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Archive for Sunday, July 24, 2011

Corporate-funded ALEC has strong ties to Kansas Legislature

July 24, 2011

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While the Kansas House was wrestling with a $500 million budget hole during the past legislative session, it also found time to pass a measure urging Congress “by any means necessary” to prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, including de-funding the agency’s efforts.

The resolution “opposing the EPA’s regulatory train wreck” was taken almost word-for-word from “model legislation” crafted by a little-known Washington, D.C., group called the American Legislative Exchange Council.

In recent days, ALEC’s influence, and its corporate backing, have been the focus of reports by several groups and news organizations.

ALEC describes its mission as promoting free markets, limited government, federalism and individual freedom “through a non-partisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government and general public.”

Its reach into state legislatures, including Kansas’, is deep. Each year, almost 1,000 bills, based at least in part on ALEC “model legislation,” are introduced in states. Of these, an average of 20 percent become law, according to ALEC.

But the Center for Media and Democracy released a report that described ALEC, which enjoys tax-exempt status as a non-profit, as a public policy front for corporate interests, including Kansas-based Koch Industries, which helps fund ALEC.

The Center has listed more than 800 bills crafted by ALEC at www.alecexposed.org.

On its website, ALEC’s “Private Enterprise Board” includes representation of leading companies, including Koch, Wal-Mart Stores, Bayer Corp., AT&T, State Farm Insurance, ExxonMobil Corp. and others. Many of the companies that fund ALEC oppose new air quality regulations.

ALEC proposes “model legislation” based on recommendations from task forces, which are composed of industry representatives, who pay fees to have a seat at the table, and legislators. The final say-so is done by a board composed of legislators only.

In Kansas, a healthy contingent of legislators have been active in ALEC for years, going to its meetings, serving in leadership positions on its board and returning to Kansas with more model legislation that they then start pushing through the legislative process.

ALEC and Brownback

In addition to the EPA measure, another ALEC-inspired piece of legislation, which was signed into law this year by Gov. Sam Brownback, is the Health Care Freedom Act, which prohibits the government from interfering “with a resident’s right to purchase health insurance or with a resident’s right to refuse to purchase health insurance.” The law is aimed at blocking the new federal health reform law, which ALEC opposes.

ALEC also advocates for considering the replacement of public employee pension systems with 401(k)-type plans, an issue that has gained traction with Brownback and many in the Legislature.

In addition, ALEC releases an annual report called “Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffler State Economic Competitiveness Index,” which takes the position that lowering taxes increases economic growth.

The most recent, fourth, edition has a foreword written by Brownback in which he states: “It is true that lowering taxes can be politically difficult: even fiscal conservatives start losing their enthusiasm for cutting taxes when special interest groups that consume a state’s tax dollars warn them that tax cuts will have dire consequences. But the consequences of being caught in a spiral of increased taxes and a decreasing rate of return on the tax base are much more dangerous.”

Kansas and ALEC

Each year, a group of Kansas legislators goes to ALEC meetings.

Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, served as the group’s national chair in 2006, and now serves on its board of directors. Sen. Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, also serves on the group’s board and in 2010 was named legislator of the year by ALEC.

Much of the legislators’ activity is paid through ALEC, but some Kansas taxpayer money is also expended. Last year, Kansas taxpayers were billed $9,132 to send legislators to ALEC meetings.

Thirteen House members and four state senators in 2010 went to ALEC’s annual meeting in Atlanta, according to state records. A group of state legislators is preparing to go to ALEC’s next annual meeting, which will be held next month in New Orleans.

The legislators who went to last year’s ALEC annual meeting were all Republicans and many chair powerful committees in the Kansas Legislature that deal with far-ranging policies.

The legislators that went are Sens. Ty Masterson of Andover, Ralph Ostmeyer of Grinnell, Dennis Pyle of Hiawatha, and Wagle; and Reps. Steve Brunk of Bel Aire, Pete DeGraff of Mulvane, Carl Holmes of Liberal, Lance Kinzer of Olathe, Marvin Kleeb of Overland Park, Forrest Knox of Altoona, Peggy Long-Mast of Emporia, Merrick, who was a House member at the time, Marc Rhoades of Manhattan, Scott Schwab of Olathe, and Sharon Schwartz of Washington. Two other House members who are no longer in the Legislature also went to the 2010 meeting — John Faber of Brewster and Deena Horst of Salina.

Questions of influence

Some public watchdog groups have said ALEC’s mix of corporate interests and elected officials is unseemly at best and unethical at worst.

Common Cause has asked the IRS to investigate whether ALEC’s tax-exempt status should be revoked.

ALEC “is a secretive and powerful front group of corporations that are investing millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation at the expense of the middle class,” Common Cause said.

ALEC has approximately 2,000 legislative members and more than 300 corporate members. Common Cause has said 22 of ALEC’s corporate members contributed more than $317 million to state election campaigns over the past decade.

Raegan Weber, a spokeswoman for ALEC, said about two-thirds of those members are Republicans and one-third Democrats.

“We are a very upfront organization,” Weber said. “ALEC is a resource for legislators to give them policy options.”

Should taxpayers be concerned if their legislator is sitting down with powerful, monied special interests to write bills that will then be taken to state capitals across the nation for consideration? Weber says no.

She said legislators should listen to those they will regulate, but they also listen to other opinions. “We’re just one outlet they go to,” she said.

Wagle said “ALEC has a free-market mindset.”

She said she doesn’t believe corporations have an undo influence on members. The bottom line is that legislators who are members of ALEC believe in less government, she said.

Many legislators who attend ALEC meetings have their expenses paid through “scholarships,” which companies contribute to.

Each state has a legislator who raises funds for these scholarships. In Kansas there is no limit on this fund-raising activity or reporting required.

In Kansas, legislators can solicit contributions for the benefit of any non-profit organization established for the purpose of educating legislators.

The EPA “train wreck” resolution was crafted by ALEC’s Natural Resources task force in April 2010, according to minutes of the meeting that were obtained by Bloomberg news. The panel that put the resolution together included 13 legislators from several states, including Kansas, and 21 private sector members representing Koch, ExxonMobil, and oil and coal trade groups. A year later, the resolution “opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory train wreck” popped up in the Kansas House and was easily approved, 100-22.

Comments

uncleandyt 2 years, 8 months ago

This story goes against nearly everything I've been led to not hear about. Does it make any sense that under-educated legislators would be gullible enough to allow fast-talkin' city-slickers to do their homework for them? , to write their papers? For fancy dinners and nice hotel rooms, we should at least listen to why public funding should be whittled away. If Bribery falls in the meeting rooms and no one is there to write about it, will ol' what's-'er-name be in New Orleans? As this thread goes dead, did it make a sound? Exchange rumour for fact. Tell your friends about ALEC. Thank you Scott, good work

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notleft_notright 2 years, 9 months ago

lunacydetector (anonymous) says… did reporter scott rothschild ever do a hit piece when sebelius was governor? i think 'we' all know the answer to that one. unbiased reporting is a thing of the past in today's journal world as it is in all the major so-called mainstream news organizations. it is getting tiresome.


I agree completely that Rothschild is heavily biased in his reporting. However, both parties are heavily influenced by special interests. Soros, Koch, Buffett, etc have their hands in this mess. Both parties are just heads to the same snake. Both slither and slide along on their bellies and our nation is the worse. Why? The people obviously want a corrupt political system, they vote the same bunch in every year. This past election they voted in teaparty members in a hope for change, real change. Obama and Bush are ideologues for their parties. Look at Nevada, they reelected Harry Reid. Kansas Pat Roberts. See a pattern?

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bobberboy 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm ready to run the crooks out !!

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bobberboy 2 years, 9 months ago

It's funny - they have the support of the Christian right But they all regularly go out to Northern California to the Bohemian Grove and worship a big stone owl. Would that make them idol worshipers ?

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bobberboy 2 years, 9 months ago

I wonder if Majority Leader Oneal is a big supporter ?

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Paul R Getto 2 years, 9 months ago

The Koch brothers are good libertarian Americans who (like the Radical Religious Right) are using the Republican Party to accomplish their goals. They must have the best interests of all Kansans and all Americans at heart. Once all regulation and taxes go away, we will all see how this will improve our lives. Be patient.

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bobberboy 2 years, 9 months ago

Koch Brothers now own this State.

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Gregory Newman 2 years, 9 months ago

This ALEC is a Snowball that is immune to hot and cold. The Repugs are amazing liars? When they say don’t tax the American people they mean themselves. The annual salary of a congress person is $174,000 but getting palms scratched by lobbyist they get an extra 2-3-4 hundred thou a month. That answers for the cry don’t tax the rich. Boner talks about jobs but the state of Ohio got 52 federal government contracts from Obama. NAFTA/GATT disallows for the jobs to return if Obama appeals it he will go out like Kennedy.

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ksrush 2 years, 9 months ago

Cut through red tape and run efficiently sounds more to the point of what this article should say. I have seen what hoops the EPA can require companies to jump through on their dime no less. OSHA does a good job of ensuring comliance with laws, rules and regs. While the EPA has a place it oversteps its bounds many times telling companies what and when they will do regardless of the cost, primarily because they dont care if business stays or goes under. Many of those companie may be the ones you work for, assuming you work and outside the bubble of education.

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nugget 2 years, 9 months ago

"Last year, Kansas taxpayers were billed $9,132 to send legislators to ALEC meetings."

Got it. Good to see all Kansans are now being taxed in order to back up the agenda of the Koch family. This state has officially ceased being one of representation. We now all must bow to the oil king Oz Brownback. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. He's simply marching to the Koch Brothers agenda.

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verity 2 years, 9 months ago

Attack the messenger if you don't like the message.

Deflect if you can't deny the message.

Or debate the merits of the message.

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Joe Hyde 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm very proud of the Lawrence Journal-World for publishing this investigative article whose subject matter is of great fundamental importance to Kansas voters. I hope many newspapers across the state reprint this story.

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lunacydetector 2 years, 9 months ago

did reporter scott rothschild ever do a hit piece when sebelius was governor? i think 'we' all know the answer to that one. unbiased reporting is a thing of the past in today's journal world as it is in all the major so-called mainstream news organizations. it is getting tiresome.

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

The irony here is that while this is an interesting article and a counter-argument article would be equally interesting, the question I have is how many actual voters read these types of things. Those that get up and vote for Brownback or Obama (generally speaking) don't read stuff like this nor do they care. We gat the leaders we deserve.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 9 months ago

George S. is still trying to get some action for all the millions he dumped into the 2004 election for no result.

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BornAgainAmerican 2 years, 9 months ago

When will this "journalist" do an article tracing all special interest connections to the liberal Sugar Daddy George Soros?

George Soros and the Alchemy of 'Regime Change' By Kyle-Anne Shiver What does a very aged multi-billionaire do after he spends $25 million dollars to force a presidential election his way, and still falls flat on his face? Well, of course, he tries and tries again.

When George Soros failed to obtain the election of his candidate, John Kerry, in 2004, he brooded for a while, even said he might get out of politics altogether, but he just couldn't stop himself. He has stated publicly that he wishes to burst the "bubble of American supremacy," because he says our preeminence in the world is a detriment to global "equilibrium." So far, he has failed, but he keeps on trying.

And Mr. Soros has made no secret either of the fact that he sees the shortest way to effect political shake-ups, what he terms "regime changes," is through very difficult economic conditions.

America has not yet felt the full force of Soros style economic shock treatment. But others have.

Soros made his first billion in 1992 by shorting the British pound with leveraged billions in financial bets, and became known as the man who broke the Bank of England. He broke it on the backs of hard-working British citizens who immediately saw their homes severely devalued and their life savings cut drastically in comparative worth almost overnight.

When the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 threatened to spread globally, George Soros was right in the thick of it. Soros was accused by the Malaysian Prime Minister of causing the collapse with his monetary machinations, and he was branded in Thailand as an "economic war criminal" who "sucks the blood from the people." Right in the middle of this crisis, Soros dashed off his book, The Crisis of Global Capitalism, which demanded a "third way" toward economic stability.

Do you think this Hungarian born financial monster is not attempting to profit through "regime change" in the US. Wake up liberals...you are being duped by one who has brought financial chaos to other countries for financial gain. Here is your villain and he's doing it through the far left social policies of your Democratic Party. Keep going Scott...keep tracing out all of these villains, but don't be so one-sided. Connect the dots on the left as well, right on up to the Dim Sugar Daddy who advocates for the down fall of this country through a social agenda.

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meatandpotatoes 2 years, 9 months ago

Where all Rothschild's stories about the corporate funding and exchanging of funds/favors during the Tiller era? That's what I thought.

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Richard Wade 2 years, 9 months ago

Will this story be followed up with one on George Soros, his groups, and their socialist, anti-liberty influence? Unlike Soros, the Koch's don't have genocide in their background.

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monkeyhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

"White House Executive Order #13575, Obama is taking control of all aspects of food, energy and fiber in rural America American Stalin, Obama, Seizes Control of Food and Energy Production

Beginning by ramming ObamaCare (which—again—has nothing to do with healthcare but, everything to do with finding a new way to steal the people’s money and provide Obama with total control over all) down the throats of American citizens, then moving easily through his planned destruction of the residential Real Estate industry (via the Democrat slush funds Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) while destroying as many middle-class jobs as is possible, the dictator-in-chief has also been fervently working on the destruction of all (not just a few) American citizens’ Constitutionally-guaranteed liberties. The previously clandestine “Fast and Furious Operation Gunwalker” has been uncovered as an Obama/Holder-planned and supported program. On 24 March 2009, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden held a press conference announcing an Obama Plan to—ostensibly—catch Mexican drug cartels.

Another of the atrocities Dictator-in-Chief Obama has ordered includes electrical meters permitting American citizens only the federal government’s idea of “allowable energy” (aka “smart meters”) and the first have now been installed in Marxist-California. If the ObamaGov doesn’t like the amount of energy you’re using—or you specifically—it can and will stop your energy flow. Can “retrainment/reeducation camps” now be far off?

Note: Another almost disaster is a stun gun that was discovered on United Airlines flight 944 which was flying from Chicago to Frankfurt last Friday 8 July and diverted to Cleveland. Called an “unruly passenger,” Saleh Ali S. Alramakh of Riyadh Saudi Arabia was causing quite a stir on the plane. He pushed a flight attendant repeatedly, used disallowed “electronic devices” and is reported to have been yelling and shouting. But, curiously, he wasn’t arrested until Monday. After Alramakh was taken into custody a stun gun was apparently found on his seat. Is this another example of Obama’s TSA groping and intimidating only Caucasian adults and children and allowing Muslims to pass through without any airport screening?

Now, however, the Obama cabal appears to be placing the final nail in our coffins. With the issuance of the unconstitutional White House Executive Order #13575, Obama is taking control of all aspects of food, energy and fiber in rural America—the areas that did not vote for Obama. So, Obama now effectively controls our ability to eat and use electricity. Will Congress ever step up and stop these atrocities and treasons committed by the tyrant? The answer appears to be a resounding “NO!”
http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/38393

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ObamaCairWaiver 2 years, 9 months ago

Edwin Vieira, Jr:

The Internet is full of "fear-based promotions and militarism", too, because the Establishment is learning to "game" it. Also, it is overrun with drivel and nonsense, from every wavelength of the political spectrum, because anything can be posted by anyone at any time at very low cost. In addition, I find that people who habitually use the Internet, almost to the exclusion of reading books, tend to develop very short attention-spans. Confronted by more than one page of text, they impatiently click to some other link (usually with pictures). They come to demand--and to receive – very easily chewed "e-bites" of information, which, being so limited in substance, tend often to be as much mis-information as real information. That is, for most people the Internet is not Harvard University's Widener Library, but what amounts to a "Dick and Jane" primary-school reader.

There is also the problem of the incalculable mass of material floating through the ether. How does one discriminate? Of X thousand web sites and blogs, which ones are actually worth reviewing? Does someone utterly unknown to you have a basis for what he is publishing? On balance, though, the Internet has opened up many doors that the Establishment would prefer to see permanently closed. So, on the principle that "it takes a crooked stick to beat a mad dog," I'm all for it.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

Thank you for following the strings to the puppet masters. Why don't politicians start doing their job instead of just trying to run for office?

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question4u 2 years, 9 months ago

The Kansas House passed "a measure urging Congress “by any means necessary” to prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, including de-funding the agency’s efforts."

A member of the Kansas House also produced a proposal to gun down immigrants from helicopters. Dumb-as-dirt representatives do dumb-as-dirt things. Why would anyone expect anything different?

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monkeyhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

"But the Tea Partiers are too busy listening to Fox Propaganda Network to understand that they're being lied to."

Isn't that teabaggers to you bozo? Such civility. So, you and others must watch Fox a lot to have such a biased opinion. The EPA is certainly not your Dad's EPA. Hope those windmills are turning while you're hoping for a little global cooling (or your smart meter decides to brown you out).

"Democratic Senator: Environmental Protection Agency Out of Control

p>(CNSNews.com) - Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the former governor of coal-producing West Virginia, is blasting the Obama administration for using the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal-fueled power plants out of business." http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/epa-out-control-coal-state-senator-says

"Obama’s EPA Finalizes Latest Job-Killing Policies For 26 States – Will Cost Taxpayers $1.6 Billion a Year & Thousands of Jobs

It’s fair to say the Obama regime is the most radical and punishing administration in US history.

And after two and a half years they continue to target the American people with their job-killing radical socialist agenda. This week the extremists in the Obama EPA pushed new rules on 26 states that will kill thousands of jobs, cost billions of dollars and increase electricity rates for every family." http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2011/07/obamas-epa-finalizes-latest-job-killing-policies-for-26-states-will-cost-taxpayers-1-6-billion-a-year-thousands-of-jobs/

"Liars lie … All in the name of being a good commie.

Freedom Works reports:

EPA Train Wreck with the “deadline” to reach a debt ceiling compromise fast approaching, the debt crisis is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Yet, while America has been focused on the national debt, The Obama administration has been using the EPA to go behind Congress’s back and implement the president’s radical environmental policy. The EPA is in the process of creating a series of unnecessary “train wreck” environmental regulations, which will impose hundreds of billions of dollars of costs on the economy. Most of the upcoming regulations specifically target American energy production, especially coal generated electricity, and will place huge compliance costs on power plants, which will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher electricity prices. Furthermore, many plants will not be able to meet the new stringent standards and will be forced out of business, pushing up unemployment and driving energy prices even higher."

http://tarpon.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/the-train-wreck-at-the-obama-epa/

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meatandpotatoes 2 years, 9 months ago

Corprofascim, Fox News, Tea Partiers......all the bad guys here. Obama remains "the adult in the room" and we're 9 days away from federal bankruptcy. Got it * click click*.

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overthemoon 2 years, 9 months ago

Thank you Scott for presenting this information. Its quite late in coming to the general 'main stream' media.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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overthemoon 2 years, 9 months ago

There's a word for corporate domination of government and a tightly controlled media messaging apparatus mixed with religious fervor and extremism.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

The face of corprofascism exposed.

But the Tea Partiers are too busy listening to Fox Propaganda Network to understand that they're being lied to.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 9 months ago

Had to look twice to see if merrill had copy/pasted this.

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KSManimal 2 years, 9 months ago

Hey, it's almost 8:00 am....where's Trabert? Koch's aren't gonna pay you if you're late to work...

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somebodynew 2 years, 9 months ago

saraj - while it probably would not have made a difference here, I do with this information would have been made public BEFORE the election. Like I say, it probably would not have made a difference in this state, but it should have.

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saraj 2 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for the article.But does anyone in this state really care? Is everyone contented to be controlled by Koch? Does everyone think that the policies their lawmakers signed on to will have no effect on them and their families?

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mloburgio 2 years, 9 months ago

ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection {kansas has a koch problem}

Hundreds of ALEC’s model bills and resolutions bear traces of Koch DNA: raw ideas that were once at the fringes but that have been carved into “mainstream” policy through the wealth and will of Charles and David Koch. Of all the Kochs’ investments in right-wing organizations, ALEC provides some of the best returns: it gives the Kochs a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding.

No one knows how much the Kochs have given ALEC in total, but the amount likely exceeds $1 million—not including a half-million loaned to ALEC when the group was floundering. ALEC gave the Kochs its Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award, and Koch Industries has been one of the select members of ALEC’s corporate board for almost twenty years. The company’s top lobbyist was once ALEC’s chairman. As a result, the Kochs have shaped legislation touching every state in the country. Like ideological venture capitalists, the Kochs have used ALEC as a way to invest in radical ideas and fertilize them with tons of cash.

http://www.thenation.com/article/161973/alec-exposed-koch-connection

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