PART ONE: New documents show that Koch Industries had a seat on the controversial "Public Safety and Elections Task Force" of the American Legislative Exchange Council as of at least 2011. (Part two of this special report detailing the extent of the gun agenda over the past two decades is available here.)
ALEC announced it was dropping that task force in the wake of the controversy over the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin and so-called "Stand Your Ground" (SYG) laws. However, the co-leader of that task force, Rep. Jerry Madden (R-TX), revealed ALEC's announcement to be a PR maneuver when he reassured The Christian Post that his task force's work would continue through other ALEC task forces.
Koch Industries has vigorously defended ALEC, and has assailed reporting that noted that the company, led by billionaire brothers Charles and David, is a long-time funder and leader of ALEC and that ALEC has long advanced the NRA agenda through "model" gun bills, including Florida's controversial SYG law that was ratified by ALEC in 2005.
It turns out that Koch was a member of that ALEC task force in recent years, and that it was on the task force when the NRA was the private sector co-chair. Moreover, Koch Industries had not one but two employees who were listed as "members" present for ALEC's "Public Safety and Elections" Task Force at the last annual task force summit.
Koch has said it had no involvement in the SYG law passed in Florida and then ratified by the ALEC criminal justice task force in 2005. The company, however, was a leader of ALEC in 2005, just as today, and its funding helps underwrite ALEC's operations and agenda. The various task forces Koch has served on over the past nearly two decades is not known, but now it has come to light that in at least 2010 and 2011 Koch was a member of ALEC's crime task force.
Two Koch Staffers at the Last ALEC Crime Task Force Summit Meeting
On April 29, 2011, at Cincinnati's Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel, an historic building gilded just before the Great Depression, Jenny Kim and Jessie Rager -- employees of Koch's lobbying arm -- sat as two of the 16 "Private Sector Members" in attendance at the ALEC crime task force's day-long meeting. As such, Koch constituted 1/8th of the private sector members considering model legislation and business that day.
Kim is the Associate General Counsel for "Political Law" at Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC, (KCPS) which employs over three dozen attorneys in Wichita, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. She's worked for Koch for almost four years, following stints at two law firms and in the White House Counsel's Office in President George W. Bush's first term.
She's been the point of contact for Koch's lobby disclosure filings regarding the $2 to $3 million it has spent on other Koch employees directly lobbying Congress each year recently. Koch has lobbied on issues such whether companies should have to disclose their true owners, a permanent tax deferral for certain income from investment in foreign controlled companies, exemptions from the regulations of credit swaps in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, legislation to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, and numerous bills affecting the pollution of Americans' water. Rager is a paralegal for KCPS, but it's not clear if Rager works for Kim or another lawyer.
The Task Force's Recent Focus: Redistricting and Opposing Bans on "Pay to Play"
The first order of business the day Kim and Rager were listed as attending ALEC's crime task force last year was the approval of minutes describing the task force's agenda in DC after the 2010 mid-term elections.
At that meeting in the nation's capitol a few months earlier, Mark Braden of the law firm Baker Hostedler kicked off the task force with his presentation on redistricting, that is, how to revise electoral maps after the census, a top priority for the new ALEC majorities in several states. As the Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD's) PRWatch has documented, Braden -- the former Chief Counsel to the Republican National Committee -- also advised ALEC's Republican members in Wisconsin on remapping legislative districts in the spring of 2011.
Other ALEC business in the minutes referenced included opposition to "Pay to Play Legislation," meaning opposing bills that would ban government contractors from donating to political campaigns. The "model" resolution opposing such a ban was spearheaded by right-winger Bradley Smith's special interest outfit, the "Center for Competitive Politics" (CCP), through its then-president Sean Parnell (who is also an "expert" for the Heartland Institute, which been funded by Koch money). CCP does not reveal which corporations, CEOs, or family foundations fund its operations, which focus on advancing the notions that money is speech and that corporations and CEOs should be able to spend unlimited money influencing elections. CCP even opposed new disclosure rules after Citizens United in the DISCLOSE Act, just as ALEC opposed new disclosure in response to that U.S. Supreme Court decision.
CCP's 2010 "model" resolution against state legislatures enacting Pay to Play bans passed with unanimous support of the public and private sector members.
At the April 2011 meeting with two Koch reps sitting as members, the minutes of that meeting were "unanimously" adopted by "voice vote" of public and private sector members.
Surprise? Task Force Approves Corporate Payday, Rejects Transparency
In Cincinnati, with the Koch employees on deck, the first piece of model legislation on the agenda was a bill promoted by TASER. That's the leading stun-gun manufacturer whose profits jumped to $3.8 million in the first quarter of this year. Its then-Vice President of Government and Public Affairs, Peter Holran, made the pitch to the Task Force's legislators and "private sector" members. That bill is designed to create an "assessment," or tax, on taxpayer fines for traffic violations and then split the proceeds between the agency issuing the citation and a fund to buy stun guns and other equipment.
TASER's model bill "passed the private sector unanimously," according to newly revealed documents, and was also unanimously approved by the legislators voting.
This model bill basically creates a special pool of money, aside from other budgetary constraints plaguing cities and states, for the purchase of the kind of weapons sold by the company advancing the bill, which dubs this arrangement a safety equipment fund.
This is where ALEC's "free market" mantra meets "crony capitalism" -- your traffic cops at work, getting a slice of the pie from every ticket for their budgets with some dough for Tasers and other purchases.
The bill was adopted unanimously. There's no indication that Koch's Kim or Rager or other corporate reps expressed any reservations about this potentially great deal for part of the weapons industry. There is no record that there were any abstentions or objections; the approval was "unanimous."
Several other crime bills passed unanimously, but a model bill to require "state legislatures to provide adequate notice before public hearings or votes so that citizens are able to participate in the legislative process in a meaningful way" failed. It did not get the support of ALEC politicians on the task force co-chaired by Wisconsin Rep. Scott Suder, who is now ALEC's co-chair for the state.
There is no indication in the records publicly available that Kim or Rager or others spoke up for the public's opportunity to comment on proposed changes to state law as the "Legislative Transparency Act" went down in flames at the Cincinnati task force meeting last spring.
There is no indication that Koch's reps voted against any crime or democracy bills last April.
A "Model" Proposal to Bar Police from Destroying Crime Guns?
Why and when did Koch Industries buy a seat and a vote on ALEC's crime and elections task force? After the spotlight began to intensify on ALEC with the launch of CMD's ALECexposed last summer, ALEC mostly stopped distributing the list of task force members in attendance at its meetings.
However, Koch was still listed on the Public Safety and Elections Task Force roster last summer. Kim and Rager were both listed as members representing Koch in the task force packet distributed for the summer meeting in New Orleans.
At the August meeting, the NRA, the immediate past co-chair of that task force, proposed more gun bills. One of those bills distributed to members was a bill to bar law enforcement from destroying crime guns.
According to the minutes from the New Orleans meeting, a model bill introduced by the NRA's Tara Mica received the "unanimous" approval of all the public and private sector members present but did not list the members. There is no public record indicating that Koch objected to that bill, if it was present or in any other way.
And, although the bill to make new legislative transparency provisions legally binding on legislatures had failed in the spring, in the midst of increasing public awareness and concern about ALEC, ALEC's task force approved a statement of principles generally favoring transparency in August. That resolution was not binding, unlike the bill that was blocked.
The resolution passed at a task force meeting that was anything but transparent, with the press and public excluded from observing its votes and discussion, as with other ALEC task force meetings.
Blocking Cities from Barring "Machine Guns" and Cop-Killer Bullets?
Similarly, when the Public Safety and Elections Task Force met at the Kierland Resort in Arizona, the NRA proposed new amendments to an older ALEC "Consistency in Firearms Regulation" model bill. That bill bars lawsuits by cities against gun manufacturers, sellers, and trade groups and also pre-empts local cities from regulating or taxing guns in other ways.
Late last year, the NRA proposed to ALEC new amendments that would expressly forbid cities from banning residents from owning extremely dangerous "machine guns," "submachine guns," and other guns. Its amendments would also block cities from restricting the sale of ammunition (with no exception for especially dangerous projectiles such as armor piercing ammo, known as cop-killer bullets), and from barring guns from being altered to make them more deadly.
It's not clear why in 2011 the NRA felt so emboldened that it could make explicit what it could not in 1995 when the bill was first listed as an ALEC model or in 1999 when it was reaffirmed by ALEC's task force and ALEC's public sector board.
And who was the chairman of ALEC's Private Sector Board in 1999 when ALEC re-affirmed the legislative template to block cities from suing gun manufacturers and from regulating firearms? It was Koch Industries. In 1999, Koch's Michael K. Morgan was the chairman of the board. There is no public record indicating that he ever raised any objections to this part of the NRA's agenda or other NRA model bills approved by ALEC. ALEC attempts to emphasize that the private sector board does not affirmatively vote on model bills approved by private sector and public sector members on its task forces, but there is no indication that its corporate board is expected to remain silent regarding ALEC's agenda and operations.
And, last year, temporarily casting aside its long rhetorical defense of firearms for hunting and sporting, the NRA apparently wanted to ensure that machine guns were not banned in cities -- guns whose rapid repeating rounds have nothing to do with hunting deer or other game and everything to do with maximizing the death toll when fired at human beings.
The NRA's proposed amendments were approved "unanimously" by the task force's private and public sector members in Scottsdale, Arizona, on December 2, 2011.
The minutes of that meeting distributed last month do not list which of ALEC's 2011 task force members were in Scottsdale and who unanimously approved this NRA bill and others proposed last winter.
Accordingly, there is no contemporaneously prepared and publicly distributed record of whether Koch representatives voted on the NRA's machine gun protection amendments or not or whether Koch objected in any way to this part of the agenda for ALEC. Other bills on the agenda in Arizona included a failed effort to change ALEC's position that favors the undemocratic Electoral College and opposes "national popular vote" (meaning the president who wins the popular vote wins the presidency), and Koch's view of them, if any, is unknown.
Secrecy Cloaks Koch Role, But It Was on the Task Force the NRA Led
Unlike for the Cincinnati task force meeting a year ago, for the May 2012 meeting in Charlotte, ALEC members were not sent a list of the names and contact information for their fellow members in preparation for the task force meeting.
That is, there is no verifiable public record of whether or not Koch Industries continued its membership on this task force beyond 2011, although Koch (through Morgan) remains on ALEC's board, according to the new materials Common Cause obtained in support of its complaint to the IRS that ALEC is a corporate lobbying group masquerading as a charity.
Since ALEC operates in the shadows and records are incomplete, it is not clear how many years prior to 2012 Koch previously paid to play on this task force. After all, Koch's KCPS, represented by Kim, was listed on ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force roster not only in 2011 but also in 2010.
Who was the private sector co-chair of that task force when Koch was listed on its 2010 roster? None other than the NRA. It was represented as the Public Safety and Elections Task Force co-chair through its government relations rep Tara Mica.
Yet, Koch Industries has been on the offensive against those connecting the dots between the NRA, ALEC, and Koch. It has pointed to a single bill it opposed in Florida that would have resulted in the arming of its employees on the job against its will. Apparently, in that instance, the corporation didn't think doing so was a good idea. Many employers probably think it's not a good idea to have employees carrying guns around the workplace. That particular gun bill, however, was not ratified or adopted as an ALEC model, either.
There is no indication Koch Industries or its representatives ever objected to sitting on a Public Safety and Elections Task Force co-chaired by the NRA or its agenda.
In fact, there is no publicly available evidence that Koch, as a long-time ALEC board member and funder, objected to the NRA co-chairing that task force for a number of years.
There is no evidence Koch ever objected to any NRA initiative in 2010 and 2011 when it irrefutably was listed as a member of that task force.
And, there is no public record that Koch ever used its seat on that task force to move to repeal or revoke NRA bills previously endorsed as the model bills of that task force, such as the SYG/Castle Doctrine bill, the bill barring city lawsuits against gun manufacturers, or ALEC's opposition to the federal assault weapons ban, for example.
It is simply not known how many years beyond 2010 and 2011, if any, Koch had a seat on ALEC's crime task force during the nearly two decades Koch has had a seat on ALEC's corporate board, but cost was certainly not an impediment.
After all, the going rate for an ALEC corporate member to buy a seat and a vote on that task force last year was a mere $2500. With Koch's reported revenue of $100 billion per year, the annual fee for this task force is a little less than the company makes in, literally, the stroke of a single second on the hands of a clock.
Lisa Graves is Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy (PRWatch.org and ALECexposed.org). She formerly served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice where she handled gun policy and was the Managing Editor of the National Integrated Firearms Violence Reduction Strategy. She also served as the Chief Counsel for Nominations for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, as Deputy Chief of the Article III Judges Division of the U.S. Courts, and as an adjunct professor of law.