The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its offshoot the American City and County Exchange (ACCE) met in Washington, D.C., last week to strategize on how to advance a far-right agenda under a Trump presidency.

Trump Transition leader, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, is an ALEC booster. Not surprisingly the Trump team has been picking many with Koch and ALEC ties to fill key positions in government including Koch Congressman Mike Pompeo, school privatizer and ALEC funder Betsy DeVos, and South Carolina Governor and ALEC stalwart Nikki Halley.

The ALEC agenda for this year's State and Policy Summit contained the usual potpourri of anti-worker, anti-government proposals along with quite a few important pay-to-play measures for big telecom, health care companies, and nuclear utilities. But much of the agenda will be taken up with speculation on opportunities presented by a new Trump presidency to advance ALEC's corporatist agenda and its politicians.

Transparency for Unions and School Teachers, but not for Billionaires or Corporations Bankrolling ALEC

ALEC's offshoot for local governments, ACCE, is taking a page from the ALEC play book and advancing a measure to harass public sector workers.

ACCE's "Public Employee Bargaining Transparency Ordinance" targets public sector workers by opening up public sector collective bargaining negotiations to public scrutiny and participation. The bill is nothing but an effort to advance the harassment of a targeted group of public-sector workers. There are no ALEC bills opening closed partisan caucuses or opening up economic development loan negotiations, other areas of state government where millions are spent with no public participation.

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TTIP of the Iceberg: Consumer Concerns Could Sink A US-EU Trade Pact

Mary Bottari The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed

TTIP of the Iceberg: Consumer Concerns Could Sink A US-EU Trade Pact

A stunning show is wrapping up at the Royal Museum in Brussels called 2050: Brief History of the Future.

Near the entrance, a poster is emblazoned with “Let the Future Tell the Truth, Another World Is Possible.”

The slogan “Another World Is Possible” was popularized by the global fair trade advocates who put a spectacular stop to the Millennium Round of World Trade Organization talks in Seattle in 1999.

With all the challenges facing humanity, from catastrophic climate change to mysterious bee colony collapse to the Zika virus, one would think that an old-fashioned trade agreement aimed primarily at stifling environmental, consumer and public health regulations should be a low priority.

But tell that to the hundreds of officials who will be convening with some urgency in Brussels next week to pound out the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP—a trade pact between the U.S. and the European Union (EU)—before a new U.S. president is elected.

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Four Whoppers that Sunk Scott Walker

Mary Bottari The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed

Scott Walker had it all, plenty of money from a cadre of billionaire backers, the Koch Brothers' blessing, 90 full-time staff and a passion for campaigning. The 47-year old career politician had tackled 25 primary and general elections in 25 years. So how is it possible that this battled-hardened veteran could go from leading the Iowa race in July to three percent in September? A CNN poll had him hovering near zero.

Scott Walker had a fatal flaw. He believed his own spin.

Union-busting is Popular: Walker's theme was "Unintimidated." The name of his book, the name of his Super PAC. Yet while Wisconsin GOP legislators had to face the ire of the public all during the ACT 10 showdown over collective bargaining, Walker hid from the public nonstop. He stopped going to public events; he stopped having regular press conferences; he famously used a previously unknown tunnel to bring in friends to his inauguration. On the national scene he doubled down. He likened his constituents to ISIS, he hailed PATCO as a foreign policy victory, his answer to every question was "big union bosses." Even after it was clear he needed to re-boot his campaign, he rolled out a $7 million ad-buy in Iowa based on a similar theme and a extremist plan to crush unions at the federal level.

If he actually spoke to anyone beyond his narrow circle, he may have discovered that beating up teachers, nurses and firefighters and ladling on more and more austerity not only harms the economy, it's just not that popular. "The American people have rejected Scott Walker's anti-union brand," said Wisconsin AFL-CIO leader Phil Nuenfeldt. Support for unions is growing in America--58 percent of Americans approve of unions--61 percent now say they want unions to maintain their influence or develop more. Americans have dramatically more negative attitudes toward politicians, corporations and banks than they do toward unions. The union-busting Iowa ads failed to budge his numbers sufficiently or he would not have dropped out.

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The Disappearance of John Doe

Mary Bottari The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed

Featuring Brendan Fischer

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been under investigation since his first day in office. But before a national audience even becomes aware of the fact, it will all be over. This week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is likely to quash an investigation--run by a veteran Republican prosecutor--into allegations that Walker's team broke campaign finance laws during the 2012 recall elections by working in concert with dark money groups.

The prosecutor has asked two justices with ties to these same groups to recuse themselves from the case, but they have refused. And the court will rule behind closed doors, having eschewed oral arguments or even a full accounting of the case.

Wisconsin has come a long way from the days when its public financing of elections and model open records, open meeting, and ethics laws made it a bastion of good governance. Walker put the nail in our post-Watergate system of public financing in his first budget bill. His latest budget bill attempted to destroy the open records law, a sneak attack repulsed only by a fast and furious public outcry. Wisconsin watchdogs, including the independent state elections board and the nonpartisan state audit bureau, are under constant attack.

The expected decision in the case, now pending before the state's highest court, will take a blowtorch to what remains of Wisconsin's post-Watergate campaign finance rules.

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Hotel Industry Spins Wage Hikes as Extreme While CEOs Rake in Millions

Mary Bottari The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed

Jody Knauss Senior Analyst and Writer, Center for Media and Democracy

Hotels are making a killing.

Occupancy rates are exceeding pre-recession highs, and are expected to reach record levels in 2016. Profits per room are up over 11 percent this April compared to April 2014 and the average daily rate for a room is almost 13 percent higher than it was a year ago. Executive salaries have skyrocketed.

But the little-known trade association representing this robust $163 billion dollar industry is a major force fighting behind the scenes on Capitol Hill and in statehouses and courtrooms across the country to keep workers wages low.

On Wednesday, April 15, the same day that hundreds of thousands of working people in over 200 cities are expected to participate in the largest-ever mobilization of underpaid workers, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) which represents the 1.8 million-employee U.S. lodging industry will join forces with the National Restaurant Association to ask Congress to block a federal minimum wage increase, shrink the number of workers eligible for employer-provided health care insurance, and challenge the National Labor Relations Board ruling protecting the rights of franchise workers.

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Koch Brothers Declare Scott Walker Is Our Man

Mary Bottari The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed

Brendan Fischer General Counsel, Center for Media and Democracy

Has Scott Walker won the Koch primary?

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries, one of the largest privately-held companies in the world and the overseers of one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, told Republican donors in New York on April 19 that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is their man for President.

"We will support whoever the candidate is," David Koch said, "but it should be Scott Walker," according to an account in the New York Times.

Koch, whose political network plans to spend an astonishing $1 billion in the 2016 presidential elections, said "Scott Walker is terrific and I really wish him all the best. He’s a tremendous candidate to be the nominee in my opinion" (although he later said "I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time.")

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The ALEC-Backed War on Local Democracy

Mary Bottari The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed

After the town of Denton, Texas passeda ballot initiative banning fracking in November 2014, the oil and gas industry reacted with outrage and swiftly filed suit. Politicians in the state capitol responded with a fusillade of bills to preempt local authority over public health and safety and to subject local ballot initiatives to pre-approval by the state attorney general. There was even a bill to end local home rule altogether.

The tiny town of Denton was not alone. From New Jersey to Oregon, on topics as diverse as minimum wage, paid sick leave, community broadband, e-cigarettes, and GMOs, state politicians are stepping up their efforts to destroy a bedrock principle of U.S. governance -- the right of municipal and county authorities to legally and appropriately enact and strengthen laws that reflect local needs and priorities.

Corporate interests that spend hundreds of millions a year on state and federal lobbying have grown accustomed to getting what they want at the federal and state levels, but it is much harder to assert corporate control over America's 22,553 municipal and county governments.

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