Published: Thursday 3 January 2013
“Looking at the logistics and outcome of the Prop 37 campaign in California in 2012 and comparing these to the upcoming I-522 battle in Washington, there are several major differences that will likely prove to be decisive.”

On November 6, in the wake of one of the most expensive and scurrilous smear campaigns in history, six million voters scared the hell out of Monsanto and Big Food Inc. by coming within a razor’s edge of passing the first statewide mandatory labeling law for genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Prop 37, a citizens’ ballot initiative that would have required the mandatory labeling of billions of dollars of genetically engineered (GE) foods and put an end to the routine industry practice of fraudulently marketing GE-tainted foods as “natural” or “all natural,” lost by a narrow margin of 48.6% to 51.4%. Opponents couldn’t claim anything close to a landslide, even though they outspent the pro-labeling campaign almost six to one. 



The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) immediately put a happy face on the narrow victory, repeating its tired old propaganda in a public ...

Published: Sunday 28 October 2012
“Many major corporations, including Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Pepsi and Coke are spending millions fighting the measure, which stands to impact labeling practices across the country.”

On Election Day, California voters will decide on Proposition 37, which would make their state the first in the nation to require the labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The California Department of Public Health would be responsible for labeling everything from baby formula and instant coffee, to granola, canned soups and soy milk. Many major corporations, including Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Pepsi and Coke are spending millions fighting the measure, which stands to impact labeling practices across the country. We host a debate on Prop 37 with two guests: Stacy Malkan, a longtime advocate for environmental health and spokesperson for the "Yes on 37 California Right to Know" campaign; and David Zilberman, professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Center for Sustainable Resource Development.

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We’re at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Yes, we’re on the road in our 100-city tour. Here in the Golden State, a food fight has broken out—that is, a fight over a ballot initiative that would require the ...

Published: Monday 1 October 2012
“According to a report released Monday, ALEC has even made inroads in Democratic-leaning New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie (R) and other New Jersey lawmakers have apparently introduced 22 bills since 2010 based on ALEC model legislation.”

 

In the past year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has lost over 40 member companies because of its role in crafting voter suppression laws, anti-immigration laws like Arizona’s SB 1070, and other conservative causes. Still, the group continues to be popular among lawmakers in Republican-controlled states. According to a report released Monday, ALEC has even made inroads in Democratic-leaning New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie (R) and other New Jersey lawmakers have apparently introduced 22 bills since 2010 based on ALEC model legislation. Christie denied the connection in April, when another report found many similarities between his legislation and ALEC bills. However, records found Christie’s advisers and conservative lawmakers in New Jersey consulted ALEC on key legislation, including:

The New Jersey Jobs Protection Act (S240) and a similar bill (S164), which would require all employers to verify whether their workers are legally qualified to work in the United States. The report said they were “taken nearly word for word from ALEC’s Fair and Legal Employment Act, which is also incorporated in ALEC’s longer and more thorough No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act— the infamous model legislation that was introduced in Arizona … and led to protests across the country and a showdown at the Supreme Court.”

ACR103, which would allow a two-thirds majority in the state Legislature to nullify any federal law or regulation. It’s sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth) and Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris), co-chairman of ALEC’s state chapter. Handlin, who has said she is not an ALEC ...

Published: Saturday 15 September 2012
The New Jersey News reports that the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, lost the membership of  another multi-billion dollar corporation yesterday.

 

With controversial and sometimes shady dealings being taking place between lobbyists and congress, big corporations are starting to pick up on the dangers of being associated with polarized lobbying bodies. The New Jersey News reports that the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, lost the membership of  another multi-billion dollar corporation yesterday:

Global pharmaceutical maker Merck & Co. said today it is

leaving the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council — which drafts model bills that are replicated in state legislatures across the country — because of “budget constraints and policy priorities.”

With $48 billion in revenue in 2011, Merck is among the largest ALEC members. The company is known for making Singulair, the asthma treatment, as well as a range of heart medications and vaccines.

Lobbyists are only as powerful as the special interests on whose behalf they are lobbying. Take away the special interest, and all you’re left with is a group of people whose power amounts to the same as the rest of ours; in order to make your voice heard, you cast a vote. Instead, ALEC has been writing their own legislation and pushing it hard through Congress. When that legislation conflicts with the will of the people, it’s simply bad business for ALEC’s members. The result?

More than three dozen companies have left ALEC this year, including Amazon.com, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Kraft.

This is bad news for ALEC, but good news for anyone looking for some prime real estate within the D.C. city limits–the headquarters for ALEC ...

Published: Wednesday 15 August 2012
“Genetically engineered crops are designed to be resistant to toxic pesticides and herbicides patented by these companies.”

In November, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, a requirement to label genetically engineered foods, a prospect the pesticide and processed food industries are not happy about. According to an analysis of campaign finance reports by Right To Know, an advocacy group promoting the ballot initiative, chemical and processed food companies recently contributed nearly $10 million to “No on 37,” which describes itself as “a coalition of family farmers, grocers, small businesses, and food producers” against food labeling.

Funding from pesticide and seed companies now tops $7 million, with the biggest contributions from Dupont Pioneer, Bayer Crop science and BASF Plant Science. Genetically engineered crops are designed to be resistant to toxic pesticides and herbicides patented by these companies. But the resistant seeds have spurred the growth of “super weeds,” which require even more herbicide. In 2008, GE crop acres required over 26 percent more pounds of herbicides per acre than acres planted to conventional varieties. It’s not just the weeds that are mutating — “super insects” are also starting to become a serious problem. Chemical companies profit enormously from this GE arms race, which gives farmers little choice but to buy bigger, more poisonous batches of pesticides and new strains of seeds engineered to withstand them.

Besides the chemical industry, companies including ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
“Big Food companies like ConAgra, Smucker, Hormel, Kellogg, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo want to block consumer protection legislation.”

[The California Ballot Initiative to label genetically engineered food is] “a serious, long-term threat to the viability of agricultural biotechnology. Defeating the Initiative is GMA’s single highest priority this year.”  -- Pamela Bailey, President of Grocery Manufacturers Association, speech to the American Soybean Association, July 9, 2012

This November, Californians will vote for or against Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. The outcome of that vote will likely determine whether the U.S. will one day join the nearly 50 other countries that allow their citizens to choose between genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered food through the enactment of laws requiring mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The election is three months away, but the battle lines were drawn months ago. ...

Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
“When the economy is bad and unemployment high, working people are supposed to feel grateful that they have jobs at all.”

 

 

How many people feel guilty about taking vacation? In America, quite a few.

When the economy is bad and unemployment high, working people are supposed to feel grateful that they have jobs at all. We’re under pressure to buckle down and skip “luxuries” like sick days, vacation, and even lunch breaks. Those who aren’t feeling guilty might well be frightened. They are concerned that they’ll be perceived as slackers for taking the time off owed to them—and therefore become targets in the next round of “do more with less” downsizing.

Unfortunately, this pressure is hurting the prospects of an economic recovery that would actually benefit ordinary Americans, not just corporate employers. If you believe in full employment, as well as personal happiness, there are good reasons for you to stand up for your summer vacation.

Last weekend, the New York Times had an interesting story about how corporate advertisers have recognized that Americans are being pressured to work more in the lackluster economy. Businesses have responded with ad campaigns “urging workers to commit small acts of so-called rebellion—like taking a vacation, or going on a lunch break.” The story reported:

The woman had had enough. Amid ringing phones and clicking keyboards she climbs up on her desk and shouts through her speakerphone: “I have 47 vacation days. That’s insane.”

 

“Let’s take back our summer!” she yells as she raises a sign over her head with the phrase “Vacation ...

Published: Tuesday 29 May 2012
“The richest individuals and corporations are really good at building up fortunes. They’re even better at building up their job creator myth.”

In his "Gospel of Wealth," Andrew Carnegie argued that average Americans should welcome the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, because the "superior wisdom, experience, and ability" of the rich would ensure benefits for all of us. More recently, Edward Conard, the author of "Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong, said: "As a society, we're not offering our talented few large enough rewards. We're underpaying our 'risk takers.'"

Does wealthy America have a point, that giving them all the money will ensure it's disbursed properly, and that it will create jobs and stimulate small business investment while ultimately benefiting society? Big business CEOs certainly think so, claiming in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that an increase in the capital gains tax would reduce investment "when we need capital formation here in America to create jobs and expand our economy."

They don't cite evidence for their claims, because the evidence proves them wrong. Here are the facts:

1. The Very Rich Don't Like Making Risky Investments

READ FULL POST 14 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 17 May 2012
“Under the ordinance, grocery stores, markets, and other vendors that sell beverages would pay the business license fee and monitor ounces sold per year.”

City council leaders in Richmond voted 5-2 on Tuesday night to put a special soda tax proposal on the November 6 ballot. The soda tax would add a one cent per ounce surcharge to soda and other sugary fruit drinks that contain less than ten percent juice.

 

Under the ordinance, grocery stores, markets, and other vendors that sell beverages would pay the business license fee and monitor ounces sold per year. If residents approve the measure, Richmond would be the first city in the country to tax soda in the fight against obesity.

 

“I would like us to use the tax revenue in programs that prevent childhood obesity, like healthy school gardens and nutrition classes and cooking classes in the schools,” said Richmond City Councilman Jeff Ritterman, who led the push for the tax and is also a doctor. “We’d also like to provide adequate sports fields and teams for our children as well as ...

Published: Wednesday 16 May 2012
As Reuters reports, the food and beverage industry has been relentless in Washington lately, more than doubling their spending in Washington during the past three years, completely outpacing public interest groups looking out for children’s health.

Nearly half of all Americans will be obese by 2030, researchers reported at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Weight of the Nation conference in Washington earlier this month. 42 percent of us are projected to be obese, placing a huge strain on our already compromised health care system. Brian Fung at The Atlantic points out that the healthcare costs of obesity — $550 billion over the next two decades — is more than the U.S. Department of Defense asked for in its fiscal year 2013 budget.

There are a lot of reasons — chemical, psychological, environmental — for why people are obese. But explaining societal obesity means looking at what the food system is providing for us to eat — and how government policies might promote certain foods over others.

“In the political arena, one side is winning the war on child obesity,” a new Reuters report on the food lobby begins. “The side with the fattest wallets.”

That’s entirely true. As Reuters reports, the food and beverage industry has been relentless in Washington lately, more than doubling their spending in Washington during the past three years, completely outpacing public interest groups looking out for children’s health:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, widely regarded as the lead lobbying force for healthier food, spent about $70,000 lobbying last year — roughly what those opposing the stricter guidelines spent every 13 hours, ...

Published: Sunday 22 April 2012
“ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council, is a shady, hyper-partisan, state-based lobbying group that was able to wield power by staying under the radar.”

Some companies are learning that supporting hyper-partisan groups can backfire when their customers find out about it. In recent weeks a number of companies are trying to distance themselves from the partisan, right-wing group ALEC before their brands become as damaged as Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council, is a shady, hyper-partisan, state-based lobbying group that was able to wield power by staying under the radar. Recently the Trayvon Martin shooting case exposed how ALEC helped push through a dangerous "shoot first" law in Florida. Now people are learning that ALEC is also getting state laws passed that limit the voting rights of minorities, limit the power of working people to negotiate for better wages and limit the power of citizens to fight for cleaner environment. So now the big corporations supporting ALEC risk being seen as fighting people's efforts to have a better life, and their brands are at risk.

(Please visit ALEC Exposed for more information. See alsoAtlantic: Exposing ALEC: How Conservative-Backed State Laws Are All Connected)

Komen Foundation's Serious Brand Damage

A few months ago, in a move to please the conservative right, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® foundation pulled funding from Planned Parenthood. How'd that work out for them? Komen’s "brand equity" dropped 21 percent, one of the most dramatic plummets in brand-equity  READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 21 April 2012
The Coca-Cola company made an emergency recipe change in March to remove an ingredient known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MI or 4-MEI) that would have required a cancer warning labeling to be slapped onto the soft drink.

A woman from New Zealand who reportedly drank as much as 2.6 gallons of Coca-Cola per day to fuel her ‘Coke addiction’ has died, and experts are saying that her serious craving for pop was a major contributor. The news could not come at a worse time for Coca-Cola, who has already been hit by both government bodies and consumers alike for their cancer-linked beverage. In fact, the Coca-Cola company made an emergency recipe change in March to remove an ingredient known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MI or 4-MEI) that would have required a cancer warning labeling to be slapped onto the soft drink.

As it was recently removed to avoid the label, this means that Natasha Harris’ Coca-Cola excessive consumption was accompanied by the carcinogenic ingredient. In addition to 4-methylimidazole, Harris also consumed gallons and gallons of a liquid containing aspartamehigh-fructose corn syrup, and 40 grams of sugar per can. When you perform some simple math, you can see that Harris actually consumed around 41 and one half 8-ounce cans of Coca-Cola on her heaviest binge drinking days. Further equations show that, at 39 grams per ...

Published: Saturday 7 April 2012
ALEC is one of the leading proponents of so-called Voter ID legislation that potentially disenfranchises millions of low-income, minority, student and elderly voters in an effort to exclude groups that tend to vote Democratic from the franchise.

Software company Intuit, the makers of programs such as Turbo Tax and Quicken, announced today that they will join Coca-ColaPepsiCo and Kraft as the fourth company to end their partnership with the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council this week.

READ FULL POST 23 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 5 April 2012
“The role of activists in this situation isn’t just to exert pressure, but to educate.”

Score one for the good guys: After being pressured by Color of Change and other progressive groups, Coca-Cola has left ALEC - the cynical corporate coalition that has pushed a bevy of anti-democratic, anti-middle class, and anti-consumer initiatives.

Now that Coke's come around, next up is Walmart. Their response on the ALEC issue was equivocal and unacceptable. And the issue needs to be raised directly and firmly with the other companies that back the organization - a list that includes AT&T, Bayer, Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, Pfizer, and UPS.

Standing Up

This weekend on The Breakdown we interviewed Rashad Robinson, Color of Change's Executive Director, about the Trayvon Martin case and the role of ALEC in "stand your ground" laws like Florida's. He indicated that ALEC's member companies were going to be a leading target of the campaign for greater political and economic justice.

A few days after that interview aired, Color of Change sent an email to its mailing list that read in part:


 

"You and more than 85,000 ColorOfChange members have called on corporations to stop supporting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of its role in voter suppression. We contacted Coca-Cola to make sure they understand that through their membership in ALEC, they are supporting racially-discriminatory voter ID ... They told us they 'recognize the ...
Published: Sunday 11 March 2012
The compound (used for the drinks’ caramel coloring), known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MI or 4-MEI), has been ousted by the Center for Sciences in the Public Interest as a powerful carcinogen.

In a move to avoid being slapped with a cancer warning label, Coca-Cola is making an emergency recipe alteration that involves removing a known carcinogen from the mix. Showing that the company is more interested in preserving sales than actually ridding its products of known cancer-causing substances, the company chose to remove the toxic ingredient to avoid the warning label — not to actively protect the health of the consumer. The compound (used for the drinks’ caramel coloring), known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MI or 4-MEI), has been ousted by the Center for Sciences in the Public Interest as a powerful carcinogen.

In fact, the Coca-Cola company even denied the cancer link, stating that the findings by CSPI and others were simply untrue. Calling the warning label ‘scientifically unfounded’, Coca-Cola says that there is no ...

Published: Wednesday 29 February 2012
“WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the files implicate some of the world’s largest firms in corporate espionage.”

The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun publishing what it says are 5.5 million emails obtained from the servers of Stratfor, a private U.S.-based intelligence-gathering firm known to some as a "shadow CIA" for corporations and government agencies. The emails were reportedly obtained by the hackers group, Anonymous. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the files implicate some of the world’s largest firms in corporate espionage. Firms with ties to Stratfor include Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, and sectors of the U.S. government, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Marine Corps and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Coke asked Stratfor to keep tabs on the protest plans of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the stories based on the material. They will come out in the next coming days and weeks," said Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesperson who has been a key member of the project to release the Stratfor emails. "What we were doing yesterday was introducing the project, the nature of Stratfor and how they operate and their ties."

Transcript:

AMY 

Published: Monday 28 November 2011
“Doting on the financial interests Coca Cola, ConAgra, and Del Monte instead of America’s school kids isn’t going to get the approval rating for Congress recover from an all-time low.”

How small-minded is Congress? How tangled-up in a right-wing ideological knot is it? How subservient to corporate lobbyists is it?

The answers to these three questions are: pizza, tomato paste, and spuds.

 

At a time when doctors and nutritionists are sounding a national alarm about a diabetes epidemic caused by gross obesity, including in children, the Congress of the United States of America, in all its majesty, has killed an effort by the Agriculture Department to make school lunches healthier. Why?

Three reasons:

One, Congress is incapable of meeting America's big needs, so it's rationalizing its existence by messing with the small stuff. Two, the right-wing ideologues in Congress are so batty that they even oppose federal rules to improve our children's health. Three — and most significantly — the French fry lobby, tomato paste lobby, and frozen pizza lobby put big bucks into congressional campaigns, and they pulled the strings of our lawmakers.

So the financial interests of corporate powers — including Coca Cola, ConAgra, and Del Monte — have overridden the interest of ...

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