The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has responded to an investigation by Atlanta's 11Alive News Tonight, which exposed millions of viewers to the influence of ALEC's corporate members over the Georgia Legislature.
ALEC, which has a history of blocking press access to its functions, refused to let a news reporter from the station cover a meeting between state legislators, corporate representatives, and lobbyists in late May at a Savannah resort. However, the reporter, 11Alive's Brendan Keefe, talked to former ALEC members to find out more and recorded a conversation with a legislator and lobbyist at a hotel bar who offered details of how the group gives state lawmakers free hotel stays and provides them with corporate-backed legislation suggestions.
ALEC responded to 11Alive's investigation by saying its reporter's questions "caught [the spokesperson] off-guard." The group said it has "welcomed journalists from prominent outlets" to its events in the past, but through its lawyers, denied permission to the station to broadcast video it took of the legislators meeting with members of ALEC representing corporations and lobbying interests.
In fact, ALEC has often hired private security or off-duty police officers to remove unwanted reporters, like Keefe in this instance, from its meetings with legislators. Security guards working at the 2011 ALEC annual meeting in New Orleans physically removed ThinkProgress reporters Lee Fang and Scott Keyes from the hotel in which the conference was being held. In 2013, uniformed Washington D.C. police turned away Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank.
Reporters critical of ALEC are denied even the limited access granted to the handpicked journalists ALEC allows to attend portions of their conferences. As Toronto Star reporter Olivia Ward discovered in 2011, some journalists, along with protestors, are threatened with arrest while trying to cover ALEC conferences:
I'm talking to a fellow hotel guest, Beau Hodai, a journalist from the left-wing magazine, In These Times, who has written probing articles on ALEC. Unlike me, he hasn't enjoyed its co-operation and credentials. His calls have gone unanswered, and he has been turned back by the police and guards who firewall the meeting.
The noise level in the bar rises and so do I. As I say goodnight, Beau is summoned by hotel security and herded away toward the elevator by uniformed police. Why? In Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia, I was evicted from my hotel by machine-gun-toting militias as the Kosovo war began. But in America. . . ?
ALEC and their corporate sponsors have a vested interest in keeping their conferences confidential. In secrecy, lobbyists and lawyers construct model right-wing legislation to be introduced in state houses across the country. These model laws include the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which has been used in high-profile cases to defend an individual's use of deadly force. In its investigation, 11Alive reported on legislation that "severely limits who can file asbestos claims against corporations," showing a side-by-side comparison of ALEC's template for the bill, and the nearly identical bill passed by the Georgia legislature in 2007. Minnesota passed a similar ALEC-authored asbestos bill in 2012.
As ALEC's profile has become more public and the unethical implications of its corporate-written legislation have become more obvious, some major companies have quit the group. Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft have all left the organization in the last two years. However, the departure of Google may be the most notable as its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, cited ALEC's climate change denial as Google's reason for leaving (emphasis added):
"The company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts -- what a shock," said Schmidt. "And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people -- they're just, they're just literally lying."
As the Center for Media and Democracy's Brendan Fischer has reported, ALEC's 2015 agenda is no less controversial despite the loss of a few powerful members. According to Fischer, ALEC's focus this year will be on efforts to stifle the growing minimum wage movement among localities as well as supporting union busting right-to-work legislation.
Beyond continuing to create model legislation for state governments, ALEC has also launched a subsidiary to focus on more city and county legislation. Bloomberg noted that the newly formed American City County Exchange will work to increase privatization of municipal functions by "push[ing] policies such as contracting with companies to provide services such as garbage pick-up and eliminating collective bargaining, a municipal echo of the parent group's state strategies."
From the May 27 edition of USA Radio Networks' Steve Deace Show:
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From the May 21 edition of WXIA-TV's 11 Alive News Tonight:
It has become increasingly clear that human-induced climate change is exacerbating California's historic drought and will continue to make droughts in the western U.S. more common and more extreme, as many studies and leading climate scientists have concluded. Yet a Media Matters analysis reveals that over a one-month period, the local television stations in California's two largest media markets addressed the role of climate change in less than two percent of their drought coverage, and when they did it was usually in segments that also included climate science denial.
Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson's regular interviews with White House hopefuls each presidential election season have turned him into something of a kingmaker, despite his record of pushing conservative misinformation, Islamophobia, and anti-gay views.
Major newspapers in Wisconsin have omitted key facts from their coverage of proposed state legislation to drug test people who receive certain government benefits -- including that such testing is extremely costly and that studies have found that people on assistance programs use drugs at lower rates than the general population.
Lawmakers in the Wisconsin State Assembly approved legislation on May 13 that would require drug screening for people who collect welfare checks and restrict what items food stamps can be spent on. The measures include three bills: one to drug tes tapplicants for unemployment benefits, another to drug test recipients of income support and food assistance, and a third to restrict Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) purchases to "healthy foods" -- determined by the government -- and ban users from buying "crab, lobster, shrimp or any other shellfish." According to the Huffington Post, the legislation is similar to a proposal Gov. Scott Walker included in his state budget.
In their coverage of the proposed legislation, The Wisconsin State Journal, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the Green Bay Press Gazette all omitted key context about how similar drug testing requirements enacted in other states turned out to be expensive and were strongly opposed by experts in the scientific, medical, and substance abuse fields.
According to a February 26 report from ThinkProgress that analyzed seven states with similar programs, states that have implemented such measures "are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to ferret out very few drug users." Although states have "collectively spent nearly $1 million on the effort," the report found that the tests have turned up relatively littleevidence of substance abuse: "The statistics show that applicants actually test positive at a lower rate than the drug use of the general population. The national drug use rate is 9.4 percent. In these states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent."
And according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), "science and medical experts overwhelming oppose the drug testing of welfare recipients." Pointing to a statement from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, the ACLU explained that laws requiring drug testing for welfare recipients only serve to reinforce the stigma around needing such benefits. The list of organizations opposed is long, and includes the following:
American Public Health Association, National Association of Social Workers, Inc., National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, National Health Law Project, National Association on Alcohol, Drugs and Disability, Inc., National Advocates for Pregnant Women, National Black Women's Health Project, Legal Action Center, National Welfare Rights Union, Youth Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, and National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
The Associated Press and Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush spoke out against the proposal to bury nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain, without mentioning Bush's ties to a nuclear industry group that actively supports the project.
Speaking in Nevada on May 13, Bush told a group of reporters that Yucca Mountain will not likely become the permanent storage location for the nation's nuclear waste. The Associated Press story quoted Bush saying the project "stalled out" and reported that he "said the waste dump shouldn't be 'forced down the throat' of anyone." And according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Bush also said "we need to move to a system where the communities and states want it."
What the AP and Review-Journal left out, however, is that Bush is currently listed as a member of a nuclear industry group called the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy), which has long advocated for Yucca Mountain -- and continues to do so. As recently as February 24, CASEnergy published a blog post declaring Yucca Mountain a "scientifically safe and sound option" for storing nuclear waste permanently, and "a critical component" of the nation's shift to nuclear energy.
Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston first detailed Bush's ties to the pro-Yucca industry group in March, in a blog post in which he wrote that Bush "was once part of a front group for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the main lobbying entity behind siting a repository at Yucca Mountain." Ralston further noted that Bush "signed letters opposing interim waste sites," specifically pointing to a November 2006 letter that said Senate legislation backing interim storage sites would constitute "a step backward in the long-standing federal policy to establish a permanent disposal facility."
The National Rifle Association's media arm is deliberately misrepresenting a proposed new law in North Carolina that would repeal background checks on private pistol sales, falsely claiming that it would merely shift required background checks from one government system to another.
In reality, the bill would eliminate a pistol permit requirement that currently ensures that buyers of pistols from private sellers at gun shows and online undergo a background check, thus creating a loophole for felons and other persons prohibited by law from purchasing firearms.
Members of the North Carolina House of Representatives are currently considering H.B. 562, a piece of legislation that would repeal a state requirement that anyone who wants to purchase a pistol first obtain a permit from their local county sheriff -- a process that involves undergoing a background check. H.B. 562 has so far passed two House committees, although an effort to fast-track it was recently abruptly canceled.
If the pistol permit requirement is repealed, individuals who buy from private sellers at gun shows or online would no longer have to undergo a background check before completing their purchase.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal is mirroring the claims of congressional climate science deniers, who are lambasting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for requiring that states consider climate change impacts to better protect themselves from future disasters.
In a May 11 editorial, the Review-Journal enthusiastically endorsed a letter from a group of senators -- led by famed climate science denier and Environment and Public Works Committee chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) -- which alleged that the new FEMA policy requiring states to address climate change in their disaster mitigation plans "injects unnecessary, ideological-based red tape into the disaster preparedness process."
Echoing the GOP senators, the Review-Journal declared that "climate change is not settled science," and that FEMA has no right to weigh in on an issue as "dogmatic and hyperpolitical" as global warming. Like the letter itself, the editorial also channeled its inner Fox News, claiming the FEMA climate policy is a matter of "ideology." Never mind that 97 percent of climate scientists agree human activities are causing the planet to warm or that NASA scientists say "it is very likely that [climate change] will impact future catastrophes."
In recent months, the Republican attorneys general in West Virginia and Oklahoma have been relentlessly working to block the EPA's proposed carbon pollution standards for power plants, via an ongoing lawsuit, legislation, public relations activities, and Senate testimony. But the media coverage of these efforts has consistently left out a key aspect of the story: These attorneys general have formed what a New York Times investigation described as an "unprecedented, secretive alliance" with the fossil fuel industry against the Obama administration's environmental policies.
Iowa radio host Steve Deace, who supported recently-announced presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (R) during his 2008 White House bid, expressed grave disappointment over the fact that the former Arkansas governor supports certain entitlement programs, which Huckabee outlined in his May 4 candidacy announcement. Deace's rejection of Huckabee comes in the wake of his praise and early support for one of Huckabee's challengers for the GOP nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
During the May 6 episode of the Steve Deace Show, Deace played former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential candidacy announcement speech but frequently interrupted it so that he and his producer, Rebekah Maxwell, could offer critical commentary. Deace attacked Huckabee's positions on Medicare and Social Security, calling the programs "not safety nets" but "the basis for a permanent welfare state." Deace also compared Huckabee to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, saying his speech could have been delivered by Clinton "and gotten the same amount of applause."
Huckabee's seemingly softer stance on social programs isn't a sign that he is reinventing himself as a populist, given his track record on taxes and other economic issues. Yet while Deace and Huckabee still agree on certain conservative ideological issues, such as the need to oppose marriage equality and speak out against Islam, Deace was adamant on his show that much of Huckabee's 2016 announcement speech failed to connect with the GOP's primary audience because it didn't embrace the core principals of conservatism, which Deace identified as cutting taxes, fighting terrorism, and opposing abortion and gay marriage.
Deace, who wields heavy influence among Iowa's conservative Christians and has been called one of the "most influential Republicans you've never heard of" by Bloomberg Politics, supported Huckabee in his 2008 bid for the presidency. As ABC News reported, during the 2008 primary season, "Deace gave Huckabee plenty of valuable air time," and "urged his supporters to get tickets and rides to the influential straw poll in Ames." Deace's vocal support of Huckabee is cited as a major reason why Huckbee beat Mitt Romney (R) in the Iowa Caucus that year.
This time around, Deace is criticizing Huckabee and offering frequent support and praise for the candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz. In addition, as the Des Moines Register reported, "Deace has served as an informal, unpaid consultant" to Cruz, which gives the Iowa-based radio host an even bigger platform from which to support and advocate for the Texas senator.
Iowa radio host Steve Deace claimed there was no evidence proving African-Americans are treated differently by police in Iowa, despite overwhelming data showing that racial disparities in Iowa arrest rates are among the worst in the nation.
An editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News offered an embarrassing defense for not bothering to correctly identify transgender people, arguing that widely accepted journalistic guidelines for talking about the transgender community are "confusing" and "misinform[s] the public."
In a May 4 column in The Dallas Morning News, editorial writer Tod Robberson criticized The New York Times and Associated Press for recognizing "the gender preference of transgenders in news copy." According to Robberson, identifying trans people using the pronouns they prefer "distort[s] the truth" in order to embrace "the politically correct transgender language of the day":
The New York Times and Associated Press, among other news organizations, have decided that they will recognize the gender preference of transgenders in news copy. Which is to say, when a male who has yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery nevertheless calls himself a female and is the subject of a news story, he will be identified as a female in all references.
See how confusing that gets? What is the actual, at-birth gender of the person we're talking about? And what gender will the person be identified as, once reassignment surgery is completed? Who knows?
There is a serious ethical discussion in this issue that we in journalism never really had. The orders came down from on high one day, and everyone just sort of jumped on board without questioning the implications. The first ethical issue is whether we journalists distort the truth by embracing the politically correct transgender language of the day.
Like it or not, the use of he/she, her/him, his/hers in print is a grammatical and journalistic necessity. We can't avoid it. But in doing so, choosing the correct word shouldn't be an option selected out of a sense of inclusion or demonstration of open mindedness about sexual identity. Our only choice must be to use the correct words to accurately and truthfully report the news.
From the April 29 edition of USA Radio Networks' Steve Deace Show:
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