Rep. Grijalva Demands Federal Investigation into ALEC's Role in Neo-Sagebrush Rebellion

Cliven Bundy Battle of BunkervilleAmidst a new "Sagebrush Rebellion" ignited by a Nevada rancher and his armed supporters that threatened to turn violent, Congressman Raúl Grijalva has asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to "investigate the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in efforts to pass bills at the state level" that undermine federal authority over state lands and thwart the agency's duties.

ALEC: "In 2014, Expect More States to Press this Issue ... in Order to Gain Back Their Land"

"ALEC's pattern of activity raises serious questions about how changes to land management laws and regulations, especially in the Western United States, are being pushed by ALEC without public disclosure of its role or that of the corporations that fund its legislative agenda," Grijalva wrote in an April 16 letter to the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Interior.

For decades, ALEC has pushed legislation to transfer public lands and national forests to state control -- likely for the purposes of oil, gas, and coal extraction, which would benefit ALEC members like Peabody Energy, Duke Energy, American Electric Power, and others.

For decades, it has pushed "model" legislation like the "Sagebrush Rebellion Act" for states to introduce and adopt to seize control of federal lands. As far back as 1978, ALEC was boasting of its role in helping spur the Sagebrush Rebellion (as well as its "victory" in pushing mandatory minimum sentencing), and included Sagebrush Rebellion legislation in its 1980 "Energy for the Eighties" briefing book, which was developed thanks to "ALEC's fine working relationship with the American Petroleum Institute." 

ALEC has adopted at least nine bills asserting state control over federal lands. In 2013, for example, it adopted a "Resolution Demanding that Congress Convey Title of Federal Public Lands to the States," which argues that "because of the inordinate buildup of fuel in the national forests due to decades of unduly restrictive federal 'preservationist' policies . . . Al Qaeda is actively publishing in their 'Inspire' terrorism magazine of the opportunity to burn down our national forests."

ALEC's public lands legislation has gained momentum in recent years, as documented by Christopher Ketchan at The American Prospect. Last year, the then-director of ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, Todd Wynn, wrote on ALEC's "American Legislator" website: "This movement advocating for the transfer of western public lands began in Utah in 2012. Utah State Representative Ken Ivory introduced and Governor Gary Herbert signed into law HB148— 'Transfer of Public Lands Act'—which has subsequently become ALEC model policy for other state legislators to use as an example." 

"In 2014, expect more states to press this issue both in the East and the West as state legislators are likely to continue to work together through ALEC and other organizations in order to gain back their land," Wynn wrote.

Rep. Grijalva: "The consequences of ALEC's positions are severe and deserving of careful scrutiny"

The issue of federal control of Western lands was thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks after Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who had refused to pay grazing fees for 20 years, risked having his cattle confiscated by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Bundy, who says his ownership rights go back to his 1870 Mormon ancestors and says he believes in a “sovereign state of Nevada” but doesn't "recognize the United States government as even existing," likewise had refused to recognize the authority of the BLM.

As the feds began to round-up Bundy's cattle, hundreds of state's rights protesters and armed militiamen prompted a string of raucous confrontations. Over the weekend, the BLM halted the roundup "because of our serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public," said BLM chief Neil Kornze.

"The consequences of ALEC's positions are severe and deserving of careful scrutiny," Rep. Grijalva wrote in his letter to the Department of the Interior. "They are entirely consistent with the position taken by anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy and his armed supporters," who refuse to recognize federal authority over public lands.

Last year, Bundy spoke before a Nevada legislative committee in support of AB 227, an ALEC-backed bill to transfer federal land to state control.

"The ALEC vision of state sovereignty trumping long-standing federal government efforts to manage public lands has already had tangible effects on Bureau of Land Management and other agency employees' efforts to do their jobs," Grijalva wrote. 

The Arizona Congressman also noted that for years, “Despite actively pressing state lawmakers on a range of issues, ALEC has failed for decades to register as a lobbying organization in states where it has promoted changes to state laws.” ALEC's 501(c)(3) status has been challenged on grounds that it engages in excessive lobbying in IRS complaints filed by Common Cause, CMD, Clergy Voice, and the Voters Legislative Transparency Project; in response, ALEC formed the 501(c)(4) "Jeffersonian Project" to avoid any adverse IRS action. 

Rep. Grijalva asked that the Interior Department "liase with the IRS to determine whether ALEC activities violate federal, state or local lobbying and disclosure regulations."

A Brief History of ALEC's role in pushing Neo-Sagebrush Rebellion Bills 

Since the 1970s, ALEC has taken credit for helping to advance the Sagebrush Rebellion, as CMD has helped document.

In 1995, ALEC corporations and politicians on its task force voted to make its "Sagebrush Rebellion Act" a national “model” to be introduced in states across the country. Its board endorsed that bill.

In 1996, after then-President Bill Clinton designated 1.8 million acres of land as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, ALEC corporations and politicians passed a resolution declaring that Clinton "failed to adequately consider the environmental implications of national monument designation" since "given the vast reserves of clean-burning coal available, it is not environmentally nor economically sound to continue to 'waste' clean-burning coal reserves." Its board approved that resolution.

In 2000, ALEC corporations and politicians voted for a "Resolution on Local Jurisdiction Consent of National Monument Designation" declaring that "the Legislature of the State of _____ . . . denounces the designation of national monuments in the State of ______ without full public participation, consent and approval" of local and state government. ALEC’s board approved that resolution.

In 2005, ALEC corporations and politicians voted for the "Public Lands Policy Coordination Act" and "State Standards for Federal Resource Management Act" -- based off of legislation in Utah -- to create a state-level public lands office. Its board approved that bill as a national model for other states.

In 2010, ALEC corporations and politicians voted to adopt the "Eminent Domain Authority for Federal Lands Act," which asserted a state's right to appropriate federal land -- and which almost certainly would be unconstitutional. ALEC’s board ratified that bill as a national model to be introduced in other states.

In 2011, ALEC corporations and politicians voted for a "Resolution Requesting that the Federal Government Confer and Consult with the States on Management of Public Lands and Energy Resources," declaring that "public lands should be managed to encourage environmentally responsible energy development," and calling "on Congress and the Administration to commit to greater consultation with the states." That resolution was approved by ALEC’s board.

In 2012, ALEC corporations and politicians voted for the "Disposal and Taxation of Public Lands Act," an updated version of the "Sagebrush Rebellion Act" modeled after a Utah law from 2012. A state passing the bill would assert control over federal lands being protected as wilderness preserves, in many cases to allow for resource extraction. That bill was approved by ALEC’s board as part of its national legislative agenda. At least seven states have considered or passed similar legislation.

In 2013, ALEC adopted a "Resolution Demanding that Congress Convey Title of Federal Public Lands to the States." ALEC’s board ratified that as an articulation of its national agenda. One of ALEC's arguments in favor of this resolution, in its own words, was the following:

"Because of the inordinate buildup of fuel in the national forests due to decades of unduly restrictive federal 'preservationist' policies, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security have recently issued criminal activity alerts warning that Al Qaeda is actively publishing in their 'Inspire' terrorism magazine of the opportunity to burn down our national forests — causing billions of dollars in damage and destroying our watersheds for decades — with only a few matches."

In other words, we need to transfer public lands to state control because there are too many trees in national forests, and Al Qaeda might come burn them down.

Photo credit: Reuters

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so, does the federal government pay real estate taxes to Nevada for the land they say they own?

Why Cliven Bundy lost his claim that the grazing land belonged to the state of Nevada and not the federal government. The 2013 order by Judge Lloyd D. George is a summary judgement against Bundy. It briefly touched on the arguments Bundy made in his unsuccessful 1998 case and cited US v. Gardner (1997). " Thus, as the United States has held title to the unappropriated public lands in Nevada since Mexico ceded the land to the United States in 1848, the land is the property of the United States. The United States Constitution provides in the Property Clause that Congress has the power "to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States." U.S. Const. art. IV, § 3, cl. 2. The Supreme Court has consistently recognized the expansiveness of this power, stating that "[t]he power over the public land thus entrusted to Congress is without limitations." Kleppe v. New Mexico et al Moreover, the Supreme Court has noted that Congress "may deal with [its] lands precisely as an ordinary individual may deal with his farming property. It may sell or withhold them from sale." Light v. United States When Congress invited Nevada to join the Union in 1864, it mandated that the Nevada constitutional convention pass an act promising that Nevada would "forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States...." Nevada Statehood Act of March 21, 1864 The state constitutional convention did so. Ordinance of the Nevada Constitution.[7]

Bundy had to have a certain number of cattle in order to keep his water rights. The land he owned didn't support that number of cattle so he grazed them on Federal lands managed by BLM next to his ranch. The Bureau of Land Management is headed by former longtime Senator Harry Reid aide Neil Kornze, who was confirmed by the Senate as BLM director just as federal authorities descended on the cattle ranch outside Mesquite, Nev. Signaling the first day of construction of the Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project, which is about 35 miles from the Bundy homestead in Bunkerville, Nevada, Sen. Reid joined representatives from the Moapa Band of Paiutes, executives from First Solar, Inc. and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for the groundbreaking ceremony on March 21. “First Solar is thrilled to celebrate this important milestone with Sen. Reid and distinguished guests, and honored to work with the Moapa Band of Paiutes on this landmark project,” Jim Hughes, the CEO of First Solar, said at the time. Harry Reid, the highest ranking Democratic Senator, is said to have been busy brokering a $5 Billion dollar deal to secure a solar farm site in Laughlin, Nevada – through his son Rory Reid, a shareholder and attorney at Lionel Sawyer & Collins, heading the law firm’s Gaming and Regulatory Law Department. Former Nevada Gaming Comissioner, now Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, appears to have made a lucrative career out of ‘gaming’ the political system, seemingly for his own personal gain. His role in the siege at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, has only started to unfold, revealing highly questionable connections to the Chinese energy corporation ENN, through its Nevada counterpart ENN Mojave Energy. The land deal was reportedly a steal for Chinese business investors, who were set to receive a sweetheart deal of 87 percent discount for the shadowy land purchase. The desert tortoise is only a justification against development of those who are not politically connected to Reid. Whittemore gave Reid and Reid’s Political Action Committee $45,000. If Cliven Bundy were a Reid financial backer, his fate might well be different, but he is not. Bundy opposes Reid The development of solar farms just like this one is exactly why Sen. Reid was using the BLM, whose director is Reid’s former senior advisor, to push Bundy out of the Gold Butte area his family has worked for over 140 years. Reid has been one of the project’s most prominent advocates, helping recruit the company during a 2011 trip to China and applying his political muscle on behalf of the project.” Chinese magnate Wang Yusuo, with an estimated net worth of $2.2 billion, owns ENN Group. In 2011 Reid ventured to ENN’s headquarters in Langfang, China, to tour the company and then worked to get this enormous company favored by the Chinese Communist government to take on development of a massive solar energy project in southern Nevada that would endeavor to supply California with 30% of its energy needs. Wang spoke at Reid’s Fourth Annual National Clean Energy Summit last year. This cozy little set-up violates all fundamental ethics regarding an elected official’s conflict of interest code, but these days in Washington DC, guilt-free corruption has become the norm, as Senators spend most their quality time lining theirs and their family’s pockets while in office – with the US taxpayer covering all of their ‘business overheads’ As we revealed last Friday in an article that became the #1 news story in the world for 24 hours, the BLM specifically stated that it wanted Bundy and his cattle out of the area as part of the agency’s “regional mitigation strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone. The BLM attempted a cover-up by deleting documents exposing the plan from its web site, but fortunately contributors were able to save them for posterity. ( ) Other news outlets have attempted to whitewash the situation by suggesting that the solar farm development was only limited to the shelved 2012 deal between Sen. Reid and Chinese-owned ENN Energy Group in Laughlin, Nev., but by reading the BLM’s own documents it is quite obvious that this is not the case. "The BLM’s current action builds on the Western Solar Energy Plan, a two-year planning effort conducted on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Energy to expand domestic energy production and spur development of solar energy on public lands in six western states,” the BLM announced in a March 14 press release. “The Western Solar Energy Plan provides a blueprint for utility-scale solar energy permitting in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah by establishing Solar Energy Zones with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development within those Solar Energy Zones, and a process through which to consider additional Solar Energy Zones and solar projects.” In 1998, a defense contractor named Aerojet-General Corp got $15 million for the title of the privately owned land for the Coyote Springs site from the law firm Sen Reid's sons worked at. He also managed to negotiated for the same “rent-free government lease of the tortoise habitat” for his new friends. They were said to have pushed for an “unrestricted use” of the tortoise habitat within the project area. “The law clearly wouldn’t allow a ‘boundary adjustment’ of 10,000 acres,” said Janine Blaeloch of the Western Lands Project, a group that advocates for public lands. “Congress drew the map of the leased lands. Congress would have to change it.” – (LA Times) The suit against BLM and Coyote Springs was upheld by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, who was a District Judge in 2007 prior to defeating Rory Reid in the race for Governor in 2010. Sandoval has seemingly been engineered for a future Vice Presidential slot. Interestingly, he’s also said to be one of the few GOP Governor’s in the United States that is actively implementing Obamacare much to the chagrin of those on the right and those for individual sovereignty on that issue. “The Regional Mitigation Strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone is the first of several pilot plans to be developed by the BLM,” the press release added. In summary, the BLM, acting under Sen. Reid’s corrupt interests, wants Cliven Bundy out of the 600,000 acre Gold Butte area so the agency can use the land for future solar projects and de facto buffer zones surrounding the solar farms and develop the land about an hour east of Las Vegas. This is crony capitalism at its finest!

These so called militia members are nothing more than a gang of delusional paranoid Don Quixote's fighting windmills. I have been watching all of the Youtube videos that are being recorded on site in the ''Sovereign State of Bundystan'', and they have absolutely no idea what they have gotten themselves into. There is not one of them who posses the intelligence or self awareness necessary to achieve anything but self destruction. To begin with, they are fighting against something that only exist in their subjective reality, a straw man of their own making. What are they going to do now? They are fighting among themselves, like children playing a game, making up rules that suit one faction or another as they go. Where do they think they are going to go? The Federal Government knows who every one of them are. I am left wondering how long they will hang around there, when no one is confronting them. Most of them have crossed state lines with weapons to thwart federal officers ability to enforce the law and carry out a federal court order. That will get you 10 years alone, not to mention the long list of other federal crimes they have committed. The Federal Government is being smart about this, they will wait them out, they will not allow them to become martyrs in a firefight. They know these militia members will have to leave the Sovereign State of Bundystan eventually to travel back to their respective states. When they attempt to travel they will all be exposed. They can be arrested quietly, separated from each other on the expanse of the open highway, far away from the Bundystan, and the TV cameras. Subversive agency is left alone to talk a certain amount of shit about armed rebellion over the Federal Government, but when it travels across state lines, and brandishes weapons at Federal Authorities, in order to thwart the execution of a federal court order, or federal law, it can count on going to jail. You play with fire and.....well know the rest. 10 U.S. Code § 333 - Interference with State and Federal law. The President, by using the militia or the armed forces, or both, or by any other means, shall take such measures as he considers necessary to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy, if it—. (1) so hinders the execution of the laws of that State, and of the United States within the State, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or. (2) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws. In any situation covered by clause (1), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution. ‘’The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” “When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” “he who wishes to fight must first count the cost” -Sun Tzu