We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What Your Elected Representives Do When Not in Session

by Ron Horn for this blog.

To show how American democracy is currently functioning, I thought I'd bring you up to date with some currents events which you will not see reported in mainstream media. First, I'd like to bring to your attention what your state legislators have been doing. 

From August 3 through August 6 they were brought to New Orleans for wining and dining, and most importantly, to learn what legislative bills their corporate sponsors wanted. Trips and expenses were paid for by ALEC which...
...describes itself as the largest “membership association of state legislators,” but over 98% of its revenue comes from sources other than legislative dues, primarily from corporations and corporate foundations.
Read this report from PR Watch to learn about the details of how corporations make it easy for legislators by writing the bills for them.
ALEC's power lies not only in generating corporate-sponsored "model bills" for state legislators to make law, but that it facilitates multiple levels of influence-peddling. ALEC itself has a $7 million budget and 32 staffers. In addition to this budget, ALEC technically acts as an intermediary for about a million dollars in travel "scholarships" that pay for many legislators' trips to ALEC meetings, with corporate funds for the scholarships held in trust by ALEC. With corporate "sponsorship" of ALEC meetings, a couple million dollars flow through ALEC to put on days of workshops, meetings, and festivities. (This does not account for the dollars corporations spend for lobbyists to prepare for and meet with ALEC legislators in pursuit of their legislative agenda, nor does it take into account any campaign contributions that might result from the relationships cultivated at ALEC meetings.)
(See also previous articles regarding ALEC published on this blog: here and here.)

Next, let us see what our Congressional members are doing currently. It seems that they are making their annual expense paid trips to Israel to be wined and dined courtesy of an AIPAC affiliate. Stephen Lendman has the scoop on this. Read "Congressional Junkets to Israel" for the disgusting details.
Heading each [two groups] are House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (VA) and House Whip Kevin McCarthy (CA). Spouses are also going at an estimated cost of $8,000, including business-class flights, first-class hotels, meals, transportation, side trips, guides and incidentals.

Red carpet treatment is assured along with considerable pro-Israeli messaging, especially for new incoming freshmen. They'll meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, as well as PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah. Legitimate Hamas leaders are excluded.

Their entire week is choreographed and full, from early morning to late evening, including breakfast and dinner speakers, as well as meetings with other government officials.
It's obvious to me that what our "democratically elected" representatives do away from their offices is far more important to how our governments actually function. Yet, none of these activities are ever reported in mainstream media.