Saturday, August 4, 2012

Another Way That ALEC is Destroying Democracy

We are all aware of the anti-democratic stance of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) when it comes to Voter ID, but their extreme right-wing agenda to destroy democratic process goes much further than that.

Another example of where ALEC legislators in your state are disrupting our democratic process on behalf of right wing extremists is with redistricting.

If you care about your voice in our democracy, the power of your vote to make a difference in choosing your leaders and your representatives (and we know you do!) then you must care about redistricting. With today’s computer mapping technologies, self-interested politicians working closely with high-priced consultants can shape districts block-by-block, even house-by-house, carving up communities and neighborhoods to guarantee success for some candidates and failure for others. This can make elections virtually meaningless. Ours is the only democratic nation which allows self-interested incumbents draw the districts they will represent.

In short, voters should choose our representatives, instead of politicians choosing who they will represent. And that’s why you should care and that’s why we need to reform redistricting now!

And redistricting not only has political implication it has race and age implications:

In virtually every state in the South, at the Congressional and state level, Republicans—to protect and expand the electoral gains they made in 2010—have increased the number of minority voters in majority-minority districts represented overwhelmingly by black Democrats while diluting the minority vote in swing or crossover districts held by white Democrats.

In How the GOP Is Resegregating the South, Ari Berman explains how the GOP is cynically using race to their own partisan advantage, enshrining a system of racially polarized voting that will make it harder for Democrats to win races on local, state, federal and presidential levels. Here are the main movers and shakers behind the redistricting push and how they’ve made their mark on the racial politics of the South.

Across the country redistricting in favor of right-wing candidates has been in full force.  In many cases you will find those affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange council at the center of this very anti-democratic process that favors Republicans – a cheaters way to steal elections when you can’t win based on your record.

These changes to our US elections systems were expertly coordinated and manipulated through covert actions designed at ALEC meetings and brought back to our states by ALEC legislators.  This was done by a small (1/3 of total legislators) group of extremist right-wing ALEC legislators who have not openly discussed their political motivations with constituents. (Since ALEC membership was virtually unknown to most until last year – and still most people do not know who the ALEC legislators are – these actions could very easily be construed as both secretive and manipulative.)

Here are just a few current and historical examples of how ALEC members and those affiliated with ALEC influence the re-districting process in an ethically questionable manner.

In Minnesota last year, Express Scripts, a major drug benefit manager, gave $10,000 to a Republican-linked group, Minnesotans for a Fair Redistricting, involved in a partisan fight over redrawing legislative boundaries. Express Scripts made the donation, previously unreported, because the “electoral maps in Minnesota were in doubt and we supported efforts to bring certainty to Minnesota voters,” said Brian Henry, a spokesman for the company, which is based in St. Louis. He added that the firm has a facility in Bloomington, Minn.

Express Scripts being an ALEC Corporate Profit Sector member at the time.

Fair Redistricting describes itself as independent, but it has much of its leadership in common with the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, a group with ties to the political empire of the Koch brothers,

Below is Rep. Mark Pocan’s (D-Madison) statement about ALEC’s involvement with the GOP redistricting plan:

“ALEC pretends to be a nonpartisan organization, yet they are more entrenched in the Republican Party than almost any other group. Not only have we learned that ALEC’s corporate partners write the bills that become law in Wisconsin, but now we know they were involved in the partisan redistricting process as well.

Mark Braden, former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee (who is now with the law firm Baker Hostetler) gave a presentation on redistricting to members of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force at the December 2010 ALEC meeting, according to documents obtained through open records requests. Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is a member of that Task Force and attended the December meeting. Fitzgerald led the redistricting effort in Wisconsin and is the former ALEC state chair.

Also at the December meeting, the corporate and legislative members of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, including Senator Fitzgerald, approved the creation of a "Redistricting Working Group," to be chaired by Utah Representative Paul Ray.

An update on the Wisconsin redistricting story:

Voces de la Frontera, in their case, revealed the extreme lengths that the GOP went to maximize secrecy and prevent any input from anyone other than Republicans.  The court demanded records and even fined the Republican-run state (i.e. taxpayers) for their failure to release the records and the frivolous and flimsy motions they filed to avoid releasing the records.  The law firm and Republican majority then released the documentation.

Some of the emails appear never to have been released before. If they were not, it could spell legal woes for Republicans because of a raft of court orders to release material earlier this year.

In the Senate, David [Holt] serves in Leadership as Majority Caucus Vice-Chair. He serves as Vice-Chair of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, and Vice Chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, responsible for Central Oklahoma.

A tireless volunteer, David has been a member of many organizations, including the following:
• American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

In 2006, ALEC filed a brief Amicus Curiae in Texas in regards to the Texas redistricting.

ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force
2012 Overview
Future Direction for Task Force:
The future of the Task Force will be driven by our membership, the political climate, and the top policy issues of the day. Our subcommittees and working groups present an exciting opportunity within the Task Force to specialize in top issues for 2012: Commercial Bail, Corrections Costs, Offender Reentry, Victim Restitution, Overcriminalization, Forensic DNA Testing, Redistricting, the National Popular Vote, Ethics Laws, etc.

Public Sector Chair: Rep. Jerry Madden, Texas

And don’t believe the press that the Public Safety and Elections Task Force has gone away:

Republican State Rep. Jerry Madden of Texas chairs the Public Safety Task Force and although he is disappointed the committee is disbanding, he said many of the issues will be transferred to other committees.

TEXAS (cont.)
Madden is the Co-Chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force    as well as a member of the Select Committee on Election Contest, the Redistricting Committee, and the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

Phil King –
For his leadership on SB 5, King was named a “Legislator of the Year” by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), [2006]

In the regular and then the three special legislative sessions of 2003, King authored the congressional redistricting legislation favored by the Republican Party, which won more than 55 percent of the total votes cast in thirty-two separate congressional races in the 2002 midterm elections even though the Republican Party obtained just fifteen of the U.S. House seats. The changes led to a temporary 21-11 Republican majority within the Texas delegation to the U.S. House. After the 2006 elections, however, that margin was reduced to 19-13 Republican. After 2008, it became 20-12 Republican.

BJ Nikkel
American Legislative Exchange Council's National State Chairman Award 2011
In addition, Rep. Nikkel served on Congressional Redistricting Committee.

House Speaker Mike O'Neal appointed himself head of redistricting for the House, an unusual step even given his marked interest and prior experience with the process. Explaining the decision, "There are really only a couple of us who've had experience doing this. Given that I was going to have a substantial interest in it and probably would be working on it anyway, I just decided that we'd run it out of our office

 “the redistricting situation was caused by Governor’s Brownback desire to oust members of his own political party from the Kansas legislature. He is very intent on trying to drive out Republicans that don’t support his agenda – that’s really the root cause of why the legislature was not able to successfully complete the redistricting process.”
The current system for redistricting in Ohio allows for blatant gerrymandering – a term for drawing districts that make sense for politicians maintaining power, but not for citizens. The most recent redrawing of district lines, really pointed out to me the need to have an independent commission be in charge of the process. Districts need to be competitive and they must keep communities together. To redistrict for political reasons is not fair to Ohioans.

The Ohio Constitution designates five officials who are responsible for adopting General Assembly districts, known as the Ohio Apportionment Board.
Members of the Apportionment Board
John Kasich - Chair
David Yost – Vice chair
Jon Husted R Member 
Representative Armond Budish D Member
Senator Thomas E. Niehaus R Member

Kasich, Husted, Neihaus –ALEC

Brandt Hershman is an Indiana Senator and a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).[1] He was first elected to Indiana State Senate as a Republican in 2000 and, as of 2011, he serves as the Indiana Senate Majority Whip. He is the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee Chair and serves on the Appropriations, Elections, and State Budget committees.     National Conference of State Legislatures - State-Federal Coordinator, Standing Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, and Committee on Redistricting and Elections

There are many reasons – many of them dastardly and nefarious why ALEC wants to support a right wing takeover of the United States.

The only way we can stop this legislative led assault on US democracy is with our vote.

It is OUR responsibility to make sure that all ALEC legislators are not elected or re-elected in the upcoming elections in November to rid our country of this anti-democratic movement that ALEC has facilitated.

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