Lobbying

Abramoff, Released from Prison, Rebrands Himself as Against Corruption

Jack AbramoffFormer Republican lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff, free after serving 43 months in federal prison on corruption charges, will now try and make a living off of his past. Abramoff was a highly  influential Washington, D.C. lobbyist who was found guilty in 2006 of bribing public officials and bilking his clients, the Choctaw Indian tribe of Mississippi, out of millions of dollars. He also overbilled his lobbying clients and pocketed the extra money. Abramoff, now 53 years old, broke and unemployed, has established a promotional website and plans to charge for giving talks about corruption in Washington with titles like "How Lobbysits Shape Your Industry" and "Can Congress be Fixed?" Abramoff is also making the rounds on talk shows like "Hannity," "60 Minutes," "The Early Show" and "Piers Morgan Tonight" in an attempt to rebrand himself as a whistleblower against corruption. He has a Facebook page and game app called "Congressional Jack," and a feature film in the works about his lobbying exploits. Abramoff needs to make money fast, since he must pay back over $40 million to the Indian tribe he was convicted of bilking. To assist his media endeavors, Abramoff hired PR specialist Janet Fallon of the Washington, D.C.-based PR firm PR Options to help organize his "redemption tour" and promote his new book, Capitol Punishment, about Washington politics. Prior to establishing PR Options, Fallon worked as media consultant at Weber Shandwick and for Pat Buchanan's 1992 presidential campaign.

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ALEC Ties Bring Down British Defense Secretary, Threaten Prime Minister David Cameron

British Defense Secretary Liam Fox has stepped down in the midst of an escalating scandal tied to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The ALEC connections have led opposition party leaders and the British press to question whether British Prime Minister David Cameron has been "allowing a secret rightwing agenda to flourish at the heart of the Conservative party."

Gaming American Democracy: A Perfect Storm in Which Republicans Disenfranchise Voters While Giving Corporations Unchecked Powers

One of the most stunning results of the Republicans’ victory sweep in the midterm 2010 elections (which made Ohio Republican Congressman John Boehner Speaker of the House of Representatives, while the Democrats retained control of the Senate) was the GOP’s taking control of 19 state legislatures.

ALEC Tied to British Political Scandal

British Conservative Party defense secretary Liam Fox is in the midst of scandal that has grown deeper as ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are revealed. Pressure has been growing on Fox in recent weeks after having been caught in a lie about unethical dealings with his friend and former flatmate, and more ethical problems arising from the operation of a recently-dissolved, ALEC-connected "charity" Fox founded.

Koch Lobbyist is ALEC State Co-Chair for Wisconsin; Scholarships Raise Ethics Concerns

A lobbyist for Koch Industries and energy interests serves with a lobbyist for Pfizer pharmaceuticals as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate co-chairs in Wisconsin, according to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy at this year's ALEC Annual Meeting. For some, their fundraising for "scholarships" to benefit ALEC legislative members raises issues of legislative ethics.

CMD and The Nation Magazine Win the Sidney Award for Investigative Journalism

The Sidney Hillman Foundation logoThe Sidney Hillman Foundation selected the Center for Media and Democracy and The Nation magazine for its prestigious "Sidney Award" this month.  The award recognizes our investigative journalism exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which the Foundation called "an obscure but powerful conservative group that brings state legislators and corporations together to write laws."

Profit Motive Underlies Outbreak of Immigration Bills

Immigrants for saleJuly 29 marked the one-year anniversary of Arizona's controversial immigration law, a year that has seen similar anti-immigrant bills emerge across the country. Thanks to the release of over 800 pieces of "model legislation" by the Center for Media and Democracy, we can now pinpoint the source of the outbreak to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a bill factory for legislation that benefits the bottom line of its corporate members. While it has been reported that more immigrants behind bars means more income for ALEC member Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), less discussed has been how immigrant detention benefits commercial bail-bond agencies, an industry represented in ALEC through the American Bail Coalition.

Journalist Kicked out of ALEC Conference, Threatened With Arrest

In late July, shortly after the launch of ALECexposed.org, Lousiana State Rep.Noble Ellington, a Republican from the state's 20th district and the national chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council, spoke to NPR about the recent spate of criticism leveled at his organization. When discussing the behind-closed-doors process used to craft ALEC model legislation, Ellington dismissed concerns raised by NPR, assuring interviewer Terry Gross that the public "have an opportunity to talk to their legislators about the legislation -- so I don't see how you can get more transparent than that."

ALEC Model Bills Create Hardship for Average Americans

On Wednesday morning, a group of Americans from across the political spectrum, and the country, held a press conference in New Orleans to highlight the devastating impact of the "model" legislation voted on by corporations through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Lisa Graves moderated the discussionThe event, hosted by People for the American Way and moderated by Center for Media and Democracy Executive Director Lisa Graves, was held directly across the street from ALEC's 38th annual meeting, where corporate lobbyists and state legislators gathered to attend Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindall's PhRMA-sponsored keynote address.

The Hidden Battle of the Corporate TicketMeisters

TicketscalpThe Fans First Coalition, formed in May 2011, appears to be a consumer group formed to oppose scalpers who buy event tickets and then re-sell them to the public at prices greater than face value. What is less apparent is that the Fans First Coalition is and astroturf group created with the help of a Washington, D.C. public relations firm and funded by Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of online ticket seller Ticketmaster. The Fans First Coalition sprang out of a fight between Live Nation and a website called StubHub (a division of EBay) where people can buy and sell event tickets. To defeat ticket re-sellers, Ticketmaster started using a paperless ticketing system in which tickets are issued electronically. Ticket purchasers must present identification to collect their tickets when they arrive at the event venue. To battle Ticketmaster's new paperless ticketing system, StubHub created its own fake grassroots group, the similar-sounding Fan Freedom Project, which, like the Fans First Coalition, was created with the help of a Washington, D.C. public relations firm. The Fan Freedom Project argues that Ticketmaster's restrictive electronic ticketing system infringes on consumers' rights to possess, transfer or resell tickets as they desire. Such fake, grassroots front groups are unusual in the entertainment business, but all too familiar to those involved in politics. Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, which monitors lobbying activity, says "This is a classic -- where you find many so-called grassroots organizations financed by interested industries" to do battle with one another. Miller says, "The campaigns present themselves as ground-up activities, but they are really nothing more than fronts for particular interests."

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