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Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with "The End of Nature" in 1989, which is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. The group he founded, 350.org, has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. The Boston Globe said in 2010 that he was "probably the country’s most important environmentalist."
Alexis Tsipras, a member of the Hellenic parliament, president of the Synaspismos political party since 2008, head of the SYRIZA parliamentary group since 2009, and leader of the Opposition since June 2012. SYRIZA currently leads in Greek opinion polls. Listen to the audio here.
Between The Lines' Executive Producer Scott Harris hosts a live,
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"Rand Paul: Making a Point," by Reginald Johnson, March 8, 2013
"The Bipartisan Gift: Budget Cuts," by Reginald Johnson, March 2, 2013
"Fighting for Gun Control," by Reginald Johnson, Feb. 18, 2013
"Tyranny of the Minority," by Reginald Johnson, Jan. 28, 2013
"Is President Obama About to Betray Those Who Re-elected Him Less than 2 Months Ago?" by Scott Harris, Dec. 21, 2012
"Will the Slaughter of the Innocents in Newtown Lead to Gun Law Reform in U.S.?" by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo, Dec. 16, 2012
"My Friend in Sandy Hook," by Doug Moss, posted by Scott Harris, Dec. 16, 2012
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Posted May 16, 2012
Interview with Bob Edgar, former six-term congressional representative who now serves as president and CEO of Common Cause, conducted by Scott Harris
The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, has come under scrutiny in recent months for its under-the-radar campaign to pass a variety of laws supported by its corporate membership in state legislatures across the U.S. One of ALEC’s signature efforts was their success in 2011 in eliminating public sector labor unions’ collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. In the aftermath of the Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, ALEC’s promotion of permissive Stand Your Ground gun laws has been the subject of national media coverage.
Widespread criticism of ALEC for its advocacy of relaxed gun laws, as well as discriminatory voter ID legislation, harsher criminal penalties for juveniles, privatization of education and severe anti-immigration measures has taken its toll. The negative publicity has caused prominent corporate members such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft and McDonald's to resign – and the group to disband its Elections and Public Safety Task Force.
Now Common Cause, one of a national coalition of groups working to shine a spotlight on the corporate front organization’s stealthy activities, has made a formal complaint to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Common Cause charges that ALEC is violating federal laws by posing as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charity, when in actuality ALEC is spending millions of dollars lobbying for legislation that benefits its corporate membership. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, a former six-term Pennsylvania congressman, who discusses his group’s demand of the IRS to cancel ALEC’s not-for-profit tax status, collect years of unpaid taxes and “impose necessary penalties.”
BOB EDGAR: About a year ago, we were given about 4,000 documents that were internal documents that the American Legislative Exchange Council had distributed over the course of many years. And what startled us in reviewing those documents was that ALEC files with the IRS as a charity. That means when a large corporation gives a large grant to this organization, they're actually getting tax relief for contributing to a charity when more than 60 percent of what they do is hard-core lobbying.
I've spent 12 years as a member of Congress, was elected as one of the Watergate babies with Chris Dodd and Toby Moffett in 1974. I've seen lobbying up close and personal over those 12 years of service. I know what lobbying looks like, what it acts like, and what these corporations were doing were sneaking into resort centers a couple times a year, sitting side-by-side with state legislators, mostly conservative, some Democrats, mostly Republican. And they were putting forth legislation to help their bottom line. For example, the profit-making prison industry that made for-profit prisons across the country. They got involved in ALEC in order to proliferate the immigration laws so that they could fill some of their prisons that were actually over-billed and empty at times. The for-profit educational industry also was pushing their legislation. Where Common Cause got concerned was there were an awful lot of efforts to push back and suppress the vote, particularly of senior citizens and persons of color and poor people. So as we analyzed those documents, we decided to call out ALEC as what it is, a lobbying organization committing tax fraud.
And on July 14 of last year, we gently sent a 16-page letter to the IRS. We heard nothing from the IRS. So we discovered that there is a whistle-blower law passed by Congress in 2006. We used that particular provision and filed a very formal IRS whistle-blower complaint with the 4,000 documents. We hired a pro bono legal team from San Francisco. They believe that the documents we provided and the evidence that we've shared is some of the strongest whistl-blower evidence that they've seen. They clearly believe that our arguments are accurate. And we believe that some of the reasons that large corporations like Coca-Cola and Pepsi and Kraft and Johnson and Johnson and some other corporations have fled ALEC. Because they know that if they stick with ALEC, if they stick with this organization after the IRS finds them in noncompliance with the tax code, they'll be subject to penalties and fines for actually doing lobbying work through an organization that claims zero lobbying, yet is filing as a charity under the tax code.
BETWEEN THE LINES: What are your demands from the IRS? What would you like the IRS to do in terms of dealing with ALEC and what you believe to be a fraudulent tax status they've taken out?
BOB EDGAR: We'd like the IRS to call out the fraud that's involved, to impose penalties and fines on ALEC, to force the organization to reorganize itself under clear provisions and exclude corporations from getting any tax deduction for charitable contribution through ALEC. The American taxpayer has been hurt over the last 30 years as corporations have found all kinds of ways to put money into politics and to corrupt the system and we hope the IRS will straighten it out. And if there are large fines and penalties, we want those dollars to go back to the general Treasury and reimburse the government for the fraudulent tax provision that has been perpetrated on the American public over the last few years.
Visit Common Cause at CommonCause.org.