Eighty-eight corporate members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) made campaign contributions to 66 Louisiana legislators totaling more than $884,000 since 2003, according to records obtained by Capitol News Service.
That comes to about $13,400 per legislator to entice them to cast favorable votes on ALEC legislation ranging from education and pension reform and privatization of state prisons.
It’s downright shameful that our legislators’ votes can be purchased so cheaply, especially on issues that adversely affect the lives of more than 60,000 state employees and teachers…but it’s true.
Baton Rouge Business Report editor Rolfe McCollister said Tuesday that public teachers have abandoned school children in favor of traveling to Baton Rouge on Wednesday to protest Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform bills and that Rep. Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge) is a thief for having stolen the future of multiple generations of children while serving on the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.
Those comments were about as shallow and lacking of substance as Gov. Jindal’s ridiculous claim that better teachers would help reduce the number of teen pregnancies. One’s first reaction to that would be, “Where did that come from?” but we saw the same report the governor quoted and it looked as idiotic in print as it sounded coming out of the governor’s mouth.
We challenge the governor, right here and right now, to provide a single instance—just one—in which that asinine claim can be substantiated.
But there was really no reason to expect any other reaction from McCollister in consideration of his own financial investment in Gov. Jindal. Apparently no boy wonder governor has ever tried to engineer an advertising boycott of his publication. If that happened, you have to wonder how long it would take him to cry foul.
Teachers have been a favorite scapegoat for legislators for years—legislators who, by the way, have reneged on their obligation to pay down the state pension systems’ $18 billion unfunded accrued liability and are now being called on to tax state workers an additional 3 percent of their paychecks not to pay the UAL but to fill in the holes in the governor’s budget.
But is it really necessary to unleash the financial resources of the corporate world on teachers and state employees?
Apparently so, and the names of many of those corporations are as familiar as, well, Coca Cola, Wal-Mart, AT&T, Cox Communications, Humana, Johnson & Johnson, Anheuser-Busch, Federal Express, UPS, Pfizer, Chevron/Texaco, Bayer, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, BP (yes, that BP), Bristol Meyers, Dow Chemical, Eli Lilly, Entergy, GEICO, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Hunt-Guillot, John Deere, International Paper, K12 Management (a large but troubled online school corporation), United Health Group, Liberty Mutual, Monsanto, Marathon Oil, Northrup Grumman, Pepsi Cola, Procter & Gamble, Reynolds American, U.S. Airways, Time Warner, Travelers Insurance, Zurich American, UST Affairs (a tobacco lobbyist), Waste Management, Verizon, Walgreens, private prison companies Corrections Cooperation of America and Wackenhut Corrections, and, of course, the biggest of them all, Koch Industries.
There also were four major political action committees—East Pac, West Pac, North Pac and South Pac—all run through the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). Two other donor PACs included JazzPAC and Future PAC.
And yet Rolfe McCollister condemns the evil teachers’ unions for their undue influence on the education system.
Many of these corporate donors also have contributed to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children. Some have done both and some contributors to Jindal’s wife’s foundation have also received favorable waivers of state regulations, have been awarded lucrative state contracts or have been the beneficiaries of favorable legislation.
And of course, many recipients of those contributions from ALEC corporations are themselves members of ALEC. Some are no longer in the legislature and several of those have been given positions in the Jindal administration at six-figure salaries that will substantially boost their retirements even as Jindal is asking rank-and-file state employees to take reduced benefits, work longer and pay more.
Among those are current and former legislators Noble Ellington ($55,000 in contributions), Jane Smith ($15,000), Mert Smiley ($8,500), Jim Tucker ($24,000), Jim Fannin ($6,500), Brett Geymann ($37,100), Daniel Martiny ($39,000), Elton Aubert ($35,500), Frank Hoffman ($16,800), Gerald Long ($36,000), Hollis Downs ($15,500), Nickie Monica ($23,500), Robert Adley ($50,400), Tim Burns ($11,500), and Willie Mount ($12,000).
Of those named above, Aubert was the only Democrat. There were others—Republican and Democrat—but their contributions were significantly less than the ones listed here.
And when ALEC issues the call, both the corporations and legislators convene at some conference somewhere. (last year’s national convention was held in New Orleans and hosted by outgoing National President Noble Ellington.)
When the corporate reps and legislators get together, they sit down side by side and the corporations draft legislation for the state lawmakers to take back home and introduce to their respective state legislatures or assemblies.
And it shall be called progress in much the same manner as the deregulation of mortgage and investment banks was called progress.
And savings and loans before that.
What could possibly go wrong?