Saturday, January 18, 2014

What the American Legislative Exchange Council has Wrought

The American Legislative Exchange Council Profit Delivery System

Paul Weyrich, American Legislative Exchange Council's paterfamilias, began prejudicing policy makers in the 1970s. The Weyrich résumé also includes the Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority and Free Congress Foundation.

The New York Times,"Lobbyists, Guns and Money," Bloomberg Businessweek, "Pssst ... Wanna Buy a Law?" and numerous others find the American Legislative Exchange Council modus operandi troubling. Nancy MacLean, N.C. Policy Watch, says that:
What ALEC and the companies that provide it with millions in operating funds seek is, in effect, a slow-motion corporate takeover of our democracy, first in the states where its party controls both the legislature and the governorship, as in North Carolina. But once its bills to suppress voter turnout take effect, the ultimate prize is to transform our entire country.
The corporate-legislative partnership known as the American Legislative Exchange Council meets three timely annually to discuss state actions that would benefit Wall Street interests. Documents recently provided to The Guardian reveal much about ALEC's agenda.

During the August 2013 tête à tête, the board of fifteen directors submitted a proposal stating:
I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.
Furthermore, State Chairs [elected officials] will "inform ALEC of any public records/FOIA requests that include ALEC documents." Legislators will communicate via a dropbox to evade open records laws.

Lists of commercial entities and state officials facilitating the pay-to-legislate enterprise may be found on the ALEC Exposed website.

N.C. representative Thom Tillis, an ALEC board of directors member, is running for the U.S. Senate. State representative Tim Moffit, also an ALEC board member, is seeking reelection this year.

Americans learned from the Treyvon Martin, "Stand Your Ground," deadly shooting incident that this ALEC legislative model has diminished their security. This favor gun manufacturers bill was signed into law by Governor Bush and was supported by Marco Rubio.

American Legislative Exchange Council's Economic Onslaught

Arizona residents are experiencing first hand ALEC's influence over state lawmakers with the free rider surcharge bill which, as proposed, would financially penalize homeowners [not industries] who utilize solar power energy.

There is much to criticize regarding American Legislative Exchange Council's machinations but none is more disturbing than the organization's pension reform scheme.

Public servants in numerous states are finding that trustees have shortchanged or pilfered away these inviolate obligations. Politico refers to pension funds as private equity honey pots.

The Manhattan Institute, an ALEC member, informs via its Public Sector Inc. website that:
State and local government employees all over the country collect taxpayer-guaranteed pension benefits that are far more generous than those available to most private-sector workers.
This long-touted fallacious claim was ALEC's initial assault on employee rights.

In California ALEC's fingerprints can be found on initiative 13-0043, " PUBLIC EMPLOYEES. PENSION AND RETIREE HEALTHCARE BENEFITS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. " If this measure is approved it will:
Eliminate constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, for future work performed. Permits government employers to reduce employee benefits and increase employee contributions for future work if retirement plans are substantially underfunded or government employer declares fiscal emergency.
North Carolina's 875,000, past and present, workforce and their $83.1 billion retirement holdings are under ALEC pension reform attack. The risks to the state's pension fund and its beneficiaries were increased in August when Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill to move portions of the workers' funds into a more volatile investment landscape. The Bloomberg News article,"North Carolina Pension Adds to Lagging Private-Equity Bets (1)," adds further insight on the subject.

NC Treasurer, Janet Cowell reports that at the end of September 2013, the pension portfolio had returned 9.97 percent for the fiscal year. Ten year returns averaged 6.57%.

Rather than trust Ms. Cowell's prognostications, the State Employees Association of North Carolina has engaged an independent firm to audit their pension plan.

Public pension fund insolvency can be linked to deceptive accounting practices, underfunding, conflict of interest investment choices and borrowing. Many state legislators such as those in North Carolina have exacerbated the problem by reducing or eliminating corporate taxes and levies on upper income brackets.

Since most pension plans have critical deficiencies, ALEC estimates anywhere from $750 billion to more than $4 trillion, public-sector employees can expect further benefit reductions. Regrettably guarantors, outside state governments, hold the trump card—it's called bankruptcy.

ALEC says that state pension liability risks can be reduced by: removal of defined benefit plans, cost of living adjustment guarantees, and constitutional protections. The Council also suggests that at the end of the employment term employees receive an annuity.

This proposed change benefits the state and insurance industry but provides no guarantees to employees. The American Legislative Exchange Council's script for state pension reform may be found here.

Please vote wisely. 2014 is a pivotal election year and candidates affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council may not be representing public interests.

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