Category Archives: Politics

Utility rates and the political environment

Source: Bryan A. Mantz and Robert J. Ori, Journal AWWA, Vol. 103 No. 8, August 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
For publicly owned water and wastewater systems, there is never a right time to request an increase in utility rates. This situation is especially true in today’s environment because of the lingering downturn in the economy and amplified political pressure to minimize or limit rate increases. However, the need to raise rates is becoming more critical because of the increasing scarcity of new water resources, more stringent regulations for utility services, and the greater need for capital reinvestment for renewals and replacements. Utility managers should realize that the ability to adjust rates has become more dependent on a multifaceted process as opposed to simply presenting the utility’s rate case at a public meeting. This article presents approaches and strategies that have been successfully used by utility management teams to present the need for rate increases for the long-term benefit of the utility stakeholders.

County Government Choices for Redistributive Services

Source: Jayce L. Farmer, Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 47 No. 1, January 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article seeks to examine factors that influence county government preferences for redistributive policies. An analysis of county services in 2007 reveals that political economic and political institutional influences stimulate redistributive service choices. Not only do these influences promote the provision of redistribution, but they also carry important implications for choices to internalize versus outsource production efforts. State-level influences and the reformed government structure consistently stimulate both the provision and internal production of redistributive services. Moreover, the findings suggest that the politics of redistribution as commonly understood for cities has different implications when applied to the environments of counties.

Our Step-By-Step Guide to Understanding ALEC’s Influence on Your State Laws

Source: Lois Beckett, ProPublica, August 1, 2011

For decades, a discreet nonprofit has brought together state legislators and corporate representatives to produce business-friendly “model” legislation. These “model” bills form the basis of hundreds of pieces of legislation each year, and they often end up as laws. As media scrutiny of the nonprofit–the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC–has grown, we’ve built both a guide and a searchable database so you can see for yourself how ALEC’s model bills make their way to statehouses.

Hiding Behind the Tax Code, the Dark Election of 2010 and Why Tax-Exempt Entities Should Be Subject to Robust Federal Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws

Source: Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Nexus Chapman’s Journal of Law and Public Policy, 2011

From the abstract:
If the past is prologue, we should anticipate a marked increase in the use of non-profits to mask for-profit money in politics. History shows that for-profit corporations spend through non-profits to enjoy their anonymity while spending without accountability from shareholders or customers. And Citizens United may only expand this corporate habit of spending through intermediaries. If for-profit corporations are purposefully using non-profits to hide the true source of their funds, then it is possible that the degree of disclosure required of non-profits in the future may have an impact on whether for-profits give money to ideological and politically active non-profits.

The Bias of Uninformed Voters

Source: Anthony Fowler, Michele Margolis, MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-12

From the abstract:
Survey researchers and political pundits bemoan the lack of political information within the American electorate. Not only do Americans fail to meet the democratic ideals of an informed electorate, but this lack of knowledge also has political consequences. An empirical analysis of survey data finds that informed voters are more likely to vote for Republican candidates; however, these correlational findings may be plagued by reverse causation and omitted variable bias. We present a model of an election with uninformed voters and experimentally test the effect of political information. Our results suggest that the lack of information in the American electorate typically biases election results toward the Republican Party. When uninformed citizens receive political information, they systematically shift away from the Republican Party.

U.S. Trade Unionism under Globalization: The Death of Voluntarism and the Turn to Politics?

Source: Victor G. Devinatz, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 62 no. 1, Spring 2011
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Because of this significant decrease in private sector union density, in “Competition in the Global Workplace: The Role of Law in Economic Markets: Trade Unions Under Globalization: The Demise of Voluntarism?” distinguished labor law scholar Samuel Estreicher argues that since unions have been unable to achieve their goals through collective bargaining over the last few decades, they have increasingly turned to politics to attain these desired objectives.

ALEC: American Legislative Exchange Council – The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in State Legislatures

Source: People For the American Way Foundation, 2011

When state legislators across the nation introduce similar or identical bills designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers rights, limit corporate accountability for pollution, or restrict voting by minorities, odds are good that the legislation was not written by a state lawmaker but by corporate lobbyists working through the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder….

… ALEC’s major funders include Exxon Mobil, the Scaife family (Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation), the Coors family (Castle Rock Foundation), Charles Koch (Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation), the Bradley family (The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) and the Olin family (John M. Olin Foundation). These organizations consistently finance right-wing think tanks and political groups.

Members of ALEC’s board represent major corporations such as Altria, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Koch Industries, Kraft, PhRMA, Wal-Mart, Peabody Energy, and State Farm. Such corporations represent just a fraction of ALEC’s approximately three hundred corporate partners. According to the American Association for Justice, over eighty percent of ALEC’s finances come from corporate contributions….

…The Issues ALEC Lobbies For:
– Undercutting Health Care Reform: Pulling out all the stops to weaken the health care reform law.

– Corporate Power and Workers’ Rights: Curbing protections for workers while eliminating checks and regulations on corporations.

– Voter ID and Election LawsBoosting corporate clout by making it harder for young and low-income Americans to exercise their right to vote.

– Tax Policy: Encouraging tax cuts for the rich that exacerbate state budget problems.

– Private School Vouchers: Taking aim at public education by bolstering risky, wasteful, and ineffective private school voucher programs.

– Obstructing Environmental Protection: Using energy industry dollars to fight climate change policies and regulations on polluters.

Promises, Promises: Assessing the Obama Administration’s Record on Labor Reform

Source: Anne Marie Lofaso, New Labor Forum, Vol. 20 no. 2, Spring 2011
(subscription required)

The 2008 election cemented a Democratic congressional majority. Having helped elect Obama, labor had high expectations for the administration and hoped the new president (and Congress) would protect working-class Americans’ interests. It seemed a perfect opportunity to advance a progressive agenda, including strengthening participatory workplace democracy and raising the floor of social and economic rights for workers. This essay provides an overview of what was accomplished, what was not, and where the hope still lies.