February 2012, Week 3


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Fri, 17 Feb 2012 21:58:39 -0500
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ALEC, Koch Brothers and Amelia Island

by Joseph B. Atkins
Submitted to portside by the author

OXFORD, Miss. - I'm having this nightmare, a kind of
weird, modern-day version of the movie I Walked With A

Armies of well-dressed, fresh-faced Republican
legislators, many of them newly elected, march
dutifully off to some remote island, where twin voodoo
kings put them all under a dark spell. As they prepare
to leave, their eyes bulging with voodoo magic, they
swear to do the kings' bidding throughout the
unsuspecting world.

As I open my eyes, I realize to my horror that it's
true! It's not a nightmare. It's really happening!

The legislators are ALEC members, the twin kings are
Charles and David Koch, and the spell was cast on
Amelia Island off the coast of Florida, where the kings
gave the order to push charter schools, vouchers, the
ultimate privatization of schools, prisons, and
anything else standing in the way of the almighty

Like all zombie worlds, this one is full of secrecy and
mystery. What I can tell you is that ALEC, or the
American Legislative Exchange Council, gets 98 percent
of its funding from top corporations like British
Petroleum, State Farm Insurance, Walmart, and, of
course, Koch Industries, one of the nation's largest
private companies with vast holdings that include a
relatively close chlorine-dioxide facility in New
Augusta, Miss.

ALEC develops "model" legislation for the mostly
Republican legislators who are wined and dined at its
indoctrination camps, the most recent of which was a
"K-12 Education Reform Academy" at the Ritz-Carlton in
Amelia Island Feb. 3-4. The press, teachers and
students were excluded from the highly secret meeting.
However, the agenda at all ALEC meetings is clear.

Like the billionaire Koch brothers who've been its most
prominent benefactors, ALEC wants taxpayer dollars
(yes, they like taxpayer dollars) steered from public
schools toward charter schools, school vouchers, and
other measures that ultimately lead to privatization.
An ideal ALEC school would preach the glories of
unregulated capitalism and the evils of government and
particularly labor unions.

ALEC's tentacles reach far. An estimated 43 percent of
Ohio legislators are members. Anti-union measures in
Ohio and Wisconsin have ALEC's fingerprints all over
them. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who recently signed a
"right-to-work" measure into law, wrote the foreword to
ALEC's "Report Card on American Education," a manifesto
that places union-busting over test scores in its
school evaluations.

Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, and Oklahoma are among the
states that have passed specially crafted ALEC
legislation on education issues.

Here in Mississippi, a perfect breeding ground for
ALEC/Koch ideology given its tortured history regarding
public education, a movement is already well underway
to starve the beast of government to make way for a
privatized world.

ALEC members in the Mississippi Legislature include the
following state representatives: Bill Denny, Mark
Formby, Bobby Howell, Sam Mims V, Randall Patterson,
Jessica Upshaw and Tom Weathersby. All are Republican
except Patterson. State senators who are ALEC members
include: Nancy Adams Collins, Joey Fillingane, Dean
Kirby, Will Longwitz, and Melanie Sojourner. All are

Schools and prisons are current top priorities for ALEC
and the Koch brothers. However, their long-term goals
are more encompassing. David Koch once ran for
president under the Libertarian ticket, calling for an
end to Social Security, the minimum wage, gun control,
and the personal and corporate income tax. They despise
government regulation as much as they do labor unions.
Koch Industries in the 1990s had to pay a $30 million
fine because of multiple oil spills.

Is democracy an ultimate target? Voter ID and similar
voter suppression bills are indeed part of their
agenda. The Koch brothers' grandfather, Harry Koch, was
a 19th century big business-boosting newspaper editor
who once called democracy "mobocracy." At the
Koch-funded Cato Institute, one scholar recently wrote
in defense of monopolies.  Fred Koch, father of the
Koch brothers, built refineries for Stalin. The
brothers themselves have had a long business
relationship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.

Benito Mussolini, a successful politician until his
fellow Italians hung him upside down in a public square
in Milan, once said this about fascism: "Fascism should
rightly be called corporatism, as it is the merger of
corporate and government power."

Fascism in a country that fought and won a bloody world
war against it 70 years ago? Now that would be a real


Joseph B. Atkins is a veteran journalist, columnist,
professor of journalism at the University of
Mississippi, and author of Covering for the Bosses:
Labor and the Southern Press (University Press of
Mississippi, 2008). His blog on labor issues in the
South is laborsouth.blogspot.com. He can be reached at
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