CHICAGO - The People's World has obtained internal documents produced by the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council outlining a new ALEC plan to kill clean energy programs across the nation. The operation involves the top U.S. energy companies and hundreds of state lawmakers from one end of the country to the other.
The documents were given to People's World Aug. 7 by Nick Surgey, director of research for the Center for Media and Democracy. Surgey was one of several leaders of organizations who spoke at a public forum here Wednesday night, just 16 hours before what is expected to be the largest demonstration ever against ALEC, which is celebrating its 40th Anniversary at Chicago's posh Palmer House Hilton.
Activists, among them hundreds of union members, packed the University Conference Center here last night to hear a variety of speakers including Robert Reiter, secretary treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor, which represents some 500,000 workers in northern Illinois.
"It is clear ALEC is working in secret to push state policies in an extreme right direction," said Reiter, "but the good news is that America's working families are standing up to this corporate driven agenda. They are no longer getting away with their secrecy. They face big demonstrations now whenever they meet."
One of the internal ALEC documents is a schedule of unpublicized meetings that ALEC is holding here Thursday, bringing together representatives of top fossil fuel corporations with scores of GOP legislators to fashion a new bill to clean kill clean energy programs.
This schedule is almost completely at variance with the official schedule that ALEC has posted on the Internet and distributed to members showing up at Palmer House for the ALEC conference. The official schedule makes no mention of the planned meeting of representatives of top fossil fuel corporations with scores of GOP legislators to fashion a new bill to kill clean energy programs.
All the internal documents have been stamped with statements saying they are the property of ALEC and cannot be copied or distributed, and that ALEC is not subject to disclosure under any Freedom of Information or Public Records Act. "Its incredible that lobbyists working to win over elected officials who should be accountable to the public could make this kind of claim," Surgey noted.
The closed-door session on energy are needed, in ALEC's view, because fossil-fuel backed efforts to eliminate clean energy laws in many states have failed, including this year in Kansas, North Carolina and Missouri.
ALEC's energy task force director, Todd Winn, has, according to various sources, told Republican legislators gathering here that rolling back renewable energy standards would be a top priority for 2014. One of the bills that will be discussed at today's closed-door meeting is called the "Electricity Freedom Act."
Another of ALEC's "confidential," but no longer secret, energy bills, the "Market Power Renewable Act," will also be discussed at that meeting. The Market-Power renewable Act is described by The Center for Media and Democracy and by Common Cause as a "stealth attack" from fossil fuel interests that fund ALEC. It's real purpose is to weaken laws that have spurred the growth of wind and solar energy projects across the country by allowing fossil fuel utilities to purchase renewable energy credits from outside the state. This would allow large hydropower plants, biomass and biogas into the state's energy conservation law. The result of passage would be fewer jobs and less clean energy investment in the states in the short term.
It would eliminate the clean energy requirements altogether by 2015.
While the forum of labor and community activists was taking place, corporate lobbyists from BP, Exxon/Mobil; Shell and other energy giants were wining and dining several hundred GOP state lawmakers at a lavish party held "under the stars" at the Chicago Planetarium.
Lawmakers and their families were treated to gourmet meals, champagne, wine, liquor, beer and free peeks into the giant telescope. The press, constituents, voters and anybody else without an invitation were barred.
Corporate members of ALEC, according to another of the internal documents obtained, paid $40,000 apiece to participate this weekend while legislators pay only $100 to become members of ALEC. A recent Common Cause complaint to the IRS notes ALEC pays no taxes on the money it takes in and, in fact, bills the taxpayers for the cost of wining and dining the state legislators.
One of the confidential documents shows that there will be a closed-door session Thursday to churn out a bill that would kill attempts by cities and municipalities to raise the minimum wage. "The idea is to generate state laws that pre-empt towns and cities form passing ordinances that raise the minimum wage," said Rey Lopez-Calderon, executive director of Common Cause Illinois.
The ALEC bill comes on top of 117 bills introduced this year alone that fuel a race to the bottom in wages, workers rights, according to Reiter of the Chicago Federation of Labor. "We will be having some important street action here in Chicago," he said, referring to demonstrations planned around the Palmer House this afternoon. "Its not just about union members. ALEC is a threat to the entire 99 percent and that includes not just union members but all workers and it also includes everyone from the homeless on up to well paid doctors and professionals."
Photo: BP, the fossil fuel giant whose negligence led to the spoiling of the huge areas along the Gulf Coast, is a major funder of ALEC. In this file photo made June 3, 2010, a brown pelican covered in oil sits on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. Charlie Riedel/AP