Colorado State Senator Ray Scott
Mesa County’s State Senator Ray Scott was the key “no” vote that killed a bill to encourage utility companies to build more infrastructure across the state for electric vehicles (EVs). The bill, SB18-216, would have permitted electric companies to build more EV charging stations and recoup the costs of the construction by charging fees to users. The bill would have expanded the use of clean-running electric vehicles in Colorado by making it easier for people to charge them when traveling across the state.
Tanking the bill was a goal of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), an astroturf front group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, owners of Koch Industries, a private conglomerate with holdings in oil and gas.
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Tim Pollard of “Back the Badge’s” board is the brother-in-law of Josh Penry, who, with Penry operates the astroturfing group EIS Solutions, which is pocketing much of the money raised to promote 1A
Ballot Measure 1A will increase the sales tax in Mesa County by 0.37% to fund the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s office.
It sounds like a good idea, but much of the money behind 1A is coming from unaccountable sources, and the astroturfing groups promoting it may give some people pause. In particular, one big-money donor backing 1A is an aggressively pro-gun group that refuses to reveal its funders and works to push lawmakers out of office who support policies to reduce gun massacres in the U.S., like the one that occurred in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017.
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The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate bill mill that pushes “Stand Your Ground” laws like the Florida law that led to the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, is now working to gut state laws that require electric companies use more energy from renewable sources. ALEC is also pushing laws to discourage people from putting solar panels on their own homes. “Renewable Portfolio Standards” (RPS) are laws that require power companies to derive a specific portion of their power from solar, wind or other renewable sources by a certain future date. So far 30 states have enacted RPS laws. In 2012, though, ALEC started pushing “model legislation” calling for the out-and-out repeal of RPS laws. Confidential ALEC strategy documents obtained by the UK Guardian newspaper reveal that ALEC calls such legislation the “Electricity Freedom Act.” So far, ALEC has engineered the introduction of such measures in about 15 states.
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The shady right-wing political front group Compass Colorado us using a new strategy against its opponents: filing frivolous ethics complaints against candidates, and then using the fact that a complaint has been filed to impugn the integrity of the candidate. Compass applied this strategy against Governor John Hickenlooper, who is running for a second term, last July. The group filed a complaint against the governor claiming he violated a gift-ban provision in a state ethics laws. Compass then put out a news release touting the complaint. But the state’s bipartisan Independent Ethics Commission rejected the complaint out of hand as “frivolous” before it ever set a hearing date for it. Compass Colorado promotes the news that a complaint has been filed against the candidate on its website and in press releases, but never mentions the complaint’s dismissal. Compass Colorado does not disclose its donors, its physical address or telephone number, or the names of its principles, staff or board members. Its executive director is Kelly Maher, a former Secretary of the Denver County Republican Party.
Main source: Denver Post blog by Lynn Bartels, October 31, 2013
In this 1993 application for grant funding, Professor David M. Warburton of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom asks cigarette maker Philip Morris (PM) for £32,000 to perform a study on the human use of legal substances, like alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, food, tea and tobacco. Warburton told PM he believed the outcome of the study would “show that it is the total abstainer from substance use who is abnormal.” Philip Morris had previously funded Warburton from 1991-93 in the amount of $250,000. Warburton also organized and implemented the tobacco industry-funded front group “Associates for Research in Substance Enjoyment” (ARISE). ARISE “scientists” toured Europe between 1988 and 1997 promoting the idea that smoking was good for people and actually boosted immunity and extended life because it relieved stress and people enjoyed it. Several tobacco companies including Philip Morris and British American Tobacco funded the group secretly at arm’s length, and operated it through a UK-based PR firm which formed a “secretariat” to administer the group — a business structure that made it difficult to uncover the group’s funding.
In 2001, after ARISE had run its course, Professor Warburton (apparently in need of more funding) released a study showing that people are intimidated by television chefs, whom he said elevate pressure on average people to produce excellent dishes at dinner parties. These fears were causing a new syndrome to emerge, that Professor Warburton called “Kitchen Performance Anxiety” (KPA). The physical symptoms of KPA, according to Warburton, included mental blocks during cooking, a rapid heart rate, difficulty in breathing, nausea, and headaches. Warburton concluded that KPA was causing fewer people to hold dinner parties. BBC actually did a news report on KPA that highlighted the following comment from Prof. Warburton: “It is interesting that many guests don’t expect perfect food and would prefer that their host or hostess concentrated on good company and wine.” The “study” Warburton performed in which he discovered Kitchen Performance Anxiety was commissioned by the makers of the Piat d’Or wine. See the BBC report on KPA here. Professor Warburton is now an emeritus at the University of Reading, which promotes itself as among the top 1 percent of universities worldwide.
The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce took the time to endorse school board candidates in a what is supposed to be a nonpartisan race, but hasn’t publicly advocated against the single biggest issue hurting businesses large and small in western Colorado right now: the government shutdown. The Colorado National Monument is closed, negatively impacting tourism and hospitality businesses. Major events scheduled to be held on BLM land have been canceled. The shutdown is hurting the local real estate industry, federal employees are furloughed, disabled veterans are preparing to lose their benefits, women on the WIC program are facing a loss of funding to feed their infants and news story after local news story has been covering the pain the shutdown is causing local businesses. But where is the Chamber on this issue? Have they contacted their House Representative to demand an end to the shutdown? They haven’t said. Have they issued a position statement on it? Not that anyone has heard. Their October newsletter doesn’t even mention the shutdown. No press releases, no news alerts, no advocacy to stop it. Why is the Chamber MIA on the government shutdown? Could it be another indicator that the Chamber is, in fact, a partisan political group rather than a pro-business group?
Center for Consumer Freedom’s Rick Berman, a.k.a. “Dr. Evil”
Rick Berman, the D.C. beltway corporate lobbyist who revels in the nickname “Dr. Evil,” is at it again, this time defending a dangerous New Hampshire “ag-gag” bill that would block the ability to build solid court cases against animal cruelty in commercial agricultural operations. Berman also penned an opinion piece in the Boston Globe opposing the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act,” a bill that would require federal agencies to buy food products only from farms that raise animals free from cruelty and abuse. Aside from the underlying question of why the Boston Globe would print anything by Rick Berman, a corporate sell-out who lacks completely in credibility, why does Berman persist in supporting something as distasteful and horrifically unpopular as animal abuse?
Berman operates the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCR), an industry-funded front group that relentlessly attacks do-good organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Berman uses over-the-top rhetoric, calling people who research and expose the causes behind obesity “food control zealots.” He uses hyperbole and slippery-slope arguments, saying animal welfare groups like the Humane Society are “fighting to get rid of every dairy, pork, egg, beef, veal, and poultry farm across America by increasing the cost of production and hence increasing the price of food.” Hogwash. Whenever possible, HSUS works with commercial ag operations to reduce animal abuses like tail-docking of dairy cows and confinement of animals in horribly small spaces. The groups has been successful in doing so, but does pursue legislation to protect animals, too.
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Excerpt from a Tobacco Manufacturers Association summary of tobacco-related activities in the western hemisphere, January, 20000
Rather than being a purely grassroots movement that arose spontaneously in 2009 as the media has led people to believe, the Tea Party developed partly as a result of tobacco industry efforts to oppose smoking restrictions and tobacco taxes beginning in the 1980s, according to a new study by researchers at UC San Francisco. In 2002, long before the mainstream media widely discussed tea party politics, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a nonprofit funded in part by cigarette companies since 1987 to support a pro-tobacco political agenda, started its “US Tea Party project.” Its website, http://www.usteaparty.com, stated “Our US Tea Party is a national event, hosted continuously online and open to all Americans who feel our taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated.’’ In 2004, CSE split into the two tea party organizations: Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and FreedomWorks. Those two groups, say the study authors, have since waged campaigns to turn public opinion against tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws and health care reform in general. “If you look at CSE, AFP and Freedom Works, you will see a number of the same key players, strategies and messages going back to the 1980s,” said lead author Amanda Fallin, PhD, RN, also a CTCRE fellow. “The records indicate that the Tea Party has been shaped by the tobacco industry, and is not a spontaneous grassroots movement at all.”
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Dick Armey in his younger days
Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who recently left his job with the astroturf group Freedomworks, has a history of taking tobacco money and doing Big Tobacco’s bidding. The tobacco industry was a friend to Armey throughout his career on Capitol Hill, but Armey, who was an uneven ally to the industry while in the House, arguably became a more reliable ally when, under his guidance, FreedomWorks reflexively opposed higher cigarette taxes in states all across the union. Despite this, we found that some in the industry has less-than-complimentary things to say about Armey. We also found Armey engaged in dubious and dishonest tactics get new members an increase his group’s muscle while at FreedomWorks. Read all about Dick Armey’s tobacco ties and how he used FreedomWorks in a three-part series on my new blog at DeSmogBlog.com.
Grover Norquist and his group, Americans for Tax Reform, have long lobbied for tobacco industry interests — earning huge payouts from RJR and Philip Morris
Grover Norquist, who for decades has been the patron saint of anti-tax sentiment for Republicans, is fast losing relevance as Republicans finally start to grasp that the only way America can get out of its fiscal mess is to raise taxes. Legislators are starting to see that their allegiance must be to the United States of America and its people, and not to Grover Norquist. But for GOP legislators, leaving Norquist behind will be one of the best things they can do to help get some credibility back with the American public. By pledging their allegiance to Norquist for so many years, Republicans have put stock in one of the most reliable allies of one of the world’s most reviled industries: the tobacco industry. Previously-secret tobacco industry documents show Norquist and his group Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) have for decades been highly dependable allies to Big Tobacco. Norquist was always at the cigarette makers’ beck and call whenever they needed him. As ATR president, Norquist annually sought and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds to support the companies’ agenda of low cigarette and corporate taxes. In return for the big bucks, Norquist offered his organization up as a conduit for tobacco industry lobbying. Norquist figured prominently in Philip Morris’ quiet, internal 1995 “Get Government Off Our Back” project, in which the cigarette maker secretly created a phony “grassroots” group, to push to “shift government’s priorities” off regulating business. In 1999, Norquist helped cigarette makers fight President Clinton’s proposal to add a one dollar tax on cigarettes to fund health care. Norquist was cast as a “core ally” in Philip Morris’ efforts to enact “tort reform” to block people’s access to the courts. Norquist helped defend cigarette makers against the Department of Justice’s 1999 Lawsuit in which the industry was found guilty of perpetrating five decades of fraud against the American people. Philip Morris’ law firm of Covington and Burling even secretly took the privilege of drafting letters to government agencies, like FDA, that Norquist could sign so they would appear to be from ATR and not a tobacco company.
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Salon.com reports a new “youth” front group has appeared consisting of young people who have ostensibly joined together to fight the federal debt. The group, called “The Can Kicks Back,” issued a press release November 12 announcing its creation and casting itself as a “nationwide grassroots campaign.” The Can Kicks Back gives no physical address on its website, but Salon.com reports the group shares the same address as the New America Foundation, which receives funding from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, among other foundations and big corporations. Peter Peterson is a Wall Street hedge fund billionaire who, according to Huffington Post, has “has personally contributed at least $458 million to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to cast Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and government spending as in a state of crisis, in desperate need of dramatic cuts.” Other prominent funders of the New America Foundation include Google, Microsoft, Nike, Merck, and Aetna insurance. Interestingly, Kick the Can’s advisory board consists mostly of older politicians like Alan Simpson, 81, former Republican senator from Wyoming, Erskine Bowles, 67, former Clinton chief of staff, Mickey Edwards, 75, former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Salon.com reports that this isn’t Pete Peterson’s first attempt to form an astroturf “youth group” to agitate for cutting entitlement programs. In the 1990s Peterson funded two groups, one called “Third Millennium” and another called “Lead…or Leave,” basically to do the same thing. In fact, Jonathan Cowan, who headed up Lead…or Leave, now is on The Can Kicks Back’s advisory board.
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Karl Rove, whom Vanity Fair called “one of the most powerful unelected officials in the United States,” is facing criticism and derision after his two well-funded super pacs, American Crossroads and the more secretive Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (“Crossroads GPS”), proved surprisingly ineffective after Democrats largely emerged victorious in the 2012 general election. Rove, a Republican political strategist who famously once dreamed of creating a “permanent Republican majority” in U.S. government, helped create the two groups which together sucked in over $300 million in the last election cycle, mostly from billionaires hoping to influence the election’s outcome. Crossroads GPS, which refused to make public the names of it’s super-wealthy donors, blanketed the U.S. with attack ads against Democratic candidates in which the group made notably false and misleading claims against candidates. Despite spending vast amounts of money, however, Rove’s groups were ultimately unable to influence the outcomes of the November 6 elections. Rove has spent the last week defending his super PACs and scrambling to devise a new strategy for boosting Republicans’ fortunes in elections nationwide. Rove served as former president George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff. Since leaving the government, he has worked as a political strategist, consultant and a paid speaker. Rove’s normal speaker’s fee in 2010 was $60,000, but he has had his appearances canceled on several occasions due to protests.
Big food, candy and chemical companies are pouring tens of millions of dollars into fighting California’s Proposition 37, which would require foods be labeled as to whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Genetically-modified foods have their DNA artificially altered in a laboratory, for example Monsanto genetically engineered a type of sweet corn to make it also contain an insecticide. GMOs have been linked to allergies, organ toxicity and other ailments. The problem is, consumers are in the dark about whether the foods they buy contain GMOs because food producers have not been required to identify foods that contain them. Monsanto has paid over $4.3 million to fight Proposition 37, followed by DuPont, ($4 million), Pepsi ($2.1 million), Bayer ($2 million), Dow ($2 million), Coca Cola ($1.69 million), Nestle ($1.46 million) and ConAgra Foods ($1.1 million). Other companies working to defeat the disclosure law include familiar household companies that dominate the grocery stores, like Campbell’s Soup, General Mills, Bumble Bee (tuna), Hershey’s, Heinz, Kellogg, Kraft, Land O’Lakes (butter), McCormick (spices), Nestle (cocoa), Tree Top (apple juice), Smuckers (jam), and Welch’s (grape juice). The big food and chemical companies have hired former tobacco industry operatives to apply big Tobacco’s playbook to fight the initiative. Hiring out professional PR flacks to oppose the measure also distances the companies from the unpopular effort and helps shield their valuable brands from backlash. The “No” campaign is using the tobacco industry tactic of hiding behind a front group made to appear as though it is made up of small businesses, family farmers and the like, to give the public the impression that the anti-37 effort is a “grassroots” campaign by real people. Far from it. The “Yes on 37” campaign points out that many of the wealthy companies secretly bankrolling the fight against Prop. 37 are the same ones that for years assured Americans that cigarettes were safe, and DDT and Agent Orange were harmless.
Dell Computers became the latest company to drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing group behind the spread of voter suppression laws and “shoot first” laws like the one invoked by George Zimmerman, the man involved in the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida. Deborah Albers, Dell’s principal social strategies, wrote in a letter to ThinkProgress, that the company “will not be renewing our participation” in ALEC. Albers is based at Dell in Round Rock, Texas.
Source: International Business Times, June 21, 2012
Sample graphic from IStandWithAlec.org
As corporations continue to flee the embattled American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC is struggling to stop the bleeding with a new a damage-control website called “IStandWithALEC.com,” that blames former Obama administrator Van Jones, George Soros and “Big Labor” for recent woes that have put the group on the hot seat. But as soon as ALEC put up its new site, the controversial group was met with yet another activist challenge: a hilarious, new competing one-page website with the very similar domain name, “IStandWithALEC.org,” that features pictures of Alec Baldwin and says, “I stand with Alec, not ALEC.” The site is filled with funny pictures of Alac Baldwin and statements contrasting how nice Alec Baldwin is and how mean ALEC is, like “Alec Baldwin created a scholarship for low income drama students…ALEC creates scholarships for corporations to funnel money to legislators,” and “Alec likes surfing the web naked,” but “ALEC wants you to pay 750% more for high-speed Internet.” The site asks visitors to “Join our efforts to stand up to front groups like ALEC!” The dueling websites make it clear that anti-ALEC activists aren’t cutting ALEC much slack these days, no matter what corporate PR strategy it tries to try and escape from its death spiral.
Pete Meersman, of the Colorado Restaurant Association
Citizens of Lakewood, Colorado, this spring pushed to enact a stricter smoking ordinance in their city, but met resistance from the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA), a longtime ally of the tobacco industry. Citizens wanted to make outdoor dining areas, all parks and recreation areas and sidewalks around hospitals smoke free. They also recommended prohibiting smoking inside tobacco retail businesses, to protect employees from exposure to secondhand smoke. In 2001 (pdf), Philip Morris created a front group called the “Colorado Indoor Air Coalition” (CIAC) to promote the notion that providing adequate ventilation in restaurants was the only solution to the problem of secondhand smoke — a tobacco industry strategy to block workplaces from going 100 percent smoke-free. One of the organizations helping Philip Morris head up the CIAC was the Colorado Restaurant Association. So it was no surprise that in 2012, Pete Meersman of the Colorado Restaurant Association appeared at Lakewood City Council meetings to lobby against the changes citizens sought, saying “The anti-smoking people will not be satisfied until no one smokes.” Opponents argued that the new, stricter smoking rules would be unfair to businesses that made capital outlays to meet the older smoking law, like installing more powerful ventilation systems or creating separate patios for non-smokers. But an ever-increasing amount of data now show that heart attacks fall precipitously when effective smoking restrictions are enacted. In Greeley, Colorado, one study (pdf) showed that heart attacks fell 27 percent after a tough new smoking ordinance was passed in 2003. A similar study in Pueblo, Colorado found approximately the same reduction in heart attack admissions to hospitals after a smoking ban went into effect. In the end, though, the City of Lakewood caved to tobacco industry arguments and enacted a watered-down ordinance that failed to include many of the new provisions citizens sought, showing Big Tobacco is still a powerful force on the local level in Colorado, aided by its ally, the Colorado Restaurant Association.
An NBC investigative team has exposed historical and financial ties between many of the supposedly independent groups actively opposing Proposition 29, a measure to increase California’s tobacco tax by $1.00 per pack, and the tobacco industry. Collectively, groups against the measure have spent $46.7 million so far — over four times more than the amount spent by groups supporting the measure. Much of the money to oppose the measure came from cigarette makers Reynolds American and Philip Morris, laundered through groups that are seemingly independent from the industry, like Americans for Tax Reform, the Small Business Action Committee and the California Taxpayers’ Association. Tobacco industry documents now available on the Internet reveal these groups have historically received significant financial support from Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and the Tobacco Institute. Political analyst Larry Gerston commented, “These kinds of transfers of money increasingly take place under a very dark shadow.” The strategy of burying tobacco industry involvement in ballot measure campaigns is revealed in a 1998 proposal by a political consulting group that worked for the Tobacco Institute on another cigarette tax fight.
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