Rebekah Wilce Thanks, Jeff. And let's see indeed! In an election year, no less. Let's see if anyone is even paying attention. If you care about this issue -- international trade, consumer protection, people over corporations, etc. -- please help me spread the word of this WTO ruling, lest this news get buried. Spread it on social media and by email. Tell your friends. Get it into the mainstream news. Wake up the 93% of Americans that approve of mandatory country-of-origin labeling.
Rebekah Wilce It's actually almost $26 million, because the currency in the WTO annual report referenced is Swiss francs, not USD. In 2011, the U.S. contribution was more like $25.5 million: http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/secre_e/contrib11_e.htm. But you're right, it's not a lot compared to the budgets of any U.S. gov. program. The power of the WTO does not lie in its budget, although certainly the U.S. de-funding would leave it out about 12.5% (as of 2011).
Rebekah Wilce Much as the idea is appealing, I don't think this is going to happen any time soon. I think Rick is exactly right about U.S. politicians being too indebted to corporations, and it is very much in the corporate interest to stay in the WTO. It gives them more global power.
Rebekah Wilce That may be true. But according to polling, a lot of people changed their minds after the tobacco company front groups started running millions of dollars of ads. Interestingly -- and this is just a personal observation, not a scientific poll -- so far the only people I've talked to who don't support cigarette taxes don't smoke. All the smokers I've talked to support the taxes and think they could stand to be higher even than Wisconsin's, which is almost three times the California tax. Many of them are very clear that, when a pack of cigarettes costs more, they buy fewer and smoke less.
Rebekah Wilce I agree. My original headline -- http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/06/11580/big-tobacco-cash-floods-california-defeat-new-tax -- makes clear that the intent of the groups running the ads with the tobacco cash was to defeat the tax, not necessarily that the tax was defeated because of the cash/ads. The article also doesn't suggest that ALEC had anything to do with it. My apologies for the misleading headline.
Rebekah Wilce There are no boycott threats, actually. The companies' statements in recent weeks have expressed a disagreement with ALEC's policies. Public pressure has focused on the companies' and brands' public images in the wake of news that they are allied with a group with such an extreme agenda, not on any threat of boycott.
Rebekah Wilce I see. First you claimed that it is the person making the purchase that is being forced to pay a tax; now you claim that it is the person making the sale that is being forced to collect a tax. But neither the purchaser nor the seller is forced by anyone to trade in cigarettes -- or anything else, for that matter -- so I still ask the question: How is this tax forceful? Please also explain who you think ought to pay for cancer research, as well as programs to help those who want to quit, quit smoking. Should each person who gets cancer, and each person who wants to quit smoking, enter into a voluntary arrangement with an individual researcher or careperson, in order to search for the cure or the assistance that he or she seeks?
Rebekah Wilce Thanks, Susan! At least there is still some level of transparency to money in Wisconsin politics. The "issue ad" groups are a big problem, though. From what we've been able to find, the Koch brothers have heavily funded AFP and the RGA, both of which are mostly active in the gubernatorial race (as well as Kleefisch vs. Mitchell), not the Senate recalls. But, since AFP does not report its political ad spending, it's possible that AFP has been active there as well. I encourage you to read Will Dooling's articles on this: http://www.policymic.com/articles/9179/scott-walker-gets-a-boost-in-wisconsin-recall-from-koch-and-tea-party-event/featured_writer http://www.policymic.com/articles/9115/scott-walker-wisconsin-recall-also-a-battle-agains
Rebekah Wilce This is an almost word-for-word quote from Dee Hall's article in the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday: http://m.host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/elections/state-senate-balance-of-power-rides-on-tight-races/article_fe75083c-aaa5-11e1-9eae-0019bb2963f4.html . The article is in turn summarizing a point made by Dan Romportl, executive director of the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate. It's a valid point -- one which I did not focus on in my article, which is primarily about money in these races. In the future, when you quote an article, please use quotation marks and cite your source. Thank you.
Rebekah Wilce Certainly I think that ALEC is not accustomed to being the subject of activism. The protest at its meeting in Cincinnati last spring was the first of its kind. But I would characterize what is influencing corporate and legislative ALEC members now as public pressure resulting from the first real and prolonged public exposure of ALEC's operations and activities, rather than as activism. How many people knew what ALEC was before, let alone recognized the unique way in which it brings legislators and corporations together? Many things have contributed to that exposure and pressure. CMD's ALEC Exposed project builds on the tremendous efforts of many people over the years working to shine a light on ALEC. Thanks for your comments, Himanil!
Rebekah Wilce Yes, YUM! Brands (Taco Bell, KFC & Pizza Hut) graciously bowed out of ALEC today: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/04/11468/hang-paycheck-alec-sharpens-focus-jobs Thanks for reading, Phy!
Rebekah Wilce I agree, Stan. My colleague Brendan Fischer has done quite a bit of investigation into these laws "ratified" by ALEC and conceived and lobbied for by the NRA. I encourage you to read his article if you haven't, it's excellent and eye-opening: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/03/11366/alec-ratified-nra-conceived-law-may-protect-trayvon-martins-killer Thanks!
Rebekah Wilce Christine Harbin, I understand you are a research manager for ALEC and have also been a policy analyst for the Koch-funded State Policy Network-affiliated Show-Me Institute in Missouri. I am a researcher and writer for the Center for Media and Democracy and have also been a farmhand in the lucrative organic farming industry ;) . I feel it's important to disclose all our affiliations. Thank you for finding the time during what must be a very busy period at ALEC to come on over to PolicyMic and post ALEC's press release here.
Rebekah Wilce Thanks, Christopher! Thanks for linking the "We are all George Zimmerman" piece. I think it makes excellent, thought-provoking points. I think the political and legislative issue of addressing the law that may have delayed George Zimmerman's arrest -- and the organization that approved it and took it to other states -- is separate from the very important larger societal issues.
Rebekah Wilce Rick, so-called "ag gag" bills are spreading across the country, absolutely. I can't find any tie between them and ALEC -- ALEC's AETA bill is old and different from current targeted language, although similar in intent -- but certainly lots of big industry groups have been lobbying for them.
Rebekah Wilce Consumers respond in a free market, and corporations make decisions based on their bottom line and their brand images. What does this have to do with either the Obama campaign or communism?
Rebekah Wilce Pretty hilarious, Paul. But I have to point out that whistleblowers, months of hard work, and dogged and intrepid investigators exposed this and related information (I'm not tooting my own horn; there are a lot of people working on this together). While many investigators have made use of open records laws to find out information about legislators' involvement with ALEC, those laws don't open corporate records to public perusal. I called Bernie McKay, I didn't FOIA him. I encourage you to make use of the resources at alecexposed.org, sourcewatch.org and prwatch.org to find out more about ALEC and its corporate backers.
Rebekah Wilce You're exactly right about things like mad cow, Danny. In fact, according to a BBC report in 2001 about pink slime -- called "mechanically recovered meat" on the other side of the pond -- "Experts say it is likely that bits of spinal cord - the part of a cow most likely to be contaminated with BSE [mad cow]- could be found in mechanically recovered meat." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1482140.stm And R. Kash, I agree, one of the best ways to stop the CAFO system is to vote with our dollars by supporting family farms that pasture their livestock and practice clean, caring, sustainable agriculture. But we can also petition the USDA and write to our local representatives and generally cause a ruckus!