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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Scarantino/Gessing/RGF/ALEC Corporate Right-Wing Political Machine



I'm usually amused when I discover flagrant hypocrisy of the first order. But, in this case, the matter is too serious to permit me that luxury. When the perpetrators of a generously funded, extremist, partisan-aligned echo machine claim to be anything but -- while wrongly accusing genuinely nonpartisan, good-government  nonprofits of breaking the rules -- what results isn't funny; it's dangerous.

Recently, local blog Clearly New Mexico featured a post on the blatant campaign interventions of Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation (RGF) and Jim Scarantino of New Mexico Watchdog -- which is supported by funding from the Rio Grande Foundation, among others. The article offered up significant evidence -- like Scarantino's speech at a tea party rally -- that the Gessing-Scarantino-RGF cabal is operating as a sort of right-wing hit machine -- targeting Democratic candidates and pushing right-wing, tea party talking points with abandon.

The post contrasts the over-the-line antics of the tea party support brigade with the by-the-rules actions of two nonprofits that were recently targeted for alleged electioneering, only to be vigorously exonerated by two court rulings. The right-wingers have been critical of the two targeted nonprofits, while claiming they, themselves, are pure as the driven snow. Gessing recently wrote that, "... the Rio Grande Foundation has never come close to the lines these organizations have so clearly pushed."

He has some nerve.

Rather unbelievably, Gessing is now chortling about how last week his boy Scarantino was a guest presenter at a meeting of ALEC in San Diego -- and how "The Rio Grande Foundation is quickly becoming recognized as one of the most effective free market public policy organizations in the nation.” Well, in some nefarious circles, anyway.

So Who the Heck Is ALEC?
ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based think tank that was lauded by George Bush for its success in “mainstreaming” the corporate agenda at the state level. Among ALEC’s big corporate funders are Amoco, Chevron, Coors Brewing Company, Shell, Texaco, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Waste Management, Philip Morris Corporation and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

ALEC’s specialty is developing and creating "model" legislation and -- through its national political network lobbies -- to get it passed in state legislatures. To get an indepth picture of what ALEC is really about, check out the Mother Jones article, “Ghostwriting the Law,” as well as “America’s Corporate Trojan Horse in the States,” a detailed report by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Resources Defense Council.

Those two sources are chock-full of facts that reveal the secretive, right-wing, corporate-funded nature of ALEC, strongly contradicting the claim that ALEC is merely a generic "good government" organization out to do good deeds. For instance, in 2002-2003 alone, Exxon gave ALEC a half million dollars to produce pseudo-research to counter the science of global warming. And we all know where that led.

ALEC was founded by one of the godfathers of the American right, Paul Weyrich, who also co-founded the Heritage Foundation and coined the term “Moral Majority” for the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Weyrich’s attitude toward democracy was neatly summed up in his infamous quote of 1980:

"Now many of our Christians have what I call the Goo-Goo syndrome -- Good Government. They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."

AlmightyDollar No wonder Scarantino was invited to speak at the ALEC convention -- he's one of them. Good government my ass. Evidently, Scarantino and his keepers would like nothing more than to depress the vote in New Mexico by filling the airwaves with negativity and dishonest smears. They know voters don't like that kind of thing, and they know when there's low turnout, right-wingers can sometimes win.

What WE know is that ALEC, Scarantino, Gessing, the Rio Grande Foundation and their funders are carrying water for some of the worst forces in American politics today -- the mega-corporations that are bent on trampling the interests of working people and middle-class families. These are the forces bent on defeating anyone or anything that threatens their freedom to pollute, poison, steal or dominate legislative bodies and Congress with big money and powerful lobbyists. 

An ALEC Blast From the Past
Here in New Mexico, we got a first-hand experience on how ALEC operates.

In 2007, big industry groups were pressuring the NM state legislature to pass HB 685, the so-called “Administrative Accountability Act,” a far-reaching attack on workplace and environmental regulations in New Mexico. Sponsored by State Representative Dan Silva (whom you may recall was defeated in a Dem primary by reform Democrat Eleanor Chavez), HB 685 posed serious threats to workplace safety and to our air and water quality.

The groups that were pushing the legislation were the usual suspects: Association of Commerce and Industry, Homebuilders’ Association, Dairy Producers of NM, NM Farm Bureau, NM Mining Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of NM. Those industry groups touted HB 685 as “regulatory justice.” In truth, it was environmental in-justice to our communities -- a real "Polluter’s Bill of Rights." Yes, you guessed it. Silva's bill was the work of none other than ALEC. It was developed by ALEC as a piece of "model legislation" touted by the group.

Fortunately, environmental and community groups were on alert. They generated hundreds of calls and letters to legislators and succeeded in stopping HB 685. This was one time when the corporate oligarchy didn’t get its way. 

The Attack This Time
Of course, back then, the stealth GOP/right-wing Scarantino-Gessing-RGF-ALEC juggernaut was a mere twinkle in the eye of "conservative" extemists like Paul Weyrich. This election cycle, however, their anti-democratic, anti-Democrat, anti-environment, pro-corporate echo chamber is even better organized and cooking with gas -- and oil. And all the other industries and financial interests that don't want to deal with common-sense regulations, public scrutiny, economic fairness or -- perhaps most threatening -- the FACTS on any given issue. 

This year the pseudo-good-government coalition is prepared to go all out to prevent Democrats from winning at the ballot box in November, while pretending to be nonpartisan keepers of The Ethics. Do you believe that mega-corporate interests are dedicated to good government, ethics, working families, education, equality, economic justice or protecting the environment? Me neither. Make sure your friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members know who's supporting the right-wing Republican media blitz this year -- and why.

It's high time for the Scarantino-Gessing-RGF-ALEC-corporate cabal, and others like them, to get called out on who they really are, where their loyalties lie and what their goals actually are -- in no uncertain terms. Our democratic form of government may just depend on it.

And, remember, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck .... (Where have I heard that before?)

August 10, 2010 at 05:39 PM in 2010 General Election, Corporatism, Ethics & Campaign Reform, NM Legislature 2007, Regulation, Republican Party, Right Wing | Permalink


These guys are dirty rats yet the media and others stick up for them. Thanks for getting the truth out.

Posted by: Sean | Aug 10, 2010 5:55:37 PM

Wow, Barb...let 'er rip! Thanks for exposing this ugliness. Clearly they have crossed the line.

Posted by: trina dee | Aug 10, 2010 6:57:16 PM

This just in -

"In one of the latest "blog posts" from Scarantino's site, he just reprinted a press release from Republican congressional candidate Steve Pearce (link). No other reporting, no other context. Unless you count, "This just in from the Pearce for Congress Campaign" as context."

"And remember, New Mexico Watchdog is run by the Rio Grande Foundation -- a nonprofit that must be nonpartisan. I'm not sure, but just reprinting a partisan press release and saying it is a "blog post" with no other context doesn't just blur the line between reporting and partisan campaigning -- it erases it."


Posted by: Watch God | Aug 10, 2010 10:41:22 PM

Scary-tino went after Martin Heinrich last election claiming he was an eco terrorist and now this. He hates Democrats and he lies to attack them. He lies about what his sleazy website does and his "reporting" is full of holes and exaggerations. Gessing is no better and the face he chose Scary-tino to be his boy tells us what he is all about. They are scam artists and snakes.

Posted by: cpa | Aug 11, 2010 8:42:33 AM

Why are they getting away with this? Why is Scarantino still on NM In Focus? Why is Gessing interviewed like he's a neutral party? What is wrong with this picture?

Posted by: Inquiring Mind | Aug 11, 2010 10:32:17 AM

"the media" when you study the ownership and funding, is going to be sympathetic to business promoters and Republicans. For this reason KNME and the other media outlets are more likely to very subtly shading whatever they put across.

The Democratic Party has not been able to make use of extra party "think tanks" and other organizations for a variety of reasons.

Having watched this phenomenon develop in Texas, I would say there is a prospect that NM is being targeted as "ripe for takeover" and it would not be prudent at all to take it for granted that the current status quo is as permanent as desert bedrock.

Posted by: Stuart Heady | Aug 11, 2010 7:08:42 PM