Tag Archives: ALEC

The Good Senator from ALEC

An unknown number of Vermont Republican state lawmakers are affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative organization that promotes model legislation for statehouses across the country.  The most recent estimate came from State Rep. Bob Helm (R-Fair Haven), ALEC’s state chair, who figured there were about 20 Vermont lawmakers on the ALEC rolls.

Which is about one-third of all Republicans in the Statehouse.

But of all those 20-odd people, there’s one who has benefited from ALEC’s largesse more than any other Vermonter. And you probably wouldn’t be able to guess who it is.

Kevin Mullin, Republican from Rutland, not especially known for being a hardliner. Indeed, like a beige house with beige trim, his blandness is his most distinguishing characteristic. Well, that and being Norm McAllister’s clueless roomie.

(The Rutland area seems to be a hive of ALEC activity. In addition to Mullin and Helm, Sen. Peg Flory is also on the ALEC list, as are a couple of former Rutland-area lawmakers. Is it something in the water?)

We can’t tell exactly how much Mullin has dipped his snout into the ALEC trough because for the past several years, the group has refused to release information about its members, its “scholarships” and free travel to ALEC meetings and conferences, usually held at top-flight hotels and resorts.

See, it became too embarrassing to its beneficiaries.

But the figures are still out there for 2009 and before. And boy howdy, has Sen. Mullin cashed in.

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What if Phil Scott loses?

In my second-most-recent post, I listed all the bad news visited upon Vermont Republicans over the past few days. I ended by asking “What if Phil Scott loses?”

I’ll get to that question, but in the meantime, WCAX released its own poll showing Scott with a seven-point lead over Sue Minter, which has triggered much rejoicing Chez Phil.

In his lede, WCAX’s usually reliable Kyle Midura made an unwarranted inference: since the VPR Poll had shown a statistical dead heat, the TV poll shows that Scott is “pulling ahead.”

Which, c’mon now. These are two polls from different organizations with possibly differing methodologies. (We don’t know because WCAX hasn’t released any details. VPR has disclosed all of that.) Drawing that direct a line between the two polls is misleading at best.

What we have are two data points. One (VPR) from an in-state academic polling outfit, one (WCAX) from a New Jersey-based for-profit firm.

Pollster Paul Braun engaged in some speculation that ought to unnerve those placing a lot of weight on his survey. He credited the WCAX gubernatorial debate for driving Scott’s alleged momentum — when, in fact, debate audiences tend to be very small, and the impact of debates on public opinion is also small. (Unless you pull a Trump, of course.) There is no evidence to support Braun’s assertion.

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Primary reax: Big Bernie, Little Marco, voting rights

Three Brief Posts In One! (Ignoring what the experts would say about fostering pageviews, oh well.) In descending order: Big night for Bernie (but not big enough), a bad night for GOP establishment, and A Tale of Two States on the voting process.

1. Bernie continues to confound the experts, and people like me. His Michigan victory plants his flag in another area of the country and reinforces the idea that The Left Cannot Be Ignored by the Democratic Party. However, he comes out of the night in even worse shape delegate-wise, thanks to Hillary’s thumping victory in Mississippi.

The clock and the delegate math are not in Bernie’s favor, but the Michigan win gives him every reason to keep on fighting. Which, in my view, is a good thing for the Democratic Party: the longer he keeps going, the stronger the case for making the progressive agenda front-and-center in the next administration.

2. Boy, does it ever look like the GOP establishment blundered big-time. They’re being outfoxed by a guy who uses an election-night speech as an infomercial platform. Their big move to back Marco Rubio is looking awfully sour, isn’t it?

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The Kasich Files: a scandal-ridden, failing education system

Another installment examining John Kasich’s woeful record as Ohio Governor, in advance of the “reasonable” candidate’s appearance in Colchester on Saturday. 

Previously in this space, I wrote about the disgrace of John Kasich’s push for school choice in Ohio. Last summer, the state official in charge of school choice was forced to resign after submitting fraudulent statistics to the federal government — statistics designed to conceal the fact that charter schools weren’t working. The disgraced official “admitted scrubbing data on failing… charters to improve their standing.”

Bow Down Before Your Benevolent Overlord!

Bow Down Before Your Benevolent Overlord!

(By the way, the wife of that disgraced former official? She used to be Kasich’s chief of staff, and is now a top staffer in his presidential campaign.)

Well, there’s more bad news on Kasich’s sorry education record, courtesy of a Washington Post article entitled

The Education Mess in Ohio Under Gov. John Kasich

The Post ticks off a lengthy list of failures and cover-ups, including:

*a scandal-ridden charter school sector

*budget cuts for traditional public schools at the same time as increased funding for  charter schools and school vouchers

*controversial state takeovers of “failing” schools

*a questionable teacher evaluation system that uses as one factor the standardized test scores of students, against the recommendation of assessment experts

*the botched administration of the Common Core test known as PARCC (which the state later dropped).

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We have displeased our benevolent overlords

Hey, remember when Vermont was ranked third in the nation by Politico magazine as a place to live?

Well, here comes the flip side, courtesy of none other than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), that overflowing cascade of Kochian “economic liberty” bushwa. It ranks Vermont #49 in “economic outlook,” which is a very interesting way to put it. Because what they are ranking is not actual, tangible economic health — it’s how the state is poised for intangible future prosperity. And it is measured in terms of taxation and regulation.

But wait, it gets better. The lead author of the ALEC report is none other than Arthur Laffer. Yep, the guy behind the Laffer Curve, the absolutely unproven bit of dogma that claims you’ll create more revenue by cutting taxes, because the tax cuts will stimulate a cornucopia of prosperity.

Well, not only is it absolutely unproven; when it’s been tried in the real world, the results have been dismal. The Laffer Curve isn’t a coherent, evidence-based economic practice; it’s the money shot in a right-wing porn flick.

In case you think I’m overstating my case, let’s look at a state deemed praiseworthy by ALEC.

Kansas.

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The hardest working man in the charity racket

This isn’t new news, but a correspondent has alerted me to some amusing details regarding the Ethan Allen Institute, a.k.a. the Vermont outlet of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Specifically, EAI’s required annual filing with the IRS for 2014.

EAI, for those blessedly unaware, produces modest quantities of free-market puffery. And it proudly states as a matter of sacred principle, right there in its IRS Form 990-EZ, “We don’t receive — nor would we accept — government funding or support.”

Which is true except for EAI’s tax-deductible status, which is definitely a tangible form of government support.

Now, you might be dismayed at the thought of your tax dollars effectively underwriting EAI’s “educational activities,” but you can take some comfort in knowing how hard those guys are working for your money. Because according to page 2 of its filing, EAI President Rob Roper is working an average of 80 hours per week. His salary: a paltry $50,000.

On an hourly basis, the poor guy’s making less than Bernie Sanders minimum wage!

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Bob Helm’s blurred face gets more unwelcome airtime

Hey, remember State Rep. Bob Helm’s (R-ALEC) star turn in a hidden-camera video? The one recorded at an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting at a tony Savannah resort?

The one where he happily acknowledged that his expenses had been comped by lobbyists? And further, that he had solicited lobbyist donations for other lawmakers to attend the conference?

Yeah, well, the video has gotten another airing on Atlanta’s Channel 11, which has done a follow-up to its earlier piece on the toxic combo platter of lobbyists, lawmakers, big money and secrecy that characterizes an ALEC conference. This time, investigative reporter Brendan Keefe documented ALEC’s inadequate and misleading response to his original report. He used the opportunity to re-air some absolutely wonderful footage of his encounters with ALEC officials and his ultimate eviction from the hotel — where he was a paying guest — by uniformed sheriff’s deputies doing security for ALEC.

The video is recommended viewing. But here’s a transcript of a key passage, in which Keefe tries to interview a guy who ought to be prepared for such an eventuality — ALEC’s Vice President of Communications, Bill Meierling. The encounter takes place in the opulent lobby of the Hyatt Regency Savannah Hotel, and Meierling’s obvious discomfiture at being buttonholed by a persistent reporter is just wonderful.

Keefe: Can we do an interview with you?

Meierling: Actually, no.

K: Why not?

M: Um, if you’ll please turn the camera off.

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