Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Prodigal Son Test

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you." Thank you, Joseph Heller. Catch-22 has always been a favorite of mine.

Just as true is this: "Your mind is working at its best when you're being paranoid. You explore every avenue and possibility of your situation at high speed and with total clarity."  That's Bansky. I would only add that a paranoid mindset under the influence of a couple glasses of red wine heightens my clarity to near brilliance, sharpens my mind like a perfectly cut diamond. Rather, that is what the wine tells me.

Bansky also said "We can't do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime we should all go shopping to console ourselves," which brings us to today's Buttered Toast.

Today the American Legislative Exchange Council began a three day conference to discuss their agenda for 2014. If you don't know, ALEC is a conservative think tank whose gig operates under the auspices of furthering free-market policies while undermining public services... like education. Really, though, they're about maximizing corporate profit, and would like nothing more than the end of and/or privatization of public services... like education. Last April I wrote a piece titled Calling All Kansans!  In that post I discussed the introduction of a bill in the Kansas House which sought to prohibit state funds for any sustainable development. That asinine bill was predictably tossed out, but the fact that it was proposed at all (by an ALEC affiliated representative who chairs the House Energy and Environment Committee) was enough to raise more than one eyebrow about the influence ALEC has on our legislators. ALEC drafts "model legislation," then presses to see it into law.

Because they are "consultants" and don't identify themselves as a lobby, they are not taxed due to their 501(c)(3) charitable status. But make no mistake, ALEC is a lobby. A very powerful lobby. (Interesting side note: ALEC does so much actual lobbying that they've caught the attention of the IRS, and are in the process of setting up a sister organization called the Jeffersonian Project which would be classified 501(c)(4) welfare organization, to protect their money. If that don't beat the band! A group that is dead set on influencing policy that will disenfranchise millions of workers, unravel labor unions, defund public education, eliminate environmental regulations and redirect tax dollars in favor of billionaires and wealthy corporations: a social welfare organization.)

ALEC is Koch funded, and their primary objective is to wrestle power out of the hands of voters by influencing elections at the state level. Once they have their lackeys in place, they act as "consultants" to shape the face of legislation, state by state. Republican lawmakers seem to be the most common recipients of their wise direction. Weird, I know. Current members include Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan, who share matching lettermen jackets with alumni John Boehner and Scott Walker. Actually, I heard Paul Ryan had to borrow Boehner's jacket for the conference today because he mistakenly grabbed the wrong GTL bag when he left the 24 Hour Fitness before his flight. When he got to the hotel and unzipped it, he couldn't find his ALEC jacket, his Percocet or his copy of Atlas Shrugged anywhere. He borrowed Boehner's jacket, but he had to settle for some crappy Xanax from the front desk clerk.

I managed to secure a copy of the agenda for this week's ALEC conference. I didn't have time to make a copy, but today's itinerary went something like:

8:00 - Breakfast banquet with blahbity-blah from a middle-aged, pasty white keynote speaker

11:30 - Head circumference measurement and fittings for hooded cloaks

1:15 - Announcement of the raffle winner who gets to disembowel the virgin at the TGIFridays midnight sacrifice (I heard Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson bought 2,000 tickets. Dude is into the freaky stuff.)

There was also time allotted to introduce The Prodigal Son Project.

Hey, I was just yanking your chains about that stuff. Not the Paul Ryan gym bag stuff, that really happened. But I don't think they really have cloaks* or virgin sacrifices. The Prodigal Son Project, however, is real... and that's really what they're calling it. On the list of Prodigal Sons are the names of dozens of corporations who have suspended contributions to ALEC and in other ways distanced themselves from the organization. (*they probably do have cloaks)

Their reasons may vary, but it appears that ALEC experienced a sharp decline in corporate financial support and private membership following the George Zimmerman trial last year. One of ALEC's legislative models is the stand-your-ground law that got an armed man off the hook for shooting an unarmed teenager. Amid a flurry of public outrage surrounding Trayvon Martin's death, several companies discontinued their support of ALEC. I'm not supposing a definite correlation, maybe times was just tough for Pepsi and McDonald's and Walmart, but since those companies all reported growth in 2012... well...

So the Prodigal Son Project is ALEC's effort to reinstate relationships with the companies who have distanced themselves in the wake of a horrific incident that brought ALEC sponsored legislation, specifically that of gun owners' rights to shoot unarmed kids and Alzheimer's afflicted septuagenarians (if they can prove that they felt a little squeamish before they pulled the trigger) into a national spotlight. Corporations don't want to risk losing the support of our consumer dollars due to their affiliation with an organization that is associated with shady, closed door deals between lobbyists and lawmakers.

They are shrewd and clever and deliberate and cunning and truly harbor abhorrent selfishness, but I sense that they are at a point of weakness. The truth is that ALEC, which experienced a 17% rate of growth in 2011, saw a 3% drop in 2012 and another 9% in 2013. The first bits of sand are shaking out of the mortar, and I think they're pretty freaked out. Why else would they draft a form letter for all the attendees of this week's conference to take home, to fill in the blanks, and to beg for money from corporations who have dropped out? The letter, which asks for support for ALEC's State Reimbursement Fund, asserts that this fund "helps legislators understand the impact that state and national policies have on our businesses." In Marmalade Megspeak: this is the money we use to buy elections. Here's the kicker: they are targeting a group of businesses that you and I have tremendous influence over. Holler, bitchez... we got the dollerz, bitchez! And guess what? I can write a letter, too. And so can you. In fact, I can write a letter, right here, right now, and you can copy and paste that shit into an email and send it to every company on their list. And if we all did that, it would be a straight up kick in Chuck Koch's dentures.

Of course I believe that the best way to fight big business influence on government is by spending our money locally, with small businesses. A mere two days ago, I railed against the corporate takeover of Christmas and announced my boycott. For me, of all people, to encourage communication in the form of a Thank You to big business... well, I realize the perceived hypocrisy therein. I don't really care how I look. My ego is not at stake here.

Further, I'm not asking you to actually go out and spend your dollars with these people, I'm just asking you to tell them that you support their abstinence from corrupting the legislative process.

Here is the list of companies on the Prodigal Son Project list:

Arizona Public Service
American Traffic
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Yum! Brands
Procter and Gamble
Scantron Corporation
Scantron Corporation
Johnson & Johnson
Dell Computers
John Deere
CVS Caremark
Hewlett Packard
Best Buy
Express Scripts/Medco
General Electric
Western Union
Wells Fargo
Bank of America
Bristol Myers Squibb
Brown-Foreman Company
Publix Supermarkets
Conoco Phillips

I was going to compile all their email addresses for you, but most of them have a site you have to visit first and enter your name and email, because they're corporate people and they make everything too complicated. Besides, like I said, I've had some wine, and I don't want to screw it up and give you the address for the wrong pharmaceutical company. That would be embarrassing. I have a reputation for precision. But I wrote a quick note to each of them and it only took me a little over an hour to paste the following statement onto all of their pages:

Thank you for discontinuing your financial support of the American Legislative Exchange Council. It was wise of you to recognize that ALEC was using your donations to influence elections and affect legislation. I agree with you that is a poor business model to contribute to organizations that manipulate the American political process. I will continue to support your business as long as you are not affiliated with ALEC. 

Imagine the weight of these words if we all said them, and especially if we all meant them. Even if you only have time to send a message to one of them. Or maybe one a day? If these companies hear from consumers that we will take our dollars away if they fail the Prodigal Son Test and resume sponsorship of ALEC, I think we can motivate them to keep their distance. I know it's a hassle, but I really think it can work. So tell your friends. Tell everyone. Even your laziest friend. Your laziest friend can send an email.

Now go get em! Then go shopping.

Shop til you Drop -Bansky


  1. Meg-this is excellent as always and I promise I will follow up with each, using your great blurb! Thank you!

  2. I pasted your blurb (thank you!!) into 3 Contact Us pages yesterday and will keep going today.

  3. Thanks for exposing this crap...scum always floats to the top. Oh that all oppressed Americans (the so-called 99%, actually 99.9%) would realize the power of the boycott...