Did You Know That AARP Is A Paying Member Of ALEC?

Here is a real shocker. AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) has been a paying member of the notorious right-wing, Koch-tied lobbying organization American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) since at least 2014.

Yes, that AARP, once known for protecting the interests of senior citizens and fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare. Yes, that ALEC — an organization dedicated to, among so many other things, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and getting rid of public-employee pensions. AARP apparently joined ALEC even as many corporations were fleeing thanks to exposure of ALEC’s reprehensible actions.

Just wow.

Nick Surgey and Calvin Sloan exposed the story at the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALEC Exposed site, “REVEALED: AARP IS FUNDING ALEC”:

AARP, the non-profit seniors organization that exists to promote the financial security, pensions and healthcare of those over 50, is secretly funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization whose bills have acted against the interests of ordinary Americans, including retirees and their families.

The Center for Media and Democracy has learned that AARP has recently joined ALEC, and that it is a named sponsor of the ALEC annual meeting taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana from July 27-29, 2016.

Why does this matter?

Michael Hiltzik, Columnist at the LA Times, explains why this matters in “Why is AARP cozying up to the right-wing group ALEC while big corporations flee?”:

Among the policies that have been promoted by ALEC are several that arguably undermine the interests of seniors and retirees, AARP’s core constituency. ALEC has pushed for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which has saved Medicare enrollees millions of dollars by closing the Medicare drug benefit “donut hole.” It has opposed Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. It has targeted public pensions, pushing to cap benefits and shift workers toward defined contribution plans, which layer more market risk on individual workers’ shoulders.

ALEC’s right-wing, corporate agenda is all about privatizing Social Security, gutting pension plans, turning Medicare over to insurance companies and pushing laws that would make prescription drug prices even higher for seniors.

Talk about selling out your constituency. Just wow.

Many companies dropped ALEC after the organization’s right-wing ties were exposed by CMD. These companies include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. (Click here for a list.) And then AARP apparently decided this all sounded good, and joined up.

Is This Even Legal?

Hiltzik’s column contains a revealing statement from AARP,

AARP’s statement acknowledged that it paid a fee to ALEC in 2016 to provide “an opportunity to engage with state legislators and advance our members’ priorities from a position of strength at ALEC’s annual meeting. AARP added, “given that Republicans control one or more chambers in 39 of the nation’s 50 state legislatures, we believe having a seat at the table at the ALEC annual meeting was necessary to our mission of representing the interests and needs of people 50-plus and their families.”

AARP says it paid a fee to “engage” with legislators and get “a seat at the table.” Paying the fee gives them a “position of strength.” This statement reveals how ALEC is set up as a “pay-to-play” corruption operation; the organization charges companies a fee for access to legislators, companies pay a fee so they can influence legislators, conservative legislators show up so they can be influenced. The public loses out on every side of that pay-to-play triangle of corruption.

Really? Paying a fee for an opportunity to engage with legislators? Or the other side of that equation, charging a fee? If this blatant corruption is legal at all, it is what is known as “lobbying.” But ALEC is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 charity that is prohibited from lobbying or engaging in politics at all. (Never mind a license for corruption.) Various complaints have been filed with the IRS, but nothing happens… Just wow.

Get Active

CMD has a petition you can sign: Tell AARP to Dump ALEC!

For decades, ALEC has plied state legislators with disinformation about Social Security, climate change, and other issues along with bills and resolutions that undermine Americans’ financial security and our future.

Please sign the following letter (and if you are a member of AARP, please also contact the organization directly and ask that they DUMP ALEC).

Also, Social Security Works is an organization that “leads the fight every day to expand and protect our Social Security system.” They want you to click this: No organization that claims to represent retirees should be anywhere near ALEC, let alone funding them. Join us in calling on AARP to immediately end its financial support of ALEC and repudiate the group.

FYI: About CMD

The Center for Media and Democracy investigates and exposes corruption. You might know CMD for ALEC Exposed, which brought ALEC to public attention. You might know them for PR Watch, which keeps an eye on how corporations use “spin.” They also operate the SourceWatch wiki.
However you know them, they do great work. Check them out.

And click through to read the entire piece exposing AARP’s membership in ALEC as well as Michael Hiltzik’s column the LA Times. They both contain so much more in-depth information than is included here.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

What Are We All Supposed To Be Afraid Of This Week?

I guess this should be a series… Last month’s What Are We All Supposed To Be Afraid Of This Week? asked “Is it still ISIS? It’s not Syria anymore … right … it’s the other side now.”

So it’s not still ISIS, it’s ebola this week. Remember Senator Lindsay Graham, saying America has to do something about ISIS “before we all get killed back here at home.” …

But now this week ebola is going to kill us all. What is going to kill us all next week?

And again, for perspective (before we start bombing someone) on things to be afraid of, tobacco kills more than 480,000 Americans each year. And you don’t have to be the one smoking to be hurt or killed by the smoke.

Oh, let’s place bets: will Fox News even mention ebola after the election?

Why Do We The People Have To Read TPP On Wikileaks?

We the People finally get to read one chapter of the 29-chapter Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement. If this agreement becomes law it will fundamentally alter the relationship between our government, other governments and giant multinational corporations, so you’d think America’s citizens would want to have a say in the negotiations. But the only reason We the People get to even read it at all is because it was leaked to Wikileaks.

Wikileaks Obtains TPP Chapter

Wikileaks has obtained one of the chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement that is being negotiated in secret. This leaked section is the chapter about patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial design and other “intellectual property.” Note that this has little or nothing to do with “trade.”

This chapter is from August, and it is unknown how the chapter may have changed between then and now. The chapter indicates that the US is pushing hard to get strong “protections” for giant telecommunications companies and pharmaceutical patent-holders.

WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange said this in the announcement that Wikileaks had obtained the chapter text,

“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

Continue reading

The Legacy of Sandy Hook: An Unprecedented Opening for Change

The wholesale slaughter of children sparked an unprecedented opening for change in this country. Killing children broke something fundamental in our culture. On that sad day, it felt as if there was a giant ripping in our society — yielding a gaping hole in all that was sacred and right. It was like watching the Twin Towers collapse all over again, but now it was our children. Many have asked if we have waited too long for action, the answer is simply no. Babies and guns do not belong in the same sentence. Assault weapons must never again be used to kill children.

It’s that opening – the gaping wound — that is inspiring our President Obama and Vice President Biden. This unlikely duo appear to be fueled by the fire of what is possible, and are driving a Mack truck through this opening right now — whether it is to push through the broadest gun safety legislation; or enact comprehensive immigration reform; or to raise the minimum wage; or end violence toward women; or to support gay marriage.

Watching our President Obama the evening of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School – it was clear that he would leap tall buildings to save the children and people of this country. It had become a Holy Crusade and compromise is off the table. Witness the fervor with which this team is working to move their Cabinet nominations forward even for beleaguered Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Republican shenanigans are not being tolerated even on their home turf, the House of Representatives. These folks can rant and rave for the cameras (and they do), but are falling flat with no run way. The President’s approval ratings are soaring even in the shadow of the latest, manufactured financial machination of the ‘sequester.’ And it is this fundamental lack of empathy and understanding that may be the down fall of the Republican Party as we know it today.

Frankly, the President is done turning himself into a human pretzel and for this we must rejoice. You just can’t compromise with folks that hate you and all that you stand for. It’s a travesty that it took this horrific loss of lives in Sandy Hook to galvanize the American people – but it did. Unbelievably, today one child still “dies every three hours from gun violence in the United States.” Everyone knows that gun safety legislation is not about the Second Amendment, but rather about sustaining a modern civilization.

The winds of change are upon us. Just witness the President’s news conference today on the impasse over what is called sequestration. He’s not backing down.

 

ALEC Exposed — This Is Huge!

The secret, corporate-written agenda of the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council has been leaked. Take a look at ALEC Exposed. This is HUGE — spend some time there looking around.
Here is more info:

In April 2011, some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. met behind closed doors in Cincinnati about their wish lists for changing state laws. This exchange was part of a series of corporate meetings nurtured and fueled by the Koch Industries family fortune and other corporate funding.
… There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.
The Center obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by companies through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. Those bills, which the Center has analyzed and marked-up, are now available at ALEC Exposed.

From a press release:
“An examination of the broad sweep of bills exposes a very radical agenda. Why is Wal-Mart involved with an organization that wants to turn Medicare and Medicaid into voucher plans? Why is Kraft working with a group that wants to privatize the public school system? Why is Coca Cola going along with efforts to take away voting rights from college students? Why are Bayer and Pfizer and all the big insurance firms in bed with big tobacco? We hope people will start asking these firms, which are all on ALEC’s corporate board, to quit undermining our democracy through ALEC,” said Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

On The Swine Flu

The “swine flu” H1N1 virus is a potential pandemic flu that started in Mexico and is spreading. Pandemics, meaning influenza epidemics in multiple countries, happen every 20 years or so, and we are overdue. Flu pandemics are very serious. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 had an estimated mortality rate of 2.5% and killed between 20 and 40 million people. The Hong Kong flu of 1968 had a lower death rate, killing 33,800 in the United States and 1 million worldwide.
The reason flu pandemics happen is that the influenza virus constantly mutates. Every year the new flu viruses are usually only a little bit different from the prior year, so even though we may get sick, some of us have some immunity and the existing antibodies (from earlier times we had flu or a flu vaccine) provide some protection. Public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) track the emergence of new viruses and usually have time to prepare the yearly vaccines. So usually the new flu strains don’t hit as many people, and therefore fewer sick people are spreading it, and most people aren’t getting sick to the point where death is a possibility.
But sometimes there is a major genetic shift, in which a flu virus appears that contains pieces from bird and/or swine influenza viruses as well a human virus. Humans have no immunity to this new virus. So the flu sweeps through the population, and those who get it get much sicker. The new Mexican swine flu virus contains a mixture of genetic material from swine, bird, and human influenza viruses.
These influenza epidemics can sometimes be very, very serious, like that 1918 Spanish flu. The recent “Bird Flu” human fatalities appeared to be over 60% , but it appears that the “bird flu” (avian influenza) was not easily transmitted from one human to another. However, if there is another small modification in the bird flu virus such that it acquired the ability to be easily spread between people, the result could be beyond catostrophic — like the plague years. That is why bird flu was so much in the news. SARS (the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which was caused by a non-influenza type virus, killed 17% of humans it infected, but the epidemic was stopped before it spread widely. This new Mexican swine flu seems to be killing about 10% of the people it has sickened in Mexico, if the numbers are correct, but there is no way to know accurately yet.
Usually, influenza is more serious in the elderly and the very young, whose immune systems are weakers. However, pandemic flus, which are caused by novel new flu virus strains, are more deadly in stronger people (like young adults) than in the very old or very young, because it causes their stronger immune systems to overreact, called a “cytokine storm” — a major release of infection-fighting substances in the body that can, in large quantities, cause serious damage. This extreme immune reaction is what makes pandemic flu so serious, and is the reason it strikes so much harder in healthy young people. It appears that this new Mexican flu is killing young adults–people of the right age–which is another sign it could be dangerous. On the other hand, there have been no fatalities yet in the United States, which is a promising sign. It may mean there is some factor involved in the cases in Mexico that aggravated the disease, that wasn’t present in the US cases. Or it may mean that the flu spreading in the US is somehow different.
Note, when I search for “swine flu” on Google News I get lots of stories about how “the scare” is “affecting the markets.” It’s like how they cover movies, not according to whether they are any good, but how much money they make each weekend. So the major media mindset is still more concerned with money than people.

Bird Flu – Keep An Eye On This

Keep an eye on this, it could be serious: The Jakarta Post – 17 in hospital with suspected bird flu,

A South Sulawesi hospital was overwhelmed as it admitted in two days 17 patients believed to have bird flu, an official said Thursday.
. . . Kurnia said the hospital had conducted urgent tests for the first seven patients, with the results indicating the presence of the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

Was 64 McCain Fatal Car Crash Covered Up?

This is a question not a statement. It might be an emerging story. There is a report out that John McCain was involved in a fatal car crash in 1964, and that it has been covered up.
News Orgs Investigate Possibly Fatal McCain ’64 Car Crash,

For the past two months, a major American magazine and an allied news service have been engaged in a legal battle with the United States Navy over records that they believe show that John McCain once was involved in an automobile accident that injured or, perhaps, killed another individual.
Vanity Fair magazine and the National Security News Service claim to have knowledge “developed from first-hand sources” of a car crash that involved then-Lt. McCain at the main gate of a Virginia naval base in 1964, according to legal filings. The incident has been largely, if not entirely, kept from the public. And in documents suing the Navy to release pertinent information, lawyers for the NS News Service allege that a cover-up may be at play.

Go read.

Obama Campaign Asks Special Prosecutor To Look Into DOJ/McCain Campaign Collusion On ACORN Charges

The Obama campaign today sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey asking that he expand the scope of the ongoing investigation into Justice Department politicization to “include a review of any involvement by the Justice Department and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC)’s systematic development and dissemination of unsupported, spurious allegations of vote fraud.”

Briefly, the DOJ politicization scandal stems from Republican efforts to conduct partisan vote fraud investigations before the 2006 election. Prosecutors who refused were fired, prosecutors who played along were not fired (and are still there). After an outcry and the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales the new Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, appointed a special prosecutor to look into the politicization. The current vote fraud accusations and accompanying Justice Department, FBI and White House involvement follow the same pattern, and are based on no credible evidence, so the Obama campaign believes that it may be related to the ongoing partisan politicization of the government’s law enforcement.

More coming…

Update – Ari Melber at The Washington Independent has more,

Citing an “unholy alliance” between Republican operatives and potentially illegal conduct by law enforcement targeting voter fraud, the Obama campaign demanded Friday that the U.S. special prosecutor looking into the U.S. attorney scandal investigate the matter.
General counsel Bob Bauer sent a letter to Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey charging that coordinated “misconduct” by McCain campaign representatives and GOP officials were relevant to the special prosecutor’s work, because the activities may relate to the dismissal of seven U.S. attorneys in late 2006.
The letter requests that the special prosecutor’s inquiry “include a review of any involvement by Justice Dept. and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign [and RNC’s] systematic development and dissemination of unsupported, spurious allegations of vote fraud.”