• Advertisement

Open Democracy Report Show How Much Kinder Morgan Has Spent Lobbying To Build NED Pipeline

As NED Pipeline Fight Heats Up, Report Finds Kinder Morgan Spent Millions of Dollars on Lobbying and Political Donations Since 2014

MANCHESTER, NH – Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan has spent over $2.5 million in lobbying and campaign donations since 2014, even as it is seeking approval for a controversial new natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, according to a new analysis of lobbying and campaign finance records by the nonpartisan organization Open Democracy. 

The analysis finds that Kinder Morgan Inc. and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP began lobbying in New Hampshire and Massachusetts concurrent with the introduction of its Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline proposal in each state. The company spent $53,500 to lobby New Hampshire state government officials in 2014 and an estimated $70,780 in 2015, more than any single public interest, non-profit, or labor organization. 

Fig. 1: Kinder Morgan Lobbying Expenditures in NH and MA since 2011 (2015 data incomplete)  Figure 1

The company also spent $148,500 to lobby Massachusetts officials in 2014 and $301,334 in 2015, prior to year-end disclosures. No lobbying expenditures were reported in New Hampshire prior to 2014 when the proposed pipeline route was changed to include seventeen southern NH towns. Kinder Morgan reported $20,000 and $60,000 in Massachusetts state lobbying in 2012 and 2013, respectively. 

Analysis of federal lobbying expenditures finds several Kinder Morgan companies including Kinder Morgan, Inc., Kinder Morgan Co2, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, and Kinder Morgan Bulk Terminals have engaged in extensive lobbying activities over the last twelve years. Kinder Morgan reported spending $170,000 to-date in 2015, including $110,000 specifically targeted at the NED pipeline proposal which is pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The five-member commission of presidential appointees is expected to approve or reject the proposal next year.

In addition to its reported federal and state lobbying activities in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and other states, Kinder Morgan executives have made significant campaign contributions in recent years, according to the Open Democracy analysis. At least ten Kinder Morgan employees made state and federal campaign contributions totaling more than $3 million in 2014-16. Company Chairman Richard Kinder and his wife Nancy accounted for the bulk of the contributions, giving $2 million to the Right to Rise Super PAC supporting presidential candidate Jeb Bush. 

Texas Senator Ted Cruz received $11,400 in campaign contributions from Kinder Morgan employees to his 2012 Senate campaign and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a $1,000 contribution in 2015. Former House Speaker John Boehner received $90,200 in campaign contributions. 

Fig. 2: Kinder Morgan Contributions to 2016 Presidential Candidates 

Candidate

Amount

Year

Jeb Bush

$2,205,829

2015

Hillary Clinton

$1,000

2015

Ted Cruz*

$11,400

2012

TOTAL

$2,218,229

 

At the state level, NH Governor Maggie Hassan and MA Governor Charlie Baker received $2,000 and $1,000 in campaign contributions, respectively, from Richard and Nancy Kinder in 2014. 

All told, the analysis found $397,950 in federal and $557,000 in state campaign contributions from Kinder Morgan executives in 2014, and at least $2,211,269 in contributions to 2016 federal campaigns to-date. Analysis of campaign contributions over time finds a total of estimated $5.3 million since 2000, 87 percent of which was given to Republicans (2014-16 partisan contributions breakdown is estimated).

Fig. 3: Kinder Morgan Contributions to State and Federal Candidates and Super PACs, 2000-2015

Year

Total Amount

Republican

Democrat

2000

$329,388

97%

3%

2002

$315,996

99%

1%

2004

$375,562

96%

1%

2006

$126,061

82%

18%

2008

$152,555

63%

36%

2010

$433,849

61%

38%

2012

$389,110

97%

1%

2014

$982,689

92%

3%

2016

$2,211,269

99%

1%

TOTAL

$5,316,479

87%

11%


 

472617b1-f7c4-4930-ab9d-636b2181b5c0

Open Democracy is a Concord, NH-based nonpartisan organization that works for transparent and accountable governance in the Granite State. Learn more at www.OpenDemocracy.me

Warning: More Campaign Fundraising Ahead

warning extreme danger

Photo by Paul Klintworth via Flikr

Some thoughts on the news that Rep. Frank Guinta has reached an agreement with the Federal Elections Commission to pay a $15,000 fine and repay $355,000.

First thought: this is a really big deal. Fifteen thousand dollars is a pretty big fine for the FEC.  In fact, it’s apparently the 24th-biggest fine the FEC has issued since 2000.  It’s more than three times the fine for failing to return excess campaign contributions issued to the campaign committee for House Speaker John Boehner earlier this year.

Second thought: it’s a minor miracle this happened at all.  The FEC has been mired in partisan gridlock for a long time now.  As FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel told the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, “The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim.”  FEC fines are at record lows.  If the FEC was able to agree on this enforcement action, that says something about how serious it was.

Third thought: repay $355,000?  How?   According to the *ahem* latest FEC report, Guinta’s campaign only has $312,432 cash on hand.  Which – I’m just guessing here – probably means the campaign is going to have to do some fundraising.

Fourth thought: the FEC itself has some real transparency issues.  I spent quite a while trying to find this enforcement agreement on the FEC website – and never found it.  I would have expected that large a fine would have merited a press release, but apparently I was wrong.

Fifth thought: does Guinta’s campaign even care about federal campaign laws?  Earlier this year, news broke that Guinta’s campaign was in trouble with the FEC over 2014 campaign violations.  Put this in context: even while the campaign committee was under FEC investigation, it didn’t pay close attention to the laws.  That’s sort of like running a red light when you know there’s a police car pursuing you for speeding.  Who does that?  And, what does it say about respect for the laws?

———-

A few other random thoughts:

Congratulations to the citizens of Newport!  Yesterday, Newport became the 69th New Hampshire municipality to pass a local resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and limit #MoneyInPolitics.   (See the complete list here.)  Special recognition to Robert Seavey and Robert Naylor for their work on the resolution.

If your town isn’t on that list – and you want it to be – click here for more information about how to pass a local resolution to #GetMoneyOut of politics.

Did you think 2012 was bad?  This presidential election is shaping up to be a real doozy.  In January, The Hill was predicting that the 2016 elections would cost about $5 billion (with a B) – or, about twice what was spent on the 2012 election.  Now they’re guessing it will be $10 billion (with a B).  How high will it go?  Nobody knows.

Worth reading: Why are Corporate Lobbyists the Only Ones Heard?  “Corporations and organizations representing corporations spent $2.6 billion on lobbying last year and labor unions spent $45 million.”  That’s almost a 60-to-one spending ratio.  When it came time to issue regulations to prevent another Wall Street meltdown, “among the lobbyists who had contacted the agencies, 78.2 percent represented financial institutions, 7.9 percent were law firms representing financial institutions, and 7.2 percent were financial trade association. Only 4.1 percent represented public interest and labor groups.”

I’m feeling old this morning.  I’ve been working on #MoneyInPolitics since the 1980s, when we were all concerned about PACs.  That seems positively quaint, in retrospect.

A quick trip down memory lane: 1984 was the first year that any presidential candidate raised the maximum contributions under the public financing system spending limits.  That candidate was Ronald Reagan.   That amount was about $10 million (with an M).  The spending limit was $20.2 million (with an M).

Lessee.  Accounting for inflation, that campaign spending limit that Ronald Reagan agreed to would be equal to about $46 million in today’s dollars.

And yes, that sea change in campaign spending is why “The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful.”

There is some light on the horizon.  People around the country are working toward a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United – and there has been a lot of progress made in a remarkably short time (particularly given the resistance from federal elected officials).

There are a whole lot of groups working on this.

And people are even having fun doing it.  Watch this, from the “1% News Network”:

An organizing pitch: these days, I’m working for the Stamp Stampede — and I hope you will join us in our campaign to help #StampMoneyOut of politics.

The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.  Join the #MoveToAmend!

Meet SHRM – The HR Association Lobbying and Suing To Roll Back Workers Rights

This article was republished with permission from Political Research Associates. The original article can be found here. 


“If it happens that you don’t agree with one of SHRM’s positions, we ask that if you disagree you please refrain from that discussion.” –Kathleen Coulombe, SHRM Senior Associate for Government Relations, speaking to dues-paying SHRM members at its recent legal and legislative conference on how to lobby members of Congress

 


By Mariya Strauss for Political Research Associates

Human Resources doesn’t usually conjure up images of adversarial political activism. Yet contrary to its politically neutral image, the innocuously-named Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM, pronounced “sherm”) campaigns for public policies and mounts legal efforts to block workers’ rights. The group, which claims to have grown from 130,000 members in 2000 to now having 275,000 members globally, purports to represent individual human resources professionals across all industries. And indeed, it produces HR resources such as tip sheets and reports on how to comply with the law, workshops and trainings to earn professional certification, a trade magazine, and statistical analyses about the HR industry and the job market.

But lobbying to change the regulatory climate for business is one of its major unspoken goals.

Back in 2000, union-busting lawyer and then chair of SHRM Michael Lotito (from whom we will hear again later), said “If we had a market penetration—let’s say SHRM had 500,000 members, and 250,000 of them were in grassroots networks—we would be heard not because we shouted, but because we threatened to whisper.”  SHRM has quietly and steadily grown its lobbying operation to include a half-dozen staffers, a nationwide member lobbying network, a major legal and legislative conference, and even a satellite office in Sacramento, whose sole purpose appears to be lobbying at the California statehouse.

Though its stated mission is to “serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management,” SHRM’s legislative agenda is instead aligned with that of big corporations such as McDonalds, and major GOP donors such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. Openly working in concert with dark-money business lobbying groups such as the International Franchise Association, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business, SHRM has been speaking out in the press, filing lawsuits, and pushing state and national bills. These efforts are aimed at blocking the rights of workers to do everything from forming unions, to having guaranteed paid sick days, to getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

UNDERCOVER AT SHRM’S LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE

So how does SHRM speak to its own members about the need to block workers’ rights? I went undercover for Political Research Associates to SHRM’s annual gathering, the Legal and Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. March 22-24 to find out. More than 650 people attended the conference from all 50 states and D.C., each having paid between $1200 and $1500 for the ticket.

“We’re not going to see successful efforts to mandate paid leave at the federal level,” Mike Aitken, SHRM’s Vice President for Government Affairs, told the assembled members at the conference.  Aitken briefly outlined a sophisticated, multi-state strategy for fighting paid leave and higher wages, and not only defunding the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – but suing in court to block its decisions. Aitken also alluded to SHRM’s use of member focus groups and questionnaires to form its policy positions. Though we were unable to locate any focus group or questionnaire results regarding policy positions, SHRM did this past week publish the results of a survey of its state legislative directors with questions about how engaged they are with SHRM. However, no actual SHRM members we spoke with said they have ever been contacted for their input on actual policy—and Aitken acknowledged that  “our Board is what shapes our policy positions.”1

Mike Aitken, SHRM VP for Government Affairs.

Other presenters at the conference included employer-side labor lawyers and HR consultants, each delivering a message of “we’re not an anti-union organization, but…” with confidence and uniform consistency. Unlike organizations such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the International Franchise Association(IFA) who co-sign and help to push SHRM’s anti-workers’ rights positions (who explicitly exist only to represent business interests), SHRM brings a grassroots base of HR professionals—people who are used to being peacemakers and finding compromises. In their regular professional practice, they are charged with complying with the law, rather than changing it to restrict the rights of employees. But SHRM tells members that it is also their job to pressure members of Congress and federal agencies to change the regulatory regime in favor of the largest employers.

THE CHICKEN LITTLE APPROACH TO “GRASSROOTS” ANTI-WORKER LOBBYING

How is SHRM selling its members the case for blocking employees’ rights, such as the right to earn paid sick leave and the right to choose a union? By telling them the sky is falling.

Lotito is now a shareholder in the employer-side labor law firm Littler Mendelson.  He gave a session at the conference entitled “The NLRB: New Relevance and New Challenges.”  During the session, his voice rising from a conspiratorial whisper to a roar of outrage, sermonizing on how a recent decision from the NLRB’s general counsel to treat McDonald’s franchisees as jointly liable with the headquarters could damage other businesses. He suggested that the joint-liability decision threatens the business-to-business relationships many companies have with their cleaning services, gardeners, and so forth, suggesting that any company could be viewed as somehow liable for the treatment of its subcontractors’ employees.

But the NLRB general counsel’s decision on joint liability narrowly applies only to cases brought by McDonald’s employees against the hamburger chain. As Steven Greenhouse recently reported in TheNew York Times, “’The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple,’ said Micah Wissinger, a lawyer who filed complaints on behalf of several McDonald’s employees in New York. ‘The reality is that McDonald’s requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there’s no doubt who’s really in charge.’”

Lotito, who co-chairs his law firm’s “Workplace Policy” subdivision, also criticized the NLRB’s recent decision to significantly shorten the 25-day window of time between when a union files for an election and when the election takes place. The new rule, which SHRM (echoing a US Chamber of Commerce talking point) dubs the “Ambush elections rule” in its printed policy statements and Powerpoint slides throughout the conference, goes into effect April 14.

Lotito’s old firm, Jackson Lewis, has made a lot of money advising employers on how to run an anti-union campaign during the existing 25 day window. As journalist David Bacon wrote in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle back in 2008:

“Campaign tactics include: In the weeks before these tainted elections, 51 percent of employers threaten to close if the union wins; and 91 percent force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with supervisors. This conduct is effectively unpunishable, making a mockery of free elections. Signing cards is a safer, calmer process that workers control themselves, and workers keep the option of using either the cards or the election – their choice, not their employer’s.”

SHRM is one of a handful of business lobby groups that is suing in federal court to block the rule’s implementation.2

Lotito explained that his firm also provided members of Congress with questions to use in a House Appropriations committee hearing the following day, March 24, on the NLRB’s budget. (You can watch that hearing here. Though we don’t know specifically which questions were provided by Littler, SHRM VP Mike Aitken told those at the conference that SHRM may attempt to fight the NLRB by adding a “rider to defund them through the appropriations process.” )

Having framed SHRM’s participation in the assault on workers’ rights as a matter of defending employers from onerous government regulations, Lotito was ready to unveil the Goliath that he says HR professionals should fear: unions. (He conveniently omitted the fact that unions now only represent just over 6% of the private sector workforce.) Again referring to the McDonald’s joint employer finding, Lotito explicitly named the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as the enemy:

“What I think is going to happen, what I would do if I were the SEIU, is on April 14th I would file 100 petitions in 20 different states against a whole bunch of franchisees alleging that there is a joint employment relationship between those franchisees and McDonald’s. I will win at least 50 percent of those elections and then I will demand… all kinds of information from McDonald’s Corp with respect to the underlying economics because they are the ones who are really controlling the purse strings with respect to the franchisee, so in order to have meaningful collective bargaining in theory I gotta have the franchisor with me, and I would use that as additional attack points. Or if I was really really really really tricky, on April 11th or 12th I’d go to McDonalds and say that on April 14th I’m going to file for elections, and as a result of that I’m going to bring your organization to a standstill. I’ve got an out for you though. I can be your best friend. I can tell everybody how great you are. All you have to do is agree to neutrality and card check…This is all about increasing union market share.”

Despite its studiously politically neutral and “we’re not anti-union” claims, SHRM has entered the public policy ring unmistakably on the side of big business and against workers’ rights. Whether its members accept its characterization of who the enemy is—and how many of them will unquestioningly sally forth to help block workers’ rights in the ongoing state and federal policy battles—remains to be seen.


Mariya Strauss is PRA’s economic justice researcher and a former guest editor for The Public Eye magazine. A Maryland-based freelance writer, her investigative journalism and commentary have been published in The Nation, at the GlobalComment blog, and The Public Eye magazine, among others. You can follow her on Twitter at @mariyastrauss. 


END NOTES

[1] SHRM’s website explains its process for determining policy positions thusly: “SHRM’s Government Affairs team partners with our Research Department to develop survey questions to take the pulse of the membership on what it feels about the issue.  Our Research Department may utilize the full SHRM Survey Report or a shorter Question of the Week format to obtain input from our members. In addition, Government Affairs staff gathers information by convening a series of public policy focus groups at the various SHRM national conferences, regional conferences and chapter meetings.

Once this input is gathered, staff develops a proposed public policy statement that is then subject to review by several SHRM Special Expertise panels who have jurisdiction over the subject area for their comment and review. The proposed public policy statement is then presented to the Board of Directors for its review and approval.”http://www.shrm.org/advocacy/publicpolicystatusreports/federal/pages/default.aspx#sthash.rXJAGapV.dpuf

[2] As economist Ross Eisenbrey noted in the Economic Policy Institute’s blog earlier this month, “The NLRB’s rule does away with an automatic 25-day delay between when employees file an election petition and the election occurs. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate any such delay, but the anti-union lawyers treated it as a God-given right and claimed its elimination was ‘blowing up the election process’ and a denial of employer free speech rights. You’d think they were kidding, but they at least pretended to be serious.” In actual practice, the old rule has given employers enough time to harass, intimidate, and illegally fire workers involved in a unionization campaign, effectively lowering the number of union elections in US workplaces to 1453 in FY 2014– approximately two one-hundredths of a percent of all US workplaces.

Taxpayers Are Paying Profitable Corporations To Create Jobs?

Toyota GT86 – Frontansicht, 17. September 2012, DüsseldorfWhen word first spread that Toyota was moving jobs from California to Texas, some right-wing talking heads were blaming California’s government.

But within a day, the Wall Street Journal had figured it out: it was actually Texas’ government.  Yes, the newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch broke the story: Texas to Pay $10,000 for Each Toyota Job

Texas offered Toyota $40 million to move, part of a Texas Enterprise Fund incentive program run out of the governor’s office. At $10,000 a job, it was one of the largest incentives handed out in the decade-old program and cost more per job created than any other large award. Last year, Texas spent about $6,800 to lure each of 1,700 Chevron Corp. positions to Houston and $5,800 for each of 3,600 Apple Inc. jobs shifted to Austin.

Ok, so… let me see if I can get this straight.

Toyota just had a second year of record profits.

Toyota wasn’t actively considering locating in Texas.  “Toyota narrowed its preferred locations to Denver, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.” before choosing to move to Texas because of the economic incentives.

$10,000 a job.  Courtesy of Texas taxpayers.

Gosh, it’s a good time to be a corporation.

OK, I need to give the Wall Street Journal some credit here: they have been working the “state economic incentives for jobs” beat for a while now.  From their 2013 story about Washington state’s genuflection to Boeing:

Officials from most of the states Boeing invited to participate have publicly expressed interest. Missouri’s governor, Democrat Jay Nixon, on Tuesday is to sign a package of incentives approved last week by the state’s largely Republican legislature. The measure would be worth $150 million annually to Boeing if the company creates at least 2,000 jobs in Missouri.

Ok, by my math: $150 million a year divided by 2,000 jobs equals $75,000 per job per year… which would have been courtesy of Missouri taxpayers.

Back to their story:

Washington’s legislature last month approved sweeteners valued at $8.7 billion over 16 years—which experts say is the largest corporate-incentive package in U.S. history—in an effort to keep the jobs

And, back to my math: $8.7 billion over 16 years is about $544 million a year – or, more than three times what Missouri offered.

If we’re still talking about 2,000 jobs… that’s about $272,000 per job per year, courtesy of Washington state taxpayers.

Wow.

(Boeing, by the way, just distributed $3 billion as dividends and stock buy-backs.)

Yes, this is what has been going on, all across America.  Billions of dollars in government aid to corporations, even as Congress cut the Food Stamp program and rejected an increase in the minimum wage.

It’s a really good time to be a corporation.

Or a CEO.

Or a lobbyist.

(But not such a good time to be a US veteran.  More than a million veterans are minimum-wage workers who won’t see their pay increase.  And another million veterans just had their Food Stamp allotments cut.  Where are our priorities?)

Canterbury Residents Push For Medicaid Expansion In Town Meeting (InZane Times)

Twenty Canterbury residents exchanged perspectives with their three State Representatives at the town’s Meeting House Saturday morning.  Long-time Representative Priscilla Lockwood, and first-termers Howard Moffett and Lorrie Carey fielded questions on topics including unsatisfactory road conditions, tar sands, burdens on municipal government, building codes, GMOs, and the influence of corporations on elections and policy-making.

Responding to a question for Doris Hampton, who organized the session, Rep. Moffett gave a passionate call for the state to expand Medicaid.  “The House is going to support Medicaid expansion as often as it’s given the opportunity to do so,” he said, but explained that the resistance is coming from Republican Senators.

“It’s partisan,” agreed Rep. Lockwood, who made sure to say she was one of six Republican Representatives who voted for it.

canterbury state reps 1-25-14 004
Rep. Howard Moffett

“What i have seen coming out of Republican Senators just doesn’t hold water,” Rep. Moffett said.  Medicaid expansion would bring two and half billion dollars – money we’ve already paid in federal taxes – back to the state “to create jobs and provide health insurance,” he observed.

“It feels like a war on the poor,”  Rep. Moffett said.  No one in the room seemed to disagree.  Rep. Carey threw in an anecdote about a landscaper badly injured on a job across the street from Concord Hospital who was afraid to seek medical attention for fear of getting a bill he’d be unable to pay.

“We can’t let any member of our population think they need to bleed to death because can’t afford care,” she said.

Rep. Moffett hopes pressure can be exerted on Republican Senators – only two are needed to join the unified Democrats and create a majority – in order for the Medicaid proposal to pass.

canterbury state reps 1-25-14 003
Rep. Lorrie Carey

Rep. Carey is a member of the State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee, which tends to get responsibility for non-binding resolutions that if adopted express the sense of the legislators on a wide range of topics.  Last year the House adopted a resolution calling for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and declare that constitutional rights are intended for natural persons, not corporations.  The Senate refused to take it up, but the issue has re-surfaced this year, with two resolutions in Rep. Carey’s committee calling for a Constitutional Convention to be convened on this matter.

“Is there a lot of money being pumped in by the corporations?” she asked.  “The answer is yes,” she responded to her own question.

Despite what the Representatives indicated was strong support for something to be done, none of them felt that passing resolutions makes any difference.  “Resolutions in the end are meaningless,” Rep. Carey said.

The presence of two town Selectmen guaranteed that state-municipal relations was on the agenda.  The Selectmen, Tyson Miller and Bob Steenson, worry the legislature could adopt bills intended to increase transparency but which would have the effect of impairing the ability of volunteer town officers to manage local affairs.  They also were eager for funds for road improvement.  The three State Representatives were supportive of proposals to raise taxes on gasoline, with Rep. Carey pointing out that it hasn’t been hiked since 1991. 

canterbury state reps 1-25-14 006
Rep. Priscilla Lockwood

The Representatives said they read all their email, but that messages which appear to be form letters crafted by advocacy groups tend to be ignored.  So write your legislators, use your own words, and make sure you let them know you’re a constituent.

Rep. Lockwood, a legislative veteran who has also served on the Select Board, said she plans to step down after the current term.

This story was cross posted with permission from InZane Times.

Labor Leaders and Community Allies Launch Immigration Lobbying Blitz

Also This Week: Largest Labor Fly-in To Lobby On Behalf of Workers in D.C.

Washington, D.C. June 11, 2013 – As the Senate immigration reform bill reaches the floor of the Senate, America’s labor movement along with its community partners is ramping up its fight for a reliable roadmap for citizenship for more than 11 million aspiring Americans.

Starting Monday, the AFL-CIO and its affiliates will ramp up all aspects of its national campaign, from working people calling 27 targeted Senate offices to ads online and on television in states like Nevada, Alaska and Arizona. In addition, over 50 leaders and allies from 24 states are flying in to lobby their elected leaders in both the Senate and House on Wednesday, the first full day of Senate debate.  Also AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will join President Obama at the White House Tuesday morning for a press conference in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

“Americans get it – our broken immigration system hurts all working people, immigrant or locally born alike,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Justice and politics are in alignment, and the labor movement is committed to putting its full weight behind the cause of citizenship.”

If Private Prisons Have No Chance In NH Right Now, Why Is CCA Lobbying In NH (Arnie Alpert and InZane Times)

FORM 10-K IS A TREASURE TROVE OF INFORMATION

Maggie Hassan made it pretty clear during her successful campaign for governor that she has no interest in turning over control of New Hampshire’s prisons to for-profit corporations.  The majority of Executive Councilors elected in November feel the same.  While the State is still formally reviewing proposals from four private companies to build and operate its prisons, the chance that a contract for prison operation would be drawn up in the next two years is about as close to zero as it can get.  So why at least two of the companies (CCA and MTC) bothered to invest in lobbying services to defeat HB 443a bill which would ban private prisons in New Hampshire?

For insight into this and other questions, the companies’ Form 10-Ks, filed annually with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), are worth a read.

According to the SEC, “the 10-K offers a detailed picture of a company’s business, the risks it faces, and the operating and financial results for the fiscal year. Company management also discusses its perspective on the business results and what is driving them.”

Unlike the glossy Annual Reports for stockholders, Form 10-K comes without photos and with a more straightforward writing style.  The SEC says, “Laws and regulations prohibit companies from making materially false or misleading statements in their 10-Ks. Likewise, companies are prohibited from omitting material information that is needed to make the disclosure not misleading.”  In other words, they have to tell the truth, including reporting on what the SEC calls “risk factors.”

Efforts to ban private prisons, even in states that don’t have them and aren’t about to get them, are a risk to the business model of private prison companies.

Corrections Corporation of America

The Form 10-K for the Corrections Corporation of America says, “We are the nation’s largest owner of privatized correctional and detention facilities and oneCCA logoof the largest prison operators in the United States behind only the federal government and three states,” but acknowledges,  “As the owner and operator of correctional and detention facilities, we are subject to certain risks and uncertainties associated with, among other things, the corrections and detention industry and pending or threatened litigation in which we are involved.”

Among the risks they face:  “The operation of correctional and detention facilities by private entities has not achieved complete acceptance by either governments or the public.” 

How’s that for understatement? 

In fact, CCA states, “the movement toward privatization of correctional and detention facilities has also encountered resistance from certain groups, such as labor unions and others that believe that correctional and detention facilities should only be operated by governmental agencies.”  

The GEO Group

The GEO Group, the industry’s #2, agrees.  In its Form 10-K, GEO says, “Public resistance to privatization of correctional, detention, mental health and residential GEO Group logofacilities could result in our inability to obtain new contracts or the loss of existing contracts, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.”

“The movement toward privatization of such facilities has encountered resistance from groups, such as labor unions, that believe that correctional, detention, mental health and residential facilities should only be operated by governmental agencies… Increased public resistance to the privatization of correctional, detention, mental health and residential facilities in any of the markets in which we operate, as a result of these or other factors, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations,” GEO adds.  

Immigration reform laws are currently a focus for legislators”

CCA gets pretty specific about the “factors we cannot control” which consitute risks to their business:

“The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Immigration reform laws are currently a focus for legislators and politicians at the federal, state, and local level. Legislation has also been proposed in numerous jurisdictions that could lower minimum sentences for some non-violent crimes and make more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior. Also, sentencing alternatives under consideration could put some offenders on probation with electronic monitoring who would otherwise be incarcerated. Similarly, reductions in crime rates or resources dedicated to prevent and enforce crime could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.”

This interest in a continued and growing supply of prisoners explains the industry’s interest in immigration reform.  CNN reports, “Big tech firms and private prisons represent two industries vigorously lobbying to influence the scope of legislation aimed at overhauling U.S. immigration policy, a political priority in Washington.”

While CCA’s 10-K sates, “Our policy prohibits us from engaging in lobbying or advocacy efforts that would influence enforcement efforts, parole standards, criminal laws, and sentencing policies,” CNN notes “Corrections Corporation of America, which builds detention facilities to house illegal immigrants, [has] contributed heavily to the campaigns of lawmakers who take tough stances on the issue.”

CNN also reports, “Sen. John McCain has changed his views on immigration over the years. For instance, the Arizona Republican first supported and later opposed a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  He is also the fourth-highest recipient of campaign donations from Corrections Corporation of America.”  Maybe it’s just a coincidence.  Maybe not.

If corporate persons can be said to have a corporate conscience and a corporate mind, we can say that private prison companies are morally flawed.  But we shouldn’t discredit their brains.  They know how their bread is buttered, and they are acutely aware that we can cut off the butter by changing immigration laws, reducing sentences, and de-criminalizing offenses like possession of marijuana.  We can take away the whole loaf by banning private prisons, as HB 443 proposes to do in New Hampshire. 

HB 443 states that incarceration is an “inherently governmental” function and cannot be outsourced to for-profit companies like CCA, GEO, and the Management & Training Corporation (MTC).  An amendment approved by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee would allow the Commissioner of Corrections to transfer prisoners to privately operated prisons on a temporary basis in the event of an emergency, such as a fire.  With that amendment and a bi-partisan 13 to 5 “ought to pass as amended” recommendation from the committee, the bill is heading for a vote by the full House this week.  Illinois and New York already have similar laws on their books.  Since passage of HB 443 would have an “adverse effect” on their business model, we can expect the private prison companies to step up lobbying efforts in the Senate if the measure clears the House.

GEO makes another interesting point in its 10-K (page 31 if you want to look it up):  “State budgetary constraints may have a material adverse impact on us,” they say.  This is a curious observation given the fact that the private prison companies insist they save money for taxpayers.  Yet, GEO says, “budgetary constraints in states that are not our current customers could prevent those states from outsourcing correctional, detention or community based service opportunities that we otherwise could have pursued.”  In other words, GEO appears to acknowledge that private prisons aren’t less expensive after all. 

There’s plenty of other data in these reports.  There are lists of their prison facilities.  CCA reports that only 785 of its 17,000 employees are unionized, while GEO says 21% of its workforce is covered by collective bargaining agreements.   Both companies see union organizing as a risk.  Both companies provide extensive details about their creation of Real Estate Investment Trusts.  Enjoy your reading, with awareness that if you are working for immigration reform, reduced incarceration, and the shut-down of the private prison industry, someone in GEO’s and CCA’s corporate offices sees you as an element of their risk profile.

If anyone has the Form 10-K for the Management & Training Corporation, please pass it along. 

Posted at InZane Times.

Who’s counting? Corporate tax breaks are almost twice the Sequester cuts

US CapitolTax lobbyists help businesses reap windfalls: While Congress fights over ways to cut spending and the deficit, generous breaks for corporations pass with little notice

Today’s Boston Globe looks at the $154 billion a year that Congress has approved in special corporate tax breaks.

(Paying attention here? Those corporate tax breaks are worth almost TWICE as much as the infamous “Sequester” budget cuts.)

The Globe also begins to quantify the “return on investment” for corporate lobbying expenses. For instance,

  • Multinational corporations with overseas investments spent about $134.5 million lobbying on various issues. What did they get for their money? An estimated $11.2 billion, just in one tax break (special treatment of certain foreign investment income).
    Approximate return on investment: 8,200%

Here’s how one observer described it: “What we’re doing is running a Soviet-style, five-year industrial plan for those industries that are clever enough in their lobbying to ask all of us to subsidize their business profits.’’

It’s a long read, but worth taking the time. Read the story here. Dig into the graphic here.

Fund the Government?
House GOP protects corporate interests, instead

budget_cutsThe House has passed a bill to keep the federal government from shutting down on March 27th.

According to Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, the bill:

  1. provides $2 billion more than the President requested for non-war Defense funding – as well as an additional “$87.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) for Defense activities related to the Global War on Terror.”  It also includes $521 million more than the President requested for defense technologies research and development.
  2. includes “a provision allowing additional funding to ensure the safe and secure operation of Federal Prisons.”
  3. requires “Immigration and Customs Enforcement to sustain the mandated capacity of 34,000 detention beds.”
  4. extends the current pay freeze for federal employees.

Want to play connect-the-dots?

  1. Corporate profits of defense contractors are almost back to their pre-recession high.  Yet the defense industry “mobilized in a major way to stop the cuts to the Pentagon budget. The main thrust of the offensive has been a huge public relations campaign aimed at convincing Americans that the cuts would devastate defense contractors and the broader economy, causing the loss of about a million jobs.”  Connect the dots?   Chairman Rogers’ bill included defense funding levels that were higher than the President requested.  (For a sampling of how private contractors have wasted tax dollars, read the June 2009 Interim Report to Congress here.)
  2. The private prison industry didn’t actually feel the recession.  Contracting with the federal Bureau of Prisons is a growing business: up by almost 14% between 2010 and 2011.  Now check out the lobbyists: Corrections Corporation of America employed 33 different lobbyists last year.  (Geo Group had only four lobbyists; but one of them used to be Special Assistant for Legislative Affairs for President George W. Bush, so he probably knows a few people.)  Connect the dots?   Chairman Rogers’ bill provides “budget security” for federal prisons.
  3. And then there’s immigration.  Ever notice how – even though seven out of 10 Americans want there to be an easier path to citizenship – that idea hasn’t actually gotten very far in Congress? Ever wonder why Congress set a minimum number of ICE “detention beds”?  Just follow the money.  Private prisons spend $45 million on lobbying and rake in $5.1 billion for immigrant detention.  The industry invests in campaign contributions to key legislators.   Connect the dots?  Last month, sequestration cuts prompted ICE to release low-risk detainees from custody, dropping the number of detainees to less than 31,000.   Chairman Rogers’ bill requires ICE to resume paying for all 34,000 detention beds.  (And BTW, the cost of a detention bed is comparable to many hotel rooms.)
  4. And then there’s the pay freeze for federal workers.  (Are we ever going to have an economy that works for the 99%?)  Here’s the reality that most of us have known our entire working lives: productivity has skyrocketed, while our wages have remained relatively flat.  Growth of real hourly compensation for production/nonsupervisory workers and productivity, 1948–2011. Economic Policy Institute
    Ever since Richard Nixon was President, economic growth has been transformed into corporate profits rather than increased wages.  How does the 1% keep that trend going?  By pitting workers against each other.  By telling us to consider ourselves lucky to even have a job.  By breaking union contracts, cutting benefits and implementing pay freezes.  This move is straight out of the ALEC playbook.  Connect the dots?  Chairman Rogers’ bill extends the federal employee pay freeze and, by maintaining the sequester, mandates unpaid furlough days – guaranteeing that federal workers will be losing ground on wages, just like the rest of us.

Yep, the House GOP still thinks they were elected to protect corporate interests.  Nope, they still don’t care how their budget will affect America’s families.  Bottom line: this budget reflects the priorities of the House GOP.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

(Where can hungry five-year-olds find a good lobbyist?)

Yep, They’re Still Trying to Privatize the Post Office.

Photo Brian Kersey / Getty Images

Yesterday, a Washington, DC “think tank” — originally chartered by Congress — announced it would “conduct an independent study of how the quasi-government agency could cede much of its operation to private companies.”  Read the Washington Post article here.

Trouble is, this isn’t exactly an “independent” review.  The study is being “made possible by a contribution from Pitney Bowes”.

And it’s based on a “White Paper” authored by a group including: a Cato Institute economist; the Deputy Postmaster General under President George W. Bush; and a lobbyist for the Direct Marketing Association, who was hired “to head lobbying efforts aimed at reforming the U.S. Postal Service.”

Golly.  The suspense.  Wonder what this “non-profit think tank” is going to recommend doing to the Postal Service?  [Remember, the Republican Party Platform calls for “Restructuring the U.S. Postal Service for the Twenty-First Century.”]

Their report is due out in March.  Yes, right when the next Congress-created economic crisis is scheduled to hit.

Read more about Grover Norquist’s lobbying to dismantle the Post Office here.

Read about House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan — and his wife — here.

Read all NHLN coverage of the USPS here.

  • Subscribe to the NH Labor News via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 12,410 other subscribers

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement