(By Brad Johnson, reposted from ThinkProgress, August 8, 2011)
The fight against global warming pollution requires the investment of everyone, including the world's multinational corporate giants. Many companies have taken official stances on climate pollution, pledging to reduce their greenhouse footprint in order to reduce the threat of a destabilized climate.
However, a number of these same companies are sponsoring toxic, far-right denial of climate science. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) pushes an extremist denier agenda throughout the United States, funded in secret by corporations. ThinkProgress has acquired a list of the sponsors of ALEC's 2011 annual meeting, held last week in New Orleans, Louisiana.
As they sometimes say in the South, it's all about taking care of bid'ness.
But don't tell that to the group of 100 or so protesters, who on Friday afternoon marched on the Marriott hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA), where corporate lobbyists were voting with state lawmakers on "model" legislation at the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) 38th Annual Meeting.
The protest, organized in part by Louisiana State University's Student Labor Action Project, the Defend Ohio Campaign, and activists from across the country, began at the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown NOLA. That same day, members of the local community also gathered to celebrate the conviction of five police officers on charges stemming from the notorious Danziger Bridge case. A federal jury found the officers guilty of civil rights violations in the shootings of unarmed citizens.
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."
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).
The 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.
Three of the biggest health insurers have announced quarterly earnings in the past few days. If Americans were able to eavesdrop on what executives from those firms tell their Wall Street masters every three months, they would have a better understanding of why premiums keep going up while the number of people with medical coverage keeps going down.
It only takes three words, when you get right down to it, to describe the real of those folks: profits over people.
CIGNA and Humana are scheduled to report earnings this week. The three companies that have already spoken -- UnitedHealth, WellPoint and Aetna -- earned a combined $2.51 billion from April through the end of June, more than analysts expected. On a per share basis, their earnings were up more than 17 percent on average compared with the second quarter of 2010.
Pharmaceutical companies are carrying out fake, pseudo-studies on humans as a marketing devices to get doctors familiar with new drugs. In such studies, called "seeding trials," drug companies invite hundreds of doctors to take part in a research study by asking them to recruit patients to serve as subjects. The companies then pay the doctors for every subject they recruit. These "studies" look like clinical trials, but are not designed to contribute to knowledge in any way. Their purpose is solely to make doctors more familiar with the new drugs being "tested," and make doctors more likely to prescribe the drugs in the future. Seeding trials are conducted privately and managed by the pharmaceutical companies' marketing departments, not their research departments. The results of such trials do not appear in medical journals, but in pharmaceutical marketing documents. The drugs in such tests already have FDA approval, but the investigators may be inexperience and untrained, and patients involved in such fake studies have even died. How do these studies avoid scrutiny by ethics boards? Institutional review boards (IRBs), which determine whether human studies are ethically sound, don't pass judgement on whether a study is being carried out simply as a marketing tool or not. Some IRBs are even run as for-profit businesses, and get paid by the same pharmaceutical companies that put on the studies. If a for-profit IRB fails to approve too many studies, the entities funding such studies will just go elsewhere for reviews.
(Editor's note: The Center is deeply grateful for all the research into ALEC politicians underway, especially by Daily KOS bloggers, and we are offering the tips today in light of the many questions people have asked about how to help with this research.) The Center for Media and Democracy recently unveiled a trove of "model" bills voted on behind closed doors by corporations and politicians through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Many of these bills and provisions have been introduced in state houses across the country without any mention of the ALEC connection and have become legally binding. In addition to the analysis of the more than 800 pieces legislation on "ALECexposed," CMD released a list of lawmakers from across the U.S. who serve as ALEC "Chairmen" in each state.
The Murdochs have retained Edelman Public Relations to help them deal with the growing cell phone hacking, corruption and bribery scandals unfolding in Britain. Since hiring Edelman, the Murdochs have apologized to their companys' hacking victims, and Rupert Murdoch used the word "humble" in his appearance before the U.K. Parliament. But the Murdochs also said that they didn't do anything wrong, didn't know that anyone else who worked for their companies was doing anything wrong, and that they bear no responsibility for anything that happened. In his testimony before Parliament, James Murdoch told the Parliament's Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that he was "as surprised as you are" to find out that his family company, News International, paid the legal fees for Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the center of the hacking scandal. In 2007, Mulcaire was convicted of a felony and sentenced to six months in jail for hacking into the phones of royal officials. James also claimed hge was unaware that his company paid the legal fees of Clive Goodman, a News of the World reporter who was sentenced to four months in jail.
The insurance industry made it abundantly clear this week that it is in the driver's seat -- in both Washington and state capitols -- of one of the most important vehicles created by Congress to reform the U.S. health care system.
The Affordable Care Act requires the states to create new marketplaces -- "exchanges" -- where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance. In the 15 months since the law took effect, insurers have lobbied the Obama administration relentlessly to give states the broadest possible latitude in setting up their exchanges. And those insurance companies have been equally relentless at the state level in making sure governors and legislators follow their orders in determining how the exchanges will be operated.