Transcript: Thom Hartmann & State Represenative Mark Pocan: ALEC exposed in New Orleans. 5 August '11
Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you. The second hour of our program. And Mark Pocan, state representative Mark Pocan is on the line with us. He is the, he represents the 78th district of the Great State of Wisconsin, a democrat, and he is deep undercover at the ALEC conference in New Orleans. State Representative Pocan, welcome to the program.
Mark Pocan: Thank you Thom, glad to be here.
Thom Hartmann: Am I pronouncing your name right?
Mark Pocan: Yes.
Thom Hartmann: Okay great. You’re also an English teacher and a board member of the Wisconsin Educational Association Council, which is the teacher’s union, good on you for that. And, oh I’m sorry, no that’s our next guest.
Mark Pocan: Nope.
Thom Hartmann: Haha this is twice in a row I’m missing all my, I got stuff jammed together here. Okay, you’re down in New Orleans, what’s going on there?
Mark Pocan: Well it’s a convention for the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is a giant conservative think tank, basically a corporate think tank, that puts together, literally writes legislation for legislators, tells them how to get it passed, literally is like dating service, setting up corporate lobbyists and state legislators and the culmination is the passing of special interest legislation. And I’m here just to kind of find out what’s up and what they’re planning for the next legislative session.
Thom Hartmann: I was reading your blog and your notes, you know, “What I did on my Summer Vacation from ALEC Watch," or MarkPocanWI.blogspot.com. And you were talking about a phone call you overheard as soon as you arrived in the airport in New Orleans?
Mark Pocan: It was amazing. Literally I get, land in New Orleans, I get to the baggage carousel and I hear this woman behind me talking on the phone and she’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m at the American Legislative Exchange Council Meeting, you know we write legislation and people pass our ideas, it’s the free market!’ And that summed it up right there.
Thom Hartmann: The free market! You too can buy a legislator! Now, you are a state legislator. And I’m wondering, has ALEC ever approached you and said we’d like you to join, we’d like you to come to these meetings, we’d like you to hang out in the fancy resorts and go to the, I understand there were five major parties last night where the booze and the cigars and the campaign contributions were flowing generously. Have they ever invited you?
Mark Pocan: Well you know, it’s funny. No. I mean I come on my own, I’ve come twice now, to write articles for the Progressive magazine and that’s what I’m doing this time. But what’s really funny is, you know, all these parties, I never got any invites for. They’re very careful how they do these fancy receptions at night. But I heard about the cigar one. So I went and attended it. And once I got in I was asked to leave by the ALEC staff so I…
Thom Hartmann: You’re kidding!
Mark Pocan: No, absolutely.
Thom Hartmann: But you’re a state legislator, you’re the guy that they’re trying, and this was the one put on by a tobacco company, right, by RJR?
Mark Pocan: Yes. I’m paying dues, I actually was invited, the lobbyist from Wisconsin was there, told me how glad he was to see me, I went to look for him to get clearance to be there, and finally I had an unlit cigar, I just put it into the guy’s name badge holder around his neck and I said I would leave but yeah they are certainly not a bipartisan open organization they claim they are.
Thom Hartmann: So you paid the hundred buck annual fee, it’s 100 thousand for a corporation, but it’s a hundred dollars for a legislator. You paid the hundred dollar fee, you’re actually a member now of ALEC.
Mark Pocan: Yep.
Thom Hartmann: And they threw you out. Because they figured out that you weren’t one of the ones who was there to be bought off.
Mark Pocan: And they’ve been doing that with a number of the groups that are here to. I mean there is one young guy from the center for, I’m sorry, the media, I am forgetting the name of the group. But anyway he’s been kicked out every single time he comes up to the foyer and they know who he is.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. We had Lee Fong on the TV show last night from the Center for American Progress, and he, not only did he get kicked out yesterday but he got roughed up to the point that he’s got you know wound son his hands and wrist.
Mark Pocan: yeah I ran into him actually as I was, just after I got kicked out of the party. I ran into him and I saw his hand and then the other guy got even, he was bleeding, the other person with him, so.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah so these guys are playing hardball in keeping the press out. I knew that, but I didn’t realize that, I mean, as a legislator, you are a state representative, you are their target audience and you paid your hundred dollars to be there and they’re throwing you out. That just blows my mind. Like only for sale state representatives and state senators are allowed. It just blows my mind. I mean, so, just in the five minutes we have left here, give our listeners and viewers a quick capsule summary of who ALEC is, and what they’re all about. This was started by the way by Paul Weyrich, I’ve played the clip a million times on this show where he says, you know, we don’t, “our leverage goes up as the voting populous goes down. I don’t want everybody to vote." That’s a verbatim quote from Paul Weyrich. He was the original founder of this back in the ‘70s. But now it was revived in the late ‘90s I guess by the Koch brothers and nearly out of bankruptcy and now it’s doing what?
Mark Pocan: Well what they essentially do, like I said, it’s a dating service for corporate lobbyists and legislators. They get you together, they have you write legislation, they have task force that interestingly are made up of half legislators and half industry lobbyists and you need a vote, a majority group, from each group, for something to advance. So you actually, not only do they write the legislation, but then they vote on the legislation.
Thom Hartmann: The corporations?
Mark Pocan: Yes. For it to actually move forward.
Thom Hartmann: Amazing. You know…. Go ahead.
Mark Pocan: And so, I mean in fact I was in a task force on tax policy and the legislative members voted to make a bill a little better and the corporations voted against it therefore the amendment didn’t pass, because they were actually able to veto something to make it less onerous.
Thom Hartmann: To what extent, you are a Wisconsin state legislator. To what extent, what, how much of the legislation that you’re seeing introduced into the state house in Wisconsin is coming out of ALEC, in terms of the really big stuff. I’m not talking about the you know, let’s rename the school or let’s argue about the state flower. But the really big stuff.
Mark Pocan: Right. The vast majority. All the attacks on collective bargaining rights, all the changes to pension law, all of the cuts that we’ve seen in education and the ‘reforms,’ and I say that with my fingers flapping, in education. All of these are parts and parcel of workshops and task force that I’ve been through. So definitely seeing the real effect of those things, and even more important is, you know, they’re already telling us that they’re changing the names of things that people started to catch on to, like Taber, and now they’re calling them the Pension Protection Act and things like that to try to pass off the same old ideas and they even said, these don’t work in blue states so we had to change the names.
Thom Hartmann: Wow. Now, you know, in 1932, ’33, I forget which year it was, maybe even ’34, it was around that time. Benito Mussolini, in Italy, famously dissolved the elected parliament and said we’re going to try something new and so in every legislative district in Italy, instead of the people electing a representative, the largest corporation in that district chose a representative to sit in the parliament. And he even changed the name of the parliament to the Camera dei Fasci e delle Coporazioni, the Chamber of Fascist Corporations. And he gave a name to this, it was called fascism, and he said, and this is in the Italian encyclopedia, actually Giovanni Gentile wrote it, but it was signed Mussolini, but he, you know, he ghost-wrote it for Mussolini. He said, you know, Corporatism, Fascism, should more correctly be called Corporatism, for it’s the merger of state and corporate interests. How is this different?
Mark Pocan: Not much at all. In fact at the last workshop they literally referred to the legislators as the football team and the corporate lobbyists making presentations were our coaches. And they used, that was their words and explaining. So we’re definitely being told that if you’re not part of a corporation you’re being told by them what to do and it’s very clear and evident from everything I’ve seen.
Thom Hartmann: How many legislators are there and what percentage of them are from each party?
Mark Pocan: There’s about 2,000 people overall here, I would guess a third to a half are legislators, not a lot of diversity. I would guess a handful of democrats, mostly republicans, and that’s bee pretty much my past experience too with the organization.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. And, amazing. And now this is starting to see some light of day, does that seem to be slowing them down or are they coming up with strategies to get around it? We have about a half a minute left here, sir.
Mark Pocan: Literally I am walking around because I keep having staff go around on the hallways trying to find people doing something. So it’s been difficult as I’ve had the interview I’ve tried not to stand in one spot.
Thom Hartmann: Oh really.
Mark Pocan: It certainly is not a welcoming place.
Thom Hartmann: They are trying to kick you out because even though you’re a member in good standing you’re blowing the whistle on them. State Representative Mark Pocan, representing the 78th district of Wisconsin so ably. Sir, thanks so much for the great work you’re doing.
Mark Pocan: Thank you, Thom.
Thom Hartmann: Great talking with you.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.