As the Koch brothers spend hundreds of millions of dollars in this election to try and complete their takeover of Congress, the price we are paying for the disastrous Citizens United decision is painfully clear.
Before Congress went on recess for the election, Tea Party extremists killed a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. A majority in the Senate voted in support of the amendment, but it failed to win the needed 67 votes to pass because not one Republican voted to support it.
We need to hold the Republicans who helped kill the amendment accountable and who sold out to the 1%.
It’s incredibly difficult to pass a constitutional amendment, and it usually takes decades of grassroots organizing and pressure on elected officials to amend the constitution. The fight to get money out of politics will be no exception.
So while the Republicans blocking a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is an enormous disappointment, that a vote happened at all is major step in the right direction. More important, we now know who in the Senate is with us and who is against us, and Senator Heller clearly showed us he’s against the majority of Nevadans.
That means we have to dig in, thank the senators who support getting money out of politics, increase our pressure on the ‘no’ votes, and show that we will hold our elected officials accountable for voting with corporations and the ultra-rich.
We have enormous momentum in this fight. Sixteen states and roughly 600 communities have formally demanded that Congress vote to pass a constitutional amendment making it clear that corporations are not people and money is not speech.
Amending the Constitution is not easy, nor is it a decision that should be made lightly. But it’s clear that if we don’t organize to amend the Constitution, the Supreme Court will go even further in allowing unlimited spending by corporations and rich donors.
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to unlimited spending on elections by corporations. And in McCutcheon v. FEC, the court struck down limits on how much money individual mega-donors can give to candidates during a single election cycle. Worse, the court’s conservatives aren’t likely to stop there, but will continue tearing down campaign finance protections that prevent corporations from drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans.
We have a tough fight against us to stop our democracy from becoming a plutocracy ruled by corporations and the ultra-rich. And it starts with shaming senators who voted with their corporate donors instead of with the American people.
Tell Senate Republicans: Shame on you for opposing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
The Washington’s Post’s “The Fix” blog posted charts that show, clear as day, how the Koch brothers’ Americans For Prosperity is absolutely dominating the airwaves in states with competitive U.S. Senate races.
No wonder Nate Silver’s predictions are giving Republicans the edge!
A companion chart for the most competitive House races tells a very similar story.
The Koch brothers’ primary political organization is outspending both the Democratic Senate and House PACs by more than 2-to-1! The Koch Brothers and their allies (Exxon Mobil, Monsanto, and others) spend their money to make America safe for corporate polluters, to let big banks run amok with the financial systems and to protect gains for the 1% at the expense of the rest of us. This kind of spending by billionaire funded organizations on demonstrably negative ads should make it infinitely clear that we need to get the dark money out of our politics.
Those negative attack ads are just that. They tell you absolutely zip-point-nothing about the candidate they’re supporting. Instead, they tell half-truths and out-right lies to demean our Democratic candidates to influence how you’ll vote. Do a bit of reading. Research a couple of topics. Learn to spot the lies. Read their platform, because that will tell you exactly what they intend to do once elected.
Until we can get that money out, it’s extremely important that you don’t just sit back on your couch and let this election pass by. You need to make sure you understand the issues and what’s at stake. You may not be able to contribute $$$ to any given campaign, but there is one thing you can do. You can get up off your couch, head to the polls and vote, bot for selection of an effective Democratic candidate during the Primary election, and then again for a Democratic candidate for the Nevada House seats.
I work those polls each year. I’ll look forward to seeing you show up to cast your ballot.
—by Kate Marshall, NV State Treasurer & candidate for NV Secretary of State
Does this mean that Wall Street Journal & the New York Times both agree that voter ID does not work? We cannot let Nevada become another failed experiment by the Koch Brothers who are looking out for their own political agenda instead of everyday Nevadans.
Press Release by Robert J Brulle, PhD
A new study conducted by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle, PhD, exposes the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the powerful climate change countermovement. This study marks the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis ever conducted of the sources of funding that maintain the denial effort.
Through an analysis of the financial structure of the organizations that constitute the core of the countermovement and their sources of monetary support, Brulle found that, while the largest and most consistent funders behind the countermovement are a number of well-known conservative foundations, the majority of donations are “dark money,” or concealed funding.
The data also indicates that Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, two of the largest supporters of climate science denial, have recently pulled back from publicly funding countermovement organizations. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to countermovement organizations through third party pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, whose funders cannot be traced, has risen dramatically.
Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, conducted the study during a year-long fellowship at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. The study was published today in Climatic Change, one of the top 10 climate science journals in the world.
The climate change countermovement is a well-funded and organized effort to undermine public faith in climate science and block action by the U.S. government to regulate emissions. This countermovement involves a large number of organizations, including conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and conservative foundations, with strong links to sympathetic media outlets and conservative politicians.
To uncover how the countermovement was built and maintained, Brulle developed a listing of 118 important climate denial organizations in the U.S. He then coded data on philanthropic funding for each organization, combining information from the Foundation Center with financial data submitted by organizations to the Internal Revenue Service. “The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on the issue of global warming,” said Brulle. “Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight — often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians — but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers, in the form of conservative foundations. If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.”
The final sample for analysis consisted of 140 foundations making 5,299 grants totaling $558 million to 91 organizations from 2003 to 2010. The data shows that these 91 organizations have an annual income of just over $900 million, with an annual average of $64 million in identifiable foundation support. Since the majority of the organizations are multiple focus organizations, not all of this income was devoted to climate change activities, Brulle notes.
Key findings include:
- Conservative foundations have bank-rolled denial. The largest and most consistent funders of organizations orchestrating climate change denial are a number of well-known conservative foundations, such as the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation. These foundations promote ultra-free-market ideas in many realms.
- Koch and ExxonMobil have recently pulled back from publicly visible funding. From 2003 to 2007, the Koch Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation were heavily involved in funding climate-change denial organizations. But since 2008, they are no longer making publicly traceable contributions.
- Funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to denial organizations by the Donors Trust has risen dramatically. Donors Trust is a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation now provides about 25% of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change.
- Most funding for denial efforts is untraceable. Despite extensive data compilation and analyses, only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to climate change denying organizations can be specifically accounted for from public records. Approximately 75% of the income of these organizations comes from unidentifiable sources.
Climate Change Denialism money (image by Robert J. Brulle, PhD)
“The real issue here is one of democracy. Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible,” said Brulle. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square. Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat. At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts.”
Brulle has authored numerous articles and book chapters on environmental science, and is a frequent media commentator on climate change. He co-edited Power, Justice and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement (2005) with David Pellow, and is the author of Agency, Democracy, and Nature: U.S. Environmental Movements from a Critical Theory Perspective (2000). This study is part one of a three-part project by Brulle to examine the climate movement in the U.S. at the national level. The next step in the project is to examine the environmental movement or the climate change movement. Brulle will then compare the whole funding flow to the entire range of organizations on both sides of the debate.
Brulle previously served as a commissioned officer in the United States Coast Guard for two decades. He received a doctorate in sociology from George Washington University, a master of science degree in natural resources from the University of Michigan, a master of arts degree in sociology from the New School for Social Research and a bachelor of science degree in marine engineering from the United States Coast Guard Academy.
The full paper is available here.
Reprinted from drexel.edu/now/news-media/releases
Why would the ALEC network of state-level lobbyists want to make solar energy cost-prohibitive for homeowners and businesses?
Now the Koch brothers are coming after my solar panels.
I had solar panels installed on the roof of our Washington, D.C. home this year. My household took advantage of a generous tax incentive from the District government and a creative leasing deal offered by the solar panel seller.
Our electric bills fell by at least a third. When people make this choice, the regional electric company grows less pressured to spend money to expand generating capacity and the installation business creates good local jobs. Customers who use solar energy also reduce carbon emissions.
What’s not to love?
According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative network better known as ALEC, our solar panels make us “free riders.” What?
Yes, according to ALEC, an organization that specializes in getting the right-wing agenda written into state laws, people like me who invest in energy-efficiency and shrinking our carbon footprints ought to be penalized.
Why does ALEC want us punished? Since it’s bankrolled by, among others, the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, it’s hard not to surmise that they’re worried about a threat to fossil fuels businesses. Koch Industries’ operations include refineries, oil and natural gas pipelines, and petrochemicals
That’s no conspiracy theory. Recently the British newspaper The Guardian wrote about the assault on solar panels as part of a broader exposé on ALEC.
John Eick, the legislative analyst for ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture program, confirmed to The Guardian that the organization would support making solar panel users pay extra for the electricity they generate. That’s already about to happen in Arizona, where homeowners who use solar panels will pay an average of about $5 extra a month for the privilege, starting in January.
The solar power industry called the new rule a victory only because power companies in the state were demanding assessments of as much as $100 a month — more than high enough to deter families from considering switching to solar.
Making solar energy cost-prohibitive for homeowners and businesses is part of a larger ALEC objective, affirmed at its recent annual meeting, to continue its effort to eliminate state renewable energy mandates.
According to meeting minutes, ALEC has already succeeded in getting legislation introduced in 15 states to “reform, freeze, or repeal their state’s renewable mandate.” ALEC lobbyists are pushing policies through states that will speed up climate change and increase pollution. They’re threatening the renewable energy industry, which is already creating new jobs and saving money for homeowners and businesses.
Without the current policy paralysis in Washington and a lack of bold, creative thinking about how to build a new, green economy at the national level, they wouldn’t be making so much headway.
My organization, Institute for America’s Future — together with the Center for American Progress and the BlueGreen Alliance — recently published a report that shows what’s at stake with ALEC’s destructive agenda.
Our “green industrial revolution” report recommends tying together a series of regional solutions that take advantage of the unique assets of each part of the country, such as the abundance of sun in the West and the wind off the Atlantic coast, into a cohesive whole.
These regional strategies would be supported by smart federal policies, such as establishing a price for carbon emissions and a national clean energy standard, creating certainty and stability in the alternative energy tax credit market, and providing strong support for advanced energy manufacturing.
This is the way to unleash the kind of innovation and job creation our economy — and our rapidly warming planet — desperately needs.
My solar panels are the envy of my block and I wish more of my neighbors will be able to make the same choice I did. But they won’t if fossil-fuel dinosaurs like the Koch brothers and right-wing organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council keep casting their dark clouds on efforts to build a clean energy future.
It’s time for them to step aside and let the sun shine in.
Isaiah J. Poole is the editor of OurFuture.org, the website of the Campaign for America’s Future. OurFuture.org. Photo credit to: Brookhaven National Laboratory/Flickr, Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org
By Public Lands Team on Mar 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm
Despite the many problems that states and municipalities face today—from budget shortfalls to unemployment—seven western states have decided to embark on unconstitutional and quixotic battles attempting to force the federal government to turn millions of acres of public lands over to the states. Doing so, however, would result in the eventual exploitation for private profits of these beautiful parks, refuges, forests, and other lands because the leaders driving such efforts would prefer to see quick economic gains from resource extraction rather than prioritizing these areas’ more sustainable economic uses such as recreation.
Rather than being managed so that all Americans can enjoy them, turning our public lands over to states would result in their management on the whims of governors and state legislatures, who in the West are often quite conservative and tend to ideologically favor limited regulation and private profits. According to one state lands commissioner, these bills would be “catastrophic” to the public lands that Americans know and love.
Clashes between states and the federal government over their respective authorities have long been a regular feature of our politics, especially when it comes to issues regarding control over federal public lands in the West. More than 700 million acres of federal public lands, including national parks, national forests, and national monuments, belong to all Americans, and are tremendous economic generators—the Department of the Interior stimulated $385 billion in economic development and more than 2 million jobs in 2011 alone. At times, conflicts over ownership of the federally managed parks, forests, refuges, and other properties have grown into a regional cause in the West, as they did during the “Sagebrush Rebellion,” a political movement demanding the turnover of federal lands to the states that arose in the 1970s but eventually fizzled out in the late 1980s.
We are now seeing yet another iteration of that hardy but misguided western impulse. These state legislative efforts are nothing more than corporate-backed messaging tools that can be traced to conservative front groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, and Americans for Prosperity, as we discuss further below. The proposals run directly contrary to abundant evidence that Americans and westerners support federal management of their public lands and value the economic benefits those lands provide, especially when they are protected from mining and drilling and are used instead for recreation and other more sustainable purposes.
In the past year, legislatures in seven western states — Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Idaho — have passed, introduced, or explored legislation demanding that the federal government turn over millions of acres of federal public lands to the states. If successful, these bills could be disastrous: Rather than being managed for the benefit and use of the American public, these lands will instead be managed in whatever way each state wants to use them—which generally means maximizing private profits through mining, drilling, and other resource extraction.
These lawmakers are waging a losing battle that amounts to little more than political grandstanding to rally their extreme conservative base and feed an antigovernment narrative. Such bills contradict the majority of public opinion in these states, as well as economic realities and constitutional precedent dating back to the mid-19th century.
ALEC and Americans for Prosperity have been fanning the fire under these efforts to “reclaim” federal public lands. ALEC is a conservative corporate front group funded by fossil-fuel interests such as the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil that develops model legislation for state legislators to introduce in their legislatures, and it has endorsed many of the bills turning public lands over to the states. As the Associated Press reported, “Lawmakers in Utah and Arizona have said the legislation is endorsed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that advocates conservative ideals, and they expect it to eventually be introduced in other Western states.”
That should come as little surprise, considering that one of ALEC’s “model bills” — those that it drafts and develops to shop to various state legislators — is the “Sagebrush Rebellion Act,” which was “designed to establish a mechanism for the transfer of ownership of” non-state lands “from the federal government to the states.”
Further evidence that ALEC is the puppet master behind these performances: Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory (R), who is leading the charge for states to “take back” public lands through his “American Lands Council,” has been presenting the idea of turning federal land over to the states at ALEC conferences such as the one in Salt Lake City last summer. Additionally, Rep. Ivory has been promoting this idea to various state legislatures — he spoke, for example, with Wyoming’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee in October 2012.
Proponents of these bills claim that the states do not receive tax revenue from federal lands and argue that the proceeds from turning the land over to the states to then be further developed can help fund essential state services such as education. They also argue that the federal government promised to turn public lands over to the states at the establishment of their statehoods more than 100 years ago.
This issue brief provides an overview of each state’s attempt to force the turnover of public lands, and then describes why this is not only bad policy that is not in accordance with what westerners actually believe, but is also unconstitutional based on numerous Supreme Court decisions.
State efforts to ‘reclaim’ public lands
In this section, we provide an overview of each of the bills in seven western states and detail where they are in the legislative process.
The Outdoor Industry Association, the trade organization for outdoor recreation companies, notes that the outdoor economy — in part based on protected public lands — stimulates $12 billion in consumer spending and more than 122,000 jobs for Utah every year. This extraordinary economic resource will be threatened if the state succeeds in its attempt to take over public lands and instead use them for resource extraction.
Despite this, Utah has been leading the charge when it comes to state attempts to reclaim public lands. Rep. Ivory sponsored the Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study, a bill that passed both the state House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in March 2012. The bill established a deadline of December 31, 2014, for the federal government to turn over Utah’s nearly 20 million acres of public lands to the state, or it will sue.
Utah’s Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel noted that the case law with regard to public lands going back to the 1870s gives the bill “a high probability of being declared unconstitutional.” And the Salt Lake Tribune has called Utah’s effort “tilting at windmills.”
Despite this, the Utah state legislature has already appropriated nearly $3 million to cover expected state legal expenses and has set up the Utah Land Commission to oversee the process of returning the lands to the state.
While the bill exempts Native American lands, national parks, and military installations, it still could have a major impact on some of Utah’s most special places. One Utah publication, for example, notes that “While [Ivory] doesn’t say this will happen, it is possible that the huge coal fields now off limits because of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in southern Utah could be developed by the new state land commission.”
The outdoor recreation economy in Arizona creates $10.6 billion in consumer spending and supports nearly 104,000 jobs in the state. Yet State Sen. Al Melvin (R) introduced S.B. 1332 in the spring of 2012 requiring Congress to turn over 25 million acres of public lands to the state by the end of 2014, or it would sue. Similar to the legislation in Utah, the Arizona bill would have exempted Indian reservations, national parks, and military lands.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), however, vetoed the bill in May 2012, surprising many observers due to her conservative background. She justified her veto by saying she was “concerned about the lack of certainty this legislation could create for individuals holding existing leases on federal lands. Given the difficult economic times, I do not believe this is the time to add to that uncertainty.”
Arizona voters also took to the polls to fight against a ballot initiative that similarly would have turned public lands over to the state. Proposition 120, supported by state Republican legislators, would have amended the state’s constitution to “declare Arizona’s sovereignty and jurisdiction over the ‘air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the state’s boundaries.’” This measure would have included turning the Grand Canyon over to the state, but the ballot measure was defeated 68 percent to 32 percent.
Although the Outdoor Industry Association released data noting that the outdoor economy creates $4.5 billion in consumer spending and 50,000 direct jobs in Wyoming, State Rep. David Miller (R) introduced a bill in early February 2013 demanding state ownership of public lands. The bill — H.B. 0228, known as the Transfer of Federal Lands Study — would require the state attorney general to study “possible legal recourses available to compel the federal government to relinquish ownership and management of specified federal lands in Wyoming,” and would establish a task force focused on the land transfer. The bill passed both houses of the state legislature earlier this year and now awaits the governor’s signature.
Rep. Miller is also the CEO of a uranium mining company and told WyoFile, a local news outlet, that he got the idea for his bill in Wyoming from Utah Rep. Ivory’s presentation at last summer’s ALEC conference in Salt Lake City.
Notably, however, the Wyoming attorney general’s office wrote an opinion stating that Utah’s federal land transfer laws relied on “a repeatedly rejected reading of the United States Constitution and a strained interpretation of Utah’s statehood act.”
The state of New Mexico sees $6.1 billion in consumer spending stimulated by the outdoor recreation industry, as well as more than 68,000 jobs every year. Nevertheless, New Mexico State Rep. Yvette Herrell (R) and State Sen. Richard Martinez (D) introduced the Transfer of Public Land Act in early 2013, calling on the federal government to turn 23 million acres of New Mexico’s public lands over to the state by the end of 2015. It also would create a public lands transfer task force to study the process of taking ownership of these federal lands.
Jumping into this fray is the Koch-backed conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which called the bill “an exciting change” and urged its members to call the state legislature to express support. On the other hand, the state’s lands commissioner stated that the bill would be “catastrophic,” and noted that a fiscal impact analysis shows that if public lands were transferred to the state, the office would “need 2,000 more employees and an additional $218 million to administer the land at the same level as the federal government.”
The bill is currently in the legislative process, and it is unclear what New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez’s (R) position is on it.
Colorado is a hotspot for the outdoor recreation economy, which stimulates $13.2 billion in consumer spending and nearly 125,000 direct jobs to the state. But a handful of members in the Colorado state legislature are attempting to revive a failed attempt of last year’s legislative session by introducing a bill — known as S.B. 13-142 — which would require the federal government to turn over all “agricultural lands” to the state. The law’s broad definition of agricultural lands certainly includes the more than 14 million acres of national forests in the state and likely includes its Bureau of Land Management lands.
State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R) and State Sen. Scott Renfroe (R) introduced the bill in late January 2013, requiring the federal government to turn these lands over to the state by December 31, 2014. The bill, however, failed in committee in early February.
A similar bill failed in last year’s legislative session after much criticism from public and statewide opinion leaders. As a Denver Post columnist put it at the time, “We are all hoping this goes away very quickly.”
Nevada sees $14.9 billion created by the outdoor recreation industry every year, as well as 148,000 direct jobs. And yet Nevada Assemblyman John Ellison (R) and State Sen. Pete Goicoechea (R) are drafting a bill for the 2013 legislative session that would create a committee “to help broker the transfer of federal land to the state,” according to the Elko Daily Free Press. Legislation is still being drafted as of late February.
Specifically modeled after the Utah bill, the Nevada bill would create a Nevada Land Management Implementation Committee appointed by county commissioners, which would conduct a study anticipating the effects that a land transfer would have on the state “in contemplation of Congress turning over the management and control of those public lands to the State of Nevada on or before June 30, 2015.”
The outdoor recreation economy creates $6.3 billion in consumer spending in Idaho per year, as well as 77,000 direct jobs. While the Idaho legislature has not yet officially considered a bill to turn some or all of the state’s 33 million acres of public lands over to the state, discussions and preparations to do so are in the works. State Rep. Lawerence Denney (R), chairman of the state’s Resources and Conservation Committee, has expressed interest in introducing such a bill. Utah Rep. Ivory addressed a joint meeting of the state’s House Resources and Conservation Committee and Senate Resources and Environment Committee in late January 2013, lauding the Utah bill and its merits.
The idea of selling off public lands has not, however, seen political success in Idaho. The Associated Press reports that in the state’s 2006 gubernatorial race, now-Gov. Butch Otter (R) was forced to withdraw his support for federal legislation that would sell off public lands in the West to offset costs of Hurricane Katrina — only after “getting bruised by his political challengers and voters irritated by the possibility of losing some of Idaho’s prized backcountry.”
State efforts are seriously misguided
This section outlines the three main reasons why state attempts to “take back” public lands are misguided: People in these states do not believe there is a problem; the economic arguments don’t pan out; and the efforts are unconstitutional.
People in these states don’t think there is a problem
Central to the intent behind and promotion of these bills is the notion that people living in these seven states are upset about the job that the federal government is doing when it comes to managing public lands, and that there is too much public land preventing resource development. But conservative ideologues are wrong in this regard, which is indicated in the data below.
A recent poll from Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project, for example, asked western voters whether they think having “too much public land” is a problem. Here are the answers—either that it is a “serious” problem or that it isn’t a problem—by state:
While this poll did not cover Idaho and Nevada, recent polls in those states show similar sentiments. A poll in Idaho, for instance, determined that 73 percent of Idahoans agree that “One of the things our federal government does well is protect and preserve our national heritage through the management of forests, national parks and other public lands.” And in Nevada, two-thirds of small-business owners believe that allowing private companies to develop public lands “would limit the public’s enjoyment of them.”
Despite what conservatives want to think, the western public understands that there is a role for the federal government in managing public lands and doesn’t want to see the land turned over to states or private interests.
Economic arguments don’t pan out
Another key argument that proponents of such bills make is that the federal government is “locking up” public lands that could be used for economic development such as mining and drilling. To make this argument more appealing, some of the bills transfer a portion of the funds from selling or developing lands to state public education funds and send the rest to relieve the national debt. As Utah Rep. Ivory put it, “If we unleash those resources in a responsible, sustainable manner, that’s a matter of national employment. That’s a matter of national economic GDP growth; that’s a matter of national deficit and debt reduction.”
But conservatives miss two key points in making these economic arguments. First, public lands already provide an extraordinary economic impact, both from traditional resource development currently allowed on the lands such as mining, drilling, and timber, and from outdoor recreation on protected lands. Second, they fail to note that adequately managing millions more acres of land will be very difficult for states facing budget constraints.
Public lands provide tremendous economic impacts. The Department of the Interior—the agency that manages most public lands — stimulated $385 billion in economic development and more than 2 million jobs in 2011 alone. This number includes the extraction of oil, gas, coal, and other minerals from public lands, in addition to timber, grazing, and recreation. Recreation-related activities alone created 403,000 jobs and nearly $49 billion in economic activity across the country. The U.S. Forest Service, which manages national forests, also has major economic impacts — visitor spending on recreation in and near national forests, for example, added $13 billion to gross domestic product and sustained 200,000 jobs across the country in fiscal year 2011.
The fact that public lands create jobs is echoed in public sentiment. In six western states, for example, 79 percent of voters believe that public lands support the economy, while only 15 percent believe they “take land off the tax rolls, cost government to maintain them, and prevent opportunities for logging and oil and gas production that could provide jobs.”
Regarding the second point about states likely not being prepared for the burden of managing an influx of public lands, Jodi Peterson of High Country News, a publication based in Paonia, Colorado, says it best:
If that transfer ever does occur, the old adage “Be careful what you wish for” might apply. Cash-strapped states would have trouble covering even minimal management of former federal land … [and] there aren’t ready buyers for these millions of acres.
The attempts are unconstitutional
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that these attempts are unconstitutional, according to case law dating back to the 1800s, and therefore will only serve to waste state taxpayers’ money. Each of the state attempts to force Congress to turn over public lands references the state’s enabling act—the language that made it a state to begin with. Proponents say the federal government has not kept its promise to give the public lands back to the states.
But in reality this is just not true. Each of these enabling acts that the states agreed to in order to become members of the union renounced their claims to federal public lands. Here are the relevant sections of each state constitution or enabling act:
- Utah: “That the people inhabiting said proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof”
- Arizona: “That the people inhabiting said proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated and ungranted public lands lying within the boundaries thereof and to all lands lying within said boundaries”
- Wyoming: “The people inhabiting this state do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof”
- New Mexico: “That the people inhabiting said proposed state do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated and ungranted public lands lying within the boundaries thereof”
- Colorado: “That the people inhabiting said Territory do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said Territory”
- Nevada: “That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States”
- Idaho: “And the people of the state of Idaho do agree and declare that we forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof”
In even further proof that these are attempts are unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken many times on this issue. Ironically, the case law in this regard was discussed by Utah’s own Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel in its opinion on the Utah bill, stating:
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that “[w]ith respect to the public domain, the Constitution vests in Congress the power of disposition and of making all needful rules and regulations. That power is subject to no limitations. Congress has the absolute right to prescribe the times, the conditions, and the mode of transferring this property, or any part of it, and to designate the persons to whom the transfer shall be made. No State legislation can interfere with this right or embarrass its exercise; and to prevent the possibility of any attempted interference with it, a provision has been usually inserted in the compacts by which new States have been admitted to the Union, that such interference with the primary disposal of the soil of the United States shall never be made.” Gibson v. Chouteau, 80 U.S. 92 (1872).
Additionally, a Congressional Research Service report in 2007 on the history of federal land management and the Constitution noted that:
The U.S. Constitution addresses the relationship of the federal government to lands. Article IV, § 3, Clause 2—the Property Clause—gives Congress authority over federal property generally, and the Supreme Court has described Congress’s power to legislate under this Clause as “without limitation.” The equal footing doctrine (based on language within Article IV, § 3, Clause 1), and found in state enabling acts, provides new states with equality to the original states in terms of constitutional rights, but has not been used successfully to force the divestment of federal lands. The policy question of whether to acquire more, or to dispose of any or all, federal lands is left to Congress to decide.
Despite the fact that those living in these seven states do not fundamentally agree with the attempts to “take back” public lands, that the economic arguments for it are incomplete, and that the efforts are unconstitutional, conservatives in these state legislatures across the West have still introduced bills demanding the federal government turn federal public lands over to the states. Efforts in Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Idaho are misguided and merely serve to fan the fire of extreme and fruitless rhetoric at the taxpayers’ expense.
Jessica Goad is Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress. Tom Kenworthy is a Senior Fellow at the Center. This article was reprinted from CAP with permission.
This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.
What would you think if your physician told you, “Keep smoking because quitting would kill tobacco and health care jobs.” Or, “Don’t take your high blood pressure medicine, you can’t afford it.” And, “Don’t lose weight, no one has proven obesity is bad for you.” That’s exactly the quality of medical advice we are getting from the 18 Republican physicians currently serving in Congress. Some of the most well known are the father and son team of Rep. Ron Paul and Sen. Rand Paul, and Sen. Tom Coburn. Some of the most well known are the father and son team of Rep. Ron Paul and Sen. Rand Paul, and Sen. Tom Coburn. Almost all of these physician/Congressmen have been key soldiers in the Republican war on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling it a “job killer,” pronouncing relevant health science “unproven,” claiming we “can’t afford” their regulations.
Prenatal testing during pregnancy is offered with the goal of identifying medical conditions that affect a fetus. Some of these medical conditions can be treated, other times knowing about the diagnosis in advance will affect how or even when the delivery occurs, and sometimes a condition is identified that leads a woman to choose an abortion. Although women in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina might not get to hear all of their medical information. In these standard bearing states for misogyny a doctor is allowed to withhold information that they think could lead to an abortion and not be sued as a result. These are called “wrongful birth laws” and they allow doctors to put their own personal beliefs first, free of legal repercussions
Republican claims about the benefits of the Keystone XL oil pipeline are greatly overblown, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Sunday. “It won’t lower the price of oil. Construction won’t be complete for a long, long time,” Reid said during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, referring to the proposed Alberta, Canada, to Texas pipeline. “And under the way it’s constructed now, all the oil would be sold elsewhere. We can’t have that. When I say elsewhere, I mean to some other country.”
In 2012, there will be a 3-way battle for the White House. One of these days the media’s is actually going to share that fact with the rest of the country — but only when the New York Times et all are ready to take us on their journey into uncharted territory. A third party nominating platform will have ballot access in all 50 states. They will select an Internet nominee through a nominating process. 6 qualified candidates will be ‘drafted” by the public. One lucky politician is going to get “the yellow brick road” to the White House.
Mark Karlin, Truthout: “The construction of the ‘barrier’ wall – accompanying large-scale militarization (the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, the military etc.) – is on America’s southern border, and there is meaning in that. Its location is prima facie evidence that the ‘immigration issue’ is really a euphemism for keeping poor brown-skinned people out of the US – as well as creating a ‘practice’ zone for protecting American economic and political interests in Mexico and Central America.”
Lisa Song, InsideClimate News: “As US environmental groups renew their battle against the resurrected Keystone XL oil pipeline, their counterparts in Canada are facing a deeper problem – a government campaign to limit their influence over Canada’s Northern Gateway pipeline…. As environmental groups have stepped up their campaigns against the project, key figures in the Harper administration have publicly denounced them as extremists, and a federal finance committee has announced plans to audit all of Canada’s charities.”
Elizabeth McGowan, InsideClimate News: “Election-year politics, $4-a-gallon gasoline and an anti-regulatory fervor on Capitol Hill have aligned to thwart EPA’s vow to issue final carbon emissions standards for oil refineries this year…. The pullback on refineries – combined with an earlier and separate delay on regulating greenhouse gases from fossil fuel power plants – means EPA has yet to control emissions from a pair of sizable industrial sources.”
Mike Konczal, New Deal 2.0: “As the one percent reap 93 percent of the income gains from the recovery, we’re rapidly returning to pre-New Deal levels of inequality … It’s important to remember that a series of choices were made during the New Deal to react to runaway inequality, including changes to progressive taxation, financial regulation, monetary policy, labor unionization, and the provisioning of public goods and guaranteed social insurance. A battle will be fought over the next decade on all these fronts.”
A Field of Hawks
Recent national kerfuffles over abortion and contraception access bring up many important questions: Should employers retain control over your wages and benefits after they sign them over to you? Is contraception, a service used by 99 percent of American women, really so controversial? How much state regulation should there be over women’s most private decisions? But amidst all those questions is one overarching one: Do conservatives need a crash course in sex ed?
John Pilger, Truthout: “In 1963, a senior Australian government official, A.R. Taysom, deliberated on the wisdom of deploying women as trade representatives. ‘Such an appointee would not stay young and attractive forever [because] a spinster lady can, and very often does, turn into something of a battle-axe with the passing years [whereas] a man usually mellows.’ On International Women’s Day on March 8, such primitive views were worth recalling; but what has happened to modern feminism? Why is it so bereft of its political, indeed socialist roots that any woman who ‘achieves’ within an immoral system is to be admired?”
Medea Benjamin, Op-Ed: The women in the cell were proud of us for standing up to the banks; so were some of the police. “They were arrested for protesting against foreclosures at Bank of America,” one of the policemen told a policewoman while I was being fingerprinted. “I’m with you there,” she said. “Those bankers are thieves. They take government money to bail them out but then they refuse to lend money to black women like me. I lost my house because I couldn’t get a bank loan, even though I have a good, steady job.”
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “Hosted by the billionaire Koch brothers at the posh Renaissance Esmeralda golf resort in California’s Palm Springs desert in early February, the confabulees were mobilizing and monetizing what Charles Koch called the “mother of all wars.” That would be their self-proclaimed war to enthrone their ilk over workers, consumers, the environment, and democracy itself.”
E.J. Dionne Jr., Op-Ed: “The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops will make an important decision this week: Do they want to defend the church’s legitimate interest in religious autonomy, or do they want to wage an election-year war against President Obama? And do the most conservative bishops want to junk the Roman Catholic Church as we have known it, with its deep commitment to both life and social justice, and turn it into the Tea Party at prayer?”
Stephen Lacey, News Analysis: Assuming that 11 new standards being considered for computer equipment, electric motors, fans, and pumps get established, the U.S. could see a 14% reduction in annual electricity use by 2035 compared with current projections. According to the ACEEE report, assuming household appliances are updated every 15 years through 2040, the average American household could save 180 megawatt-hours of electricity and over 200,000 gallons of water. Translated into understandable figures: Roughly $30,000.
Tom Engelhardt, Op-Ed: “The president had offered a new definition of “aggression” against this country and a new war doctrine to go with it. He would, he insisted, take the U.S. to war not to stop another nation from attacking us or even threatening to do so, but simply to stop it from building a nuclear weapon — and he would act even if that country were incapable of targeting the United States. That should have been news.”
The Koch brothers don’t just want to take away your right to vote. They want to trick you into believing they are voting rights supporters.
The same oil billionaires who bankroll the Tea Party are now channeling their vast fortune to limit the right to vote in 38 states and counting. The NAACP has sounded the alarm against their attacks, launching Stand4Freedom.org to expose them and mobilizing a rally outside their New York headquarters on December 10th.
Now here’s the amazing part: The Koch brothers have responded with a bizarre online advertising campaign. Now, when you search for the NAACP on Google, they’ve paid to have ads pop up directing people to a “Stand for Liberty” web page — a page that’s a blatant take-off of Stand4Freedom.org and actually brags about the Koch’s so-called commitment to civil liberties.
Do they think we’re stupid? That’s not just inaccurate — it’s offensive.
The NAACP has always risen to protect our nation’s most vulnerable populations when their rights have been threatened, and we will continue to do so with your help. We need you to take action today, to ensure that millions are not disenfranchised next year.
Regardless of what they want you to believe, the facts are clear. The Koch brothers have a long history of fighting civil rights. For years they have bankrolled extreme right-wing and anti-government think tanks and fought affirmative action and other civil rights initiatives. Recently the PAC that they founded led the political effort to re-segregate North Carolina schools, and now they have launched their biggest initiative yet: to roll back voting rights in advance of the 2012 election.
Photo ID as a prerequisite to voting, proof of citizenship before casting a ballot, radically restrictive rules on registering new voters, dramatic cuts to early voting and Sunday voting — these are just a few of the tactics that the Koch Brothers are using to make it harder for you to vote.
If the Koch brothers have their way, millions of students, the elderly and working families of all colors will fall victim to arcane voter suppression laws that this country hasn’t seen in one hundred years.