Common Cause

Groups File IRS Complaint Alleging ALEC is a Lobbying Vehicle, Not a Charity

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause have filed an 18-page supplemental complaint to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which calls for a termination of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and requests civil and criminal charges be brought against ALEC.

American Legislative Exchange Council Threatens Lawsuit Against Critics Who Point Out ALEC's Climate Denial

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has threatened public interest group Common Cause with a lawsuit for pointing out what the public record has made clear: ALEC denies the scientific consensus on climate change.

As first reported by The Washington Post, ALEC's lawyers Alan Dye and Heidi Abegg wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Common Cause president Miles Rapoport. Dye and Abegg demanded that Common Cause stop calling ALEC a cog in the climate denial machine. 

“We demand that you cease making inaccurate statements regarding ALEC, and immediately remove all false or misleading material from the Common Cause, and related, websites within five business days,” they wrote. “Should you not do so, and/or continue to publish any defamatory statements, we will consider any and all necessary legal action to protect ALEC.”

ALEC critics call the organization a “corporate bill mill.” 

Dye and Abegg also demanded an immediate and public retraction of statements the Common Cause has made about ALEC with regards to climate denial.

ALEC Climate Denial Lawsuit

Image Credit: Common Cause

Further, Dye and Abegg argued that ALEC — contrary to the vast amount of evidence collected by those who research the organization — does not deny climate change.

Coalition Calls On Duke Energy To Dump American Legislative Exchange Council

A coalition of environmental, civil rights and democracy reform groups today called upon Duke Energy to join the 38 other companies that have left the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. In their letter sent to Duke CEO Jim Rogers this morning, the coalition requests that Duke Energy “disassociate and stop funding ALEC immediately.”

“We collectively call upon Duke Energy to drop all financial and staff support to ALEC due not only to their role in blocking clean energy implementation and solutions to global warming, but due to their direct attacks on democracy and our civil rights.”

As Greenpeace's Connor Gibson points out in his blog about the effort,

“Duke Energy has distinguished itself from other polluters with rhetorical commitments to tackling global warming and implementing clean energy, but stops short of meaningful action. By dumping ALEC, Duke would take a step in the right direction toward the potential it has to become a cleaner energy company.”
  

Here is the full-text of the letter to Jim Rogers:

Marcellus Money: Statehouse Bought and Sold by Shale Gas Industry in PA

Consider it official: the Pennsylvania statehouse has been bought and sold by the shale gas industry, confirmed today, yet again, by MarcellusMoney.org

In a press release, Marcellus Money, a project of Common Cause of Pennsylvania and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania laid out the sobering facts about the frackers' stranglehold over the PA state government, writing,

The natural gas industry and related trade groups have now given nearly $8 million to Pennsylvania state candidates and political committees since 2000…Top recipients of industry money given between 2000 and April 2012 were Governor Tom Corbett (R) with $1,813,205.59, Senate President Joseph Scarnati (R-25) with $359,145.72, Rep. Dave Reed (R-62) with $137,532.33, House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Turzai (R-28) with $98,600, and Sen. Don White (R-41) with $94,150.

Furthermore, between 2007-2012, the gas industry spent an astounding $15.7 million on lobbying the PA state legislature.

The overwhelming majority of the campaign cash flowed in the direction of Republican Party politicians between 2010-12. Individual GOP politicians and Political Action Committees (PACs) received $4.5 million from the gas industry during that time frame, while, on the other side of the aisle, Democratic Party politicians and PACs received roughly $650,000

The industry has largely had its way in Pennsylvania and has spent millions to put their friends in the state legislature and the Governor’s mansion,” said James Browning, Regional Director of State Operations for Common Cause, in the press release. “The industry’s focus now is on protecting these investments and maintaining access to key elected officials.”

ALEC Launches Assault on Renewable Energy Industry

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as covered previously by DeSmogBlog, is the “Trojan Horse” behind mandating that climate change denial (“skepticism,” or “balance,” in its words) be taught in K-12 classrooms.

Well, ALEC is at it again, it appears. Facing an IRS complaint filed by Common Cause, one of the leading advocacy groups working to expose the corporate-funded bill mill, ALEC has also launched an assault on renewable energy legislation, according to a well-documented report written by Bloomberg News.

The two developments are worth unpacking.

Common Cause IRS Complaint

The Washington Post reported that on April 23, Common Cause “had filed an IRS complaint accusing ALEC of masquerading as a public charity…while doing widespread lobbying.” 

ALEC is trying to brush aside this complaint, but Common Cause presents a compelling case.

It tells the IRS in its tax returns that it does no lobbying, yet it exists to pass profit-driven legislation in statehouses all over the country that benefits its corporate members,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, in a statement. “ALEC is not entitled to abuse its charitable tax status to lobby for private corporate interests, and stick the bill to the American taxpayer.”

Common Cause wants the IRS to complete a no-holds-barred audit of ALEC’s work and to examine whether it violated IRS laws. 

Fracking Earthquakes Becoming Serious Cause for Concern

For the fracking industry, 2012 is off to a shaky start…literally. On New Year’s Eve 2011, a 4.0 magnitude earthquake was recorded in Ohio, one of the largest fracking-related quakes to date. According to reports, the quake was felt across hundreds of square miles in the state of Ohio, and scientists suspect it is related to hydraulic fracturing wastewater disposal near Youngstown, Ohio.

The New Year’s Eve quake is just the latest in a growing list of fracking-related earthquakes that have made headlines in the last 12 months. From DeSmogBlog’s Year In Dirty Energy: Fracking report:
  

New reports are surfacing that link fracking to earthquakes that occurred in January in Oklahoma. According to a new study by the Oklahoma Geological Survey [PDF], fracking is linked to 50 mini-earthquakes that occurred on January 18, 2011 in Oklahoma.

The occurrence of so-called “induced seismicity” – seismic activity caused by human actions – in conjunction with fluid injection or extraction operations is a well-documented phenomenon. However, induced earthquakes large enough to be felt at the surface have typically been associated with large scale injection or withdrawal of fluids, such as water injection wells, geothermal energy production, and oil and gas production. It was generally thought that the risk of inducing large earthquakes through hydraulic fracturing was very low, because of the comparatively small volumes of fluid injected and relatively short time-frame over which it occurs. As the controversy over hydraulic fracturing has heated up, however, researchers and the public have become increasingly interested in the potential for fracking to cause large earthquakes.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. Studies show that fracking practices in the 1970s had caused similar seismic activity in Oklahoma, according to E&E News.
 

Fracking Ohio's Utica Shale to "Boost Local Economy"? A "Total" Sham

It is a well-known fact that the unconventional gas industry is involved in an inherently toxic business, particularly through hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), which the EPA just confirmed has contaminated groundwater in Wyoming. The documentary film “Gasland,” DeSmogBlog's report “Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens our Water, Health, and Climate,” and numerous other investigations, reports, and scientific studies have echoed the myriad problems with unconventional oil and gas around the globe.

What is less well-known, but arguably equally as important, is who exactly stands to benefit economically from the destruction of our land, air, and water in the gas industry's rush to profit from the fracking bonanza. The U.S oil and gas industry would have us believe that they are principally focused on ushering in American energy independence. But their claims are increasingly suspect as the real motivation of this industry becomes clearer by the day.

A hint: it's not the small “mom and pop,” independent gas companies, but multinational oil and gas corporations. Another hint: it's often not even American multinational oil and gas corporations, but rather, foreign-based multinational oil and gas corporations who stand to gain the most.

France's Total S.A. Enters Ohio's Utica Shale, as well as Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya

On December 7, Bloomberg's Businessweek reported that Total S.A. is positioning itself to acquire 25 percent of Chesapeake Energy’s stake in Ohio's Utica Shale, valued at $2.14 Billion

Total S.A., the largest oil and gas producer in France, is a multinational corporation perhaps most notorious for its involvement in Iraq's “Oil-For-Food” scandal. In 2010, Total S.A. was accused of bribing former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's officials to secure oil supplies. 

To Understand What's Happening with Fracking Decisions in New York, Follow the Money

In a November 25 article titled, “Millions Spent in Albany Fight to Drill for Gas,” The New York Times reported:

Companies that drill for natural gas have spent more than $3.2 million lobbying state government since the beginning of last year, according to a review of public records. The broader natural gas industry has been giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign accounts of lawmakers and the governor…The companies and industry groups have donated more than $430,000 to New York candidates and political parties, including over $106,000 to Mr. Cuomo, since the beginning of last year, according to a coming analysis of campaign finance records by Common Cause.

Those who were wondering the motive behind NY Democratic Governor Anthony Cuomo's decision to lift New York's moratorium on fracking now have a better sense for his enthusiasm: campaign cash.

Back in June, I wrote,

Despite the copiously-documented ecological danger inherent in the unconventional drilling process and in the…gas emissions process, as well as the visible anti-fracking sentiment of the people living in the Marcellus Shale region, Cuomo has decided it's 'go time.' Other than in New York City's watershed, inside a watershed used in the city of Syracuse, in underground water sources deemed important in cities and towns, as well on state lands, spanning from parks and wildlife preserves, 85% of the state's lands are now fair game for fracking, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

It is clear that Cuomo did not have science on the top of his priority list when making his decision to lift the moratorium. 

But as any good reporter knows, possibly one of the most crucial tenets of good jouranlism is to follow the money, which is just what the Times and Common Cause did. 

Exxon and Koch Pay ALEC for Access to State Legislators

Corporations are circumventing lobby laws by purchasing direct access to the nation’s lawmakers, according to a recent Bloomberg investigative report. Through membership fees paid to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington D.C. based policy institute, corporate entities like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries are playing an active role in shaping state legislation.

According to Bloomberg, Koch and Exxon are among energy companies that stand to benefit from a cross-country energy policy that they helped write. Both companies paid a participation fee between $3,000 and $10,000 to sit at a legislative drafting table, among policy authors and elected officials.

ALEC charges membership fees of up to $35,000 and levies additional costs if companies want to join in policy creation sessions. The resulting draft “model legislation” is then adopted by member officials who support its passage into law.

The process amounts to a legal loophole, through which corporations can influence public procedure without registering the activity as lobbying.

Gas Industry Spent Record Amount Of Money Lobbying To End New York Fracking Moratorium

New York is a hot spot to watch in the controversy over  gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking), which the state placed a temporary ban on last year. A new report [PDF] from Common Cause/New York shows the historic levels of money dirty energy companies are spending to promote gas drilling and to overturn New York state’s ban on fracking.

In the state’s last legislative session, more than thirty gas-related bills aiming to create panels, commissions and task forces were proposed in order to investigate a wide range issues ranging from environmental impacts to economics, as well as two fracking moratorium proposals.

Notably, last August, the state Senate voted 48-9 in favour of S8129B which prevents the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from issuing fracking permits until the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) evaluating shale gas drilling has been finalized. The bill easily passed the Assembly 93-43 late November 2010. However, on December 13, 2010, Governor David Paterson vetoed the legislation, instead issuing an Executive Order prohibiting fracking of horizontally drilled wells until about July 1, 2011. In February, the state announced plans to put fracking rules in place by June in order to green-light the controversial practice just as the ban runs out.

In terms of lobbyist spending, the Common Cause/NY report shows that the dirty energy companies and industry front groups fighting against the moratorium on fracking outspend environmental organizations and others supporting the ban by a margin of 4:1.

Pages

Subscribe to Common Cause