Co-published by Newsweek
There’s something hinky about the governor’s climate leadership, an inconsistency that environmentalists warn will threaten his legacy.
The 42nd Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) got underway in earnest Wednesday at San Diego’s Manchester Grand Hyatt resort hotel. The mood was convivial and the attire corporate casual: Brooks Brothers suits without ties, Dockers and sports shirts.
Although this year’s star attractions — a GOP presidential frontrunner, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and a returning presidential contender, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee — weren’t scheduled to speak until Thursday, conference delegates had plenty to do yesterday.
ALEC, a secretive rightwing bill mill that gets its funding from the Koch Brothers and global multibillion dollar corporations, has been described as a legislative dating service that arranges hookups between mostly Republican state lawmakers and corporate lobbyists.
The actual “dates” occur at meetings like those unfolding in San Diego — a council spokesperson said 1,300 conferees were in attendance — and take place behind locked doors,
Last week’s announcement of a settlement between the state of California and two political campaign organizations linked to the Koch brothers fittingly coincided with the centenary of the first scientific explorations of Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits. The history of the tar pits is pretty straightforward: For at least 38,000 years, thick, petroleum-based asphaltum has oozed up from fissures at the site, a noxious goo that long ago entrapped hapless animals as well as the predators that tried to feast on them.
Rather more recent and less explored have been the political intrigues of petroleum tycoons Charles and David Koch, although news of their ambitions is slowly rising to the surface, too. Last year a daisy chain of groups with Koch connections funneled campaign contributions into a pair of policy measures on the 2012 California ballot: Proposition 30, a tax-raising measure designed to restore much-needed funds to public education,
It should serve as more than mere cold comfort that Charles and David Koch – the oil billionaires with a desire to remake America according to their own Dickensian vision of society – are about to be fined $1 million by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission. Today’s Los Angeles Times reports that a pair of the brothers’ political money funnels, Americans for Responsible Leadership and the Center to Protect Patient Rights, unlawfully directed $11 million to a campaign account set up to defeat Proposition 30 and promote Proposition 32 in 2012.
The first proposition, which aimed to raise tax dollars for public education, passed; the latter measure, intended to cripple the ability of public employee unions to participate in politics, didn’t.
Benjamin Gamboa doesn’t know John Arnold, but they are linked by a shared concern over the fate of public-employee pensions in California.
“I’m proud to have a pension,” the 30-year-old Gamboa says. “I believe every American should have a pension.”
The two men live in very different worlds. Gamboa is a research analyst at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California. Arnold is a hedge-fund billionaire from Houston, Texas.
There’s another difference between them: Arnold recently had a representative present at a secret “pension summit” held at a Sacramento hotel, where strategies to limit public employee retirement benefits were discussed; Gamboa, a union member, did not – representatives of labor were specifically not invited.
“Pension reform” has become the latest battle cry in a seemingly endless war that has ostensibly been declared against tax-dollar waste, but whose single-minded purpose has been to slash the job protections and benefits enjoyed by California’s working middle class.