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My Turn: In fact, ALEC’s influence isn’t benign

From their perch in Kansas, Charles and David Koch – oil magnates and owners of Koch Industries – have successfully manipulated their vast wealth to influence the outcomes of campaigns on both a small and large scale. But that’s nothing compared to what happens under the golden dome in Concord during a legislative session.

The Kochs are major funders of a network of think-tanks and front groups designed to influence public policy in New Hampshire and other states. In addition to Americans for Prosperity, which is the most high-profile, groups include the elusive American Legislative Exchange Council and even the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.

In the March 17 Sunday Monitor, the Josiah Bartlett Center’s own Grant Bosse derided Granite State Progress for being concerned about ALEC.

A little background: When Granite State Progress first started talking about the Koch brothers and ALEC, we expected to get push back from Koch’s lead group, AFP.

Instead, we were surprised to see the Josiah Bartlett Center rush to their defense. It didn’t take long to figure out why: The Josiah Bartlett Center is part of the conservative State Policy Network, which is funded by Charles and David Koch via the “Donor’s Capital Fund.” Financial filings show that the Bartlett Center also received direct funding from a Koch-run foundation – despite President Charlie Arlinghaus and Bosse’s assertions that it did not.

Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that Bosse, in his defense of ALEC, paints a misleading picture of the group’s activities, asserting that it simply “invites members of state legislatures to go to conferences, eat hotel food, sit through PowerPoints, and share legislative ideas.” Sounds benign, right?

What he conveniently skips over is that ALEC membership and ALEC task forces give an equal vote to corporate lobbyists and other special interest groups peddling legislation that benefits the bottom line of some of the biggest corporations in the world – often at the expense of everyday Granite Staters.

This is starkly different from the National Conference of State Legislatures, which is made up of state legislators and staff on committees where corporations do not get a vote. The fact that ALEC allows corporations to secretly vote on legislation which is then introduced by ALEC legislators in state houses all across our country is a prime reason why several New Hampshire state legislators have dropped their ALEC membership or refused to join.

The next steps in process go something like this: After Koch Industries, a longstanding member and corporate funder of ALEC, influences legislation introduced in a state, Koch’s other branches get to work.

Groups like AFP launch “grassroots” campaigns to advance the legislative agenda, providing a front group to disguise the wealthy corporate interests who are pulling the strings.

Take for example the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state cap and trade program. Koch – which has plants in the Northeast – releases an estimated 300 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution each year and has supported efforts to prevent the regulation of carbon emissions. ALEC model legislation to repeal RGGI has been introduced repeatedly in the New Hampshire State House. Each time, the Koch-funded AFP shows up to lobby in support of repeal, buffered at times by paid robocalls, mailers and radio ads.

Each time, the Josiah Bartlett Center issues reports and messages claiming RGGI is supposedly wrong for the state.

Interestingly, RGGI is actually a success story: smart, independent state legislators recognize the program has a proven track record of lowering greenhouse gas emissions and generating revenue for investments in renewable energy programs.

In fact, since its implementation, RGGI has generated $17 million in revenue and created nearly 460 jobs in New Hampshire, according to a report by Analysis Group, a Boston-based economic consulting firm.

So despite the multi-pronged efforts of the Koch brothers, Koch Industries will still be subject to the responsible curbing of carbon emissions.

But that’s not always the case: Granite State Progress identified and tracked 30 pieces of ALEC model legislation in the State House in the last year alone, 16 of which became law. We have already testified on a dozen ALEC-related bills this session.

In contrast to Bosse, we don’t think it’s paranoid to expose the corporate corruption of our legislative process, but we do think it’s baloney for someone to argue that having corporate interests write our laws is something Granite Staters should sit back and let happen.

Exposing undue influence is difficult, especially with so many networks designed to obscure the vast – and dangerous – financial influence of certain individuals or groups. But it’s a worthwhile pursuit for anyone truly interested in having government for the people, by the people.

(Zandra Rice Hawkins is executive director of Granite State Progress, a progressive advocacy organization.)

Legacy Comments25

It's kind of interesting; reading a Bosse scree and waiting a few days to see him get trashed. I don't think the MUL carries him, but then again, I don't read the MUL

What else might the Kochs be up to? Here's what, according to an email I just received: "Charles and David Koch have reportedly expressed interest in purchasing some or all of the holdings of The Tribune Company, which owns newspapers and television stations across the country, including the Los Angeles Times. The Koch brothers are well-known for buying elections, funding anti-science research, bankrolling ultra-conservative organizations, union-busting, and even for organizing the tea party. Now they want to buy the Los Angeles Times to add another mouthpiece for their corrupt agenda. Millions of people count on the Los Angeles Times for strong and unbiased reporting, including their endorsements for political candidates and ballot initiatives. It would be a travesty to the fourth estate if the Koch brothers are allowed to purchase one of the most respected newspapers in the country in order to peddle their discredited ideas and right-wing propaganda."

An email from Daily Kos is the equivalent of first class propaganda. It is irrelevant.

besides it is NOT true....even the NYTimes reports Rupert Murdoch is the bidder

It(')saRepublic says "So the Koch brothers are taking advantage of a tax system". He/she's right. I think the American Dream was supposed to be about success based on hard work, ingenuity, etc. But I don't think the American Dream should include profiting by capitalizing on tax cuts stolen from Social Security and financed by our children. Fun with math: Let's assume 2 billionaires can funnel $180,000,000 per year to Right wing political groups in order to continue to receive $1,800,000,000 in ongoing Reagan/William Niskanen/Koch trickle down tax cuts. Their net tax cut profit of $1,620,000,000 would amount to a 900% return on their $180,000,000 investment every year. Not a bad ROI from bribing all GOP candidates to raise their hands to an American Nightmare tax cut debt.

Nope, it is not a "tax cut" it is a bracket and they are playing the system and so are folks like Pelosi, John Kerry, the Kennedy's, Feinstein and Reid and by the way, President Obama could pay a higher rate but he takes full advantage as well.

A couple of things. It is no surprise what Tilie reads. Her posts reflect the fact that she has no desire to look at anthing from both sides. That is called tunnel vision. And her responses and name calling supports the idea that she fears knowing all the facts. As far as taxes go, nobody likes them. The problem with taxes is that folks are ignorant how their tax money is spent statewise or federally. As far as Grant goes. it would not matter if he was affiliated with nobody. If he was just a Rep. The idea that the CM would have the nerve to allow a different point of view drives folks who only want their opinions re-enforced nutso. The Fact President Obama got elected is proof of how many folks are uninformed.

Actually Itsa, I do like news that reinforces my views. I watch CNN, PBS CBS NBC CBC and BBC, whatever my satellite will get. I don't watch FOX or listen to Rush or subscribe to any rightwing blogs or read the Union Leader which I am sure you do to reinforce your views or whatever free staters read. Also I will watch Republicans like Michelle Bachman just for a laugh.

The Josiah Bartlett Center is not a "superpac", it is a think tank. Here is their mission: "The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy is a non-profit, non-partisan, independent think tank focused on state and local public policy issues that affect the quality of life for New Hampshire’s citizens. The Center has as its core beliefs individual freedom and responsibility, limited and accountable government, and an appreciation of the role of the free enterprise system. The Center seeks to promote policy that supports these beliefs by providing information, research, and analysis." I would also point out that Grant Bosse does not represent all of my "Republican" views, he is more of a free market libertarian.

The Koch brothers wealth grew by 40% over the last 2 years to $62 billion. That's a 20% average wealth increase per year. Koch Industries is is not a publicly held corporation, so financial are not available to the public. Neither are their tax returns. Because the Kochs are spending so much money to influence our political process in favor of Conservative Republican politicians I think it is important to estimate what they gain financially as a result of their political money funneling. Based on 10%/yr. of $62 billion resulting in taxable income at the current top bracket rate of 39.6%, their ongoing Reagan tax cut, from the pre-Reagan top bracket rate of 69.125%, amounts to the equivalent of about 5 million dollars per day, or $1.8 billion per year. Receiving $1.8 billion in tax cuts every year in exchange for spending a few hundred million every 2 year election cycle looks like quite a lucrative scheme to me - and the tax cuts are all borrowed from our kids and from our Social Security and other trust funds. If a couple of conniving billionaires wanted to successfully pull off the biggest legal heist in the history of the world, I think they would do just what the Kochs are doing. Meanwhile Republican politicians all raise their hands for Koch money as Republican voters fall for all the Liberty, Freedom, Gun, Abortion, etc. jive, brought into our living rooms in no small part by the Koch money funnels - in order to do nothing but protect or increase tax cuts and political power for the Kochs - just my hunch. Reagan's trickle down economic advisor was Koch associate William Niskanen when the runaway US debt train left the station to deliver the Kochs one of the largest pieces of the ongoing Reagan tax cut pie. Voters had better start doing the math, because most all of our out of control debt is a result of the Reagan and Bush tax cuts. The 50 year average top bracket rate from 1932 to 1981 was 79%. 39.6% is way too low. We have spent over $10 trillion to pay the interest on the debt over the last 3 decades. Borrowing $5 million per day to hand out tax cuts to 2 billionaires will likely cost us another $10 million per day in interest expense over the next 3 decades.

So the Koch brothers are taking advantage of a tax system set up by previous presidents (Democrat and Republican) and previous Congressional bills passed by both Democrats and Republicans. They have NO obligations to be a publicly held corporation. George Soros employs virtually no one, the Koch brothers create employment and not minimum wage jobs but they pay very well. You wrote: "I think it is important to estimate what they gain financially". If you apply that to any number of United States Senators and those in Congress starting with Feinstein, Reid and Pelosi, you will see real greed with no investment of personal finances and no regard for the creation of any economics. Tax cuts are NOT cuts, they are a lower rate and guess what, tax cuts create economy because people spend that money. Tax increases strangulate the middle class. You excoriate the Koch brothers but you champion ACORN which was started and funded by two similar brothers who were billionaires, you say nothing about George Soros or the Sandlers or union scum thugs who fund politicians and influence politics on a daily basis. You also ignore what Obamacare will cost this country long term. Tax, tax, tax is the only solution you have yet you complain constantly about your property taxes when you and I and anyone else should be paying our fair share based on the value of our property. And Americans calling for liberty, freedom and the right to bear arms are the American ideal. Progressivism seems to be about a belief that people need to be told what is best for them, how they should think and Damn it! you all need to sacrifice. None of our leaders sacrifice one bit. Yet, you never mention that. You say that Republican voters "fall for " things, you and other progressives seem to have fallen for the sequester cuts to air traffic controllers while Obama is calling for $200,000,000 to be funneled to the Middle East, just yesterday. I see no mention of that?????

So you like property taxes? It is the least fair tax of all. People on fixed incomes, retirees are losing their homes or moving out of the state because they cannot afford to pay the taxes on the homes they have lived in for generations. People like you and the free staters moved here because they have huge incomes they don't want taxed. Soon as they get here they want to change everything. Hopefully we keep having these cold winters and they will all go back where they came from.

Well, we could give seniors and those on fixed incomes a tax break or a larger tax break, that would be fair as most seniors have paid more than their fair share. Please stop compartmentalizing people into groups as if I am a "free stater".....You mention that free staters got here and wanted to "change everything". What did Democrats do once they held all of the power in Washington DC in 2008? You want the free state people to go back to where they came from an I want the New Yorkers and Massachusetts flatlanders to go back where they came from. Imagine that! We have something in common.

It(')saRepublic says "you complain constantly about your property taxes when you and I and anyone else should be paying our fair share based on the value of our property" - My main concern is not about property tax rates in my town. It is about extremely high tax education rates in low p/c income towns vs. extremely low education tax rates in high p/c income towns - tax rates in both cases applied to the "value" of their property. One way to mitigate this unfairness would be to collect 50% of the total cost of education state wide through an income tax on incomes above a certain level, and then apply the revenue collected as an across the board percentage reduction of education tax rates in all towns. Currently a taxpayer in Claremont with a $200,000 house "value" pays $3692 in ed taxes, and a taxpayer in New Castle with a $200,000 house "value" pays $622 for ed taxes. Using a 50% education tax rate reduction (from income tax proceeds) as an example, the Claremont taxpayer would pay $1846 less for education, and the New Castle taxpayer (with the same assessed "value" house) would pay $311 less for education taxes. The Claremont taxpayer would still be paying for education at 6 times the rate of New Castle, but a 50% ed tax $ reduction for Claremont would be 6 times the ed tax $ reduction for New Castle. "Tax increases strangulate the middle class" - you're not wrong about that - it's why in most cases I have suggested increasing taxes on the wealthy, like the Kochs, by going back to the pre Reagan rates, prior to the Republican tax cut/debt bubble.

Koch bros gave $25 million to non profits ....the Tides foundation spent $125 million on leftist causes

Yeah right, Katy Burns is not a shrill for Progressives, President Obama and all things Democrat? Maybe the Monitor should put a disclaimer on Burn's Column. The fact is that you do not understand why the Monitor has to put any counterpoint anywhere. The CM is 99% liberal. One person who is not liberal is on it and you folks go nuts complaining.

Rabbit, you missed my point again. Bosse is paid by the Koch brothers and is front man for them. He is like a doctor touting a prescription and then you find out he is being paid by the drug company. His opinion is useless. Actually I find many columns in the CM written by Republicans, How many liberal columists does the Union Leader have on staff? Bosse is being paid to push propaganda while Katy is giving her opinions

Sorry bunny, but tillie is correct on this one. Sure, Katy may be a member of, the NH Democratic party - or she may not. I do not know. But I bet that for her affiliation with those groups she PAYS instead of GETS PAID. There's quite a difference between her relationship(if there is any) to liberal organizations and Bosse's.

I think that to accuse someone of being "paid" by the Koch brothers is pretty extreme. The organization he works with received a third party $3500 check, not really much money, it probably handles the light bill for three months. You should read the Union Leader, Bosse is the ONLY columnist of anything but the liberal viewpoint in the Monitor. All of the citizen contributors are liberal, the editors are liberal, Katy is liberal and most of the national columns are liberal. At least Bosse adds some diversity and to say that the Union Leader has no liberal views expressed in it tells me that you don't read the Union Leader. They certainly do have liberal viewpoints and in the Union Leader, unlike the Monitor, the opinions don't permeate the stories. Most stories come from national news sources like AP, the local stories have no emotion in them. As far are Bosse being paid to express his opinions, the Josiah Bartlett Center is a "think tank". Katy IS stating here opinion but her platform to do so is much larger and has been for decades. What is the real issue? Is it that the Monitor finally work up and realized that a true news source needs to offer diversity or is it that you only want to read stories that reinforce your own views?

It(')saRepublic says "$3500 check, not really much money". Then why doesn't Grant Bosse at least post all contributions to the JBC above $3500 so we can do some cross checking to Koch funded organizations? "Trust, but verify" - Ronald Reagan

I understand the Monitor wants to print a counter point to Katy Burns but a paid lobbyist is not an even exchange. Bosse is part of a superpac. As far as I know Burn's just gives her own liberal views. i do not think the Monitor should not put someone on the payroll who is a shrill for the Koch brothers and I have no interest in anything he writes, but at least the Monitor should put a disclaimer on his column. Better yet in this state I am sure they could find somone else to give a Republican point of view who does not have Bosse's baggage.

Who does Grant "lobby"? How much do you think Grant is paid? I would be willing to bet that it is minimal. Should we put a disclaimer on the citizen contributors columns as well. There are a couple of them who are politically related. Please tell us what baggage Grant has?

How about, for starters, the "baggage" that is disclosed in the column. The organization that employs him is funded, in part, by the Kock brothers yet he denies this

Is funded with millions of dollars from George Soros, I think so. Was ACORN funded by two brothers for decades who were billionaires? Why yes it was. Like my grandma used to say...."what is good for the goose........". $3500 in a third party donation is nothing. I thought that progressives claim that abortion is funded by PP and that none of our taxpayer money is being spent on that procedure. You folks separate that funding but the JBC can't do the same. There is NO "direct" funding as in the case of progressive organizations by Soros at JBC. More hyperbole and rhetoric.

I didn't comment on Grant Bosse's column Sunday because I knew an immediate--and better--response was coming.

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