I'm at the Netroots Nation 2012 conference in Providence. The weather has been pretty good, a brief rainshower but otherwise sunny and pleasant day. There are panels all day, breakout sessions on various topics, state caucuses, parties, lunches, dinners, parties, receptions, parties, conversations in the hotel bar, late to bed, up early, jet lag, and another day of the same...
The conference center is just about perfect for this event, just the right size, comfortable, distances between sessions are not too great for human compatibility (unlike in some other cities), with a hotel attached and others right nearby. The restaurants,etc, within walking distance make for nice evenings. It seems like a nice town.
I have been in private meetings so I cannot report on any of the sessions except the "Whose Law Is It Anyway? ALEC's Influence on State Legislatures and What We Can Do About It," led by: Rashad Robinson of ColorOfChange with panelists: Aniello Alioto of ProgressNow and ProgressNow Education, Kim Anderson of the National Education Association, Marge Baker of People For, John Carey of the National Public Pension Coalition and Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy, the publisher of ALECexposed.org. Description:
The American Legislative Exchange Council has been behind virtually every major right-wing state law in the past two years, including union-busting, teacher-bashing, voter suppression, attacks on immigrants, privatizing basic public services and gutting environmental and health regulations. Learn more about ALEC, who backs them and what you can do to stand in their way.
Lisa Graves thanked Daily Kos for fighting to expose ALEC even before ALEC Exposed came on line. She gave some background on ALEC, going back to the Powell Memo. She talked about how ALEC claims it does no lobbying, and showed a video, Dump You And Dump ALEC, Too:
Rashad then described Color of Change's multi-year to get corporations to stop funding ALEC. The have very successful in geting corporations to drop funding. Alec was successful for years, because they were able to work under the radar, without the public understanding the ways ALEC was influencing state legislatures.
Along with the efforts of others, such as Expose ALEC, the public has been learning about ALEC and the things they have been doing behind the scenes. As ALEC's shadowy work is exposed, corporations fear hurting their brands from the association. As I wrote in April, in Corporations Supporting ALEC Are Risking Damage To Their Brands,
Some companies are learning that supporting hyper-partisan groups can backfire when their customers find out about it. In recent weeks a number of companies are trying to distance themselves from the partisan, right-wing group ALEC before their brands become as damaged as Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.
ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council, is a shady, hyper-partisan, state-based lobbying group that was able to wield power by staying under the radar. Recently the Trayvon Martin shooting case exposed how ALEC helped push through a dangerous "shoot first" law in Florida. Now people are learning that ALEC is also getting state laws passed that limit the voting rights of minorities, limit the power of working people to negotiate for better wages and limit the power of citizens to fight for cleaner environment. So now the big corporations supporting ALEC risk being seen as fighting people's efforts to have a better life, and their brands are at risk.
Marge Baker described the associations between ALEC and right-wing think tanks and in voter suppression efforts. ALEC has an affirmative agenda to influence democracy by keeping people out, keeping them from voting. The organization has been captured by strong pro-corporate right-wing interests.
Kim Anderson talked about what is at stake in ALEC's efforts to privatize schools: a $500 billion sector of the economy that they want to turn over to corporations. ALEC has written "model legislation" to sell off portions of our public education system to private corporate interests. Education that was designed to be free and open to everybody is being sold off to private interests. This is happening not just with education, but many things that are currently provided by democracy are being sold off to private interests to sell for their own profit.
John Carey talked about ALEC's role in the public employee pension battles. This "pension reform" war is having a terrible impact on the lives of millions. ALEC provides misleading information to undermine the retirement security of public employees.
Aniello Alioto said legislators and corporations are getting around the transparency of democracy by saying they are "letting their membership lapse" and said people should call their own legislators and ask them if they are ALEC and ask them why, and ask them to drop out. But we are seeing pushback, with ALEC and others hiring public communications firms, but people are not coming to their defense.
Isaiah Poole is also at this conference, and has posted, How Activists Score Wins Taking On The Banks,
There is some good news in the fight for homeowners and against the big banks. Homeowners who are facing foreclosures because of unfair and often illegal practices by the major financial Goliaths are learning how to organize, how to shame bank executives and how to get local media attention.
But a panel of activists at Netroots Nation also expressed disappointment that there has not yet been any prosecutions of banking industry executives for any of the wrongdoing that led to the financial crisis and the millions of home foreclosures that followed.
Take Back the American Dream June 18-20
Coming up is the Take Back the American Dream conference in DC, June 18-20 where Van Jones, Paul Krugman, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ai-jen Poo, Sandra Fluke, Gov. Howard Dean, Melissa Harris-Perry, Chris Hayes, Katrina vanden Heuvel and many more will share ideas and forge the strategy to make sure that the 99% is heard.