By Will Vickery
By John Aloysius Farrell, Ben Wieder and Evan Bush
The Center for Media and Democracy is re-posting this article from John Aloysius Farrell, Ben Wieder, and Evan Bush at iWatch News, a project of the Center for Public Integrity, as part of our effort to track Koch Industries and ALEC via our ALECexposed.org project and to expose corporate spin. The original can be found here. For more, see Farrell's April 2011 article "Koch's web of influence" and Cole Goins' August 2011 article "What's it like living near a chemical plant?," both also on iWatch. To find out about chemical plants near you, download the spreadsheet of data gathered from the risk management plans that Koch files with the EPA.
A couple of years ago, when Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia asked me to testify about little-known health insurance industry practices at a hearing of his Senate Commerce Committee, I initially was reluctant. I knew that if I was completely honest, my life would change forever.
What he was asking me to do was to disclose practices that have contributed to the growing number of Americans without insurance, the even faster growing number of us who are underinsured, and the phenomenal increase in insurance industry profits over the years, even as the ranks of those without coverage swelled.
Throughout the winter protests against Governor Scott Walker's labor-bashing agenda, the halls of the Wisconsin Capitol were alive with the sounds of steel drums, cowbells, and daily sing-a-longs. Eventually, a muse would emerge to channel Madison's musical energy into a powerful new protest song.
With lyrics like, "When they put the governor on trial, I will be in the front row" and "...the kids locked in the capital are fighting till the end," Tom Morello's "Union Town" became the de facto anthem for the thousands of protesters fighting the Walker agenda, who heard it almost every morning on local radio stations. On September 5th, the Rage Against the Machine frontman and labor rights advocate, will return to Madison with Tim Mcilrath of Rise Against and Wayne Kramer of Detroit's MC5 as part of their recurring Justice Tour, with all profits from their show benefitting nonprofit media center The Nation Institute.
If NBC's David Gregory had asked just a couple of follow-up questions of Michele Bachmann on Meet the Press on Sunday, August 14, he would have found that her anecdote about how "Obamacare" will lead to economic ruin doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
The Center for Media and Democracy has joined a coalition of environmental, consumer and worker's groups in signing onto a letter of concern about nanotechnology. The comment, drafted by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), supports the plan of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to obtain information about the presence of nanoscale materials in pesticide products.
While on the campaign trail in Iowa, former corporate executive and Republican governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney shot back at hecklers who were challenging his stance that it would be unfair and unwise to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations to reduce the deficit.
"Corporations are people, my friend," Romney said. "Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? People's pockets! Human beings, my friend."
Democrats were quick to pounce.
Through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), corporations pay to bring state legislators to one place, sit them down for a sales pitch on policies that benefit the corporate bottom line, then push "model bills" for legislators to make law in their states. Corporations also vote behind closed doors alongside politicians on this wish-list legislation through ALEC task forces. Notably absent were the real people who would actually be affected by many of those bills and policies.
With legislators concentrated in one city, lobbyists descend on the conference to wine-and-dine elected officials after-hours, a process simplified by legislators' schedules being freed from home and family responsibilities. Multiple Wisconsin lobbyists for Koch Industries, the American Bail Coalition, Competitive Wisconsin, State Farm, Pfizer, and Wal Mart were in New Orleans, as were lobbyists for Milwaukee Charter School Advocates, Alliant Energy, and Johnson & Johnson. Corporations also sponsor invitation-only events like the Reynolds American tobacco company's cigar reception, attended by several Wisconsin legislators including Health & Human Services chair Leah Vukmir.
For the first time in the state's history, Wisconsin recalled two sitting state senators simultaneously. While it was a difficult and historic achievement in two districts that voted for Scott Walker in 2010, it fell short of the three seats needed to flip the Senate from Republican to Democratic control and put the brakes on Governor Scott Walker's radical agenda.
While Walker's collective bargaining bill sparked the recalls, voters were also worried about the state budgetary moves which cut $800 million from local schools while giving out $200 million in tax breaks for big corporations. No jobs plan (other than tax breaks) has been proposed and, contrary to spin from the Governor, joblessness is growing in this state at twice the rate of the federal level.
Dr. Bruce Kinosian still makes house calls, and he's proud of it. In fact, he introduces himself as a physician who goes to see his patients in their homes rather than insisting that they come to see him at his office.
He's convinced that if more doctors did what he does, we could eliminate billions of dollars we currently spend in this country in an often-futile -- and almost always incredibly expensive -- effort to get people well.
Much of that savings, he says, would accrue to the Medicare program, making it unnecessary for Congress to even consider eliminating benefits or raising the eligibility age.
Kinosian, associate professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, is a leading advocate of the Independence at Home (IAH) program, which quietly has been saving the Department of Veteran's Affairs (and taxpayers) lots of money -- and improving the quality of life for thousands of veterans -- for nearly three decades.