“The ALEC media policy clearly states which meetings are open”
Last week, Atlanta television station WXIA-TV aired a shocking exposé revealing the private conference rooms where legislators and lobbyists from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Koch-backed, anti-environment group make laws without the input of civilians.
On Wednesday, ALEC responded to the report, arguing that the news cameras caught their spokesperson “off-guard.”
For several years, ALEC has welcomed journalists from prominent outlets to ALEC workshops and plenary sessions. In December 2014, 34 journalists were credentialed to attend the Washington, D.C. meeting. The ALEC media policy clearly states which meetings are open.
Unfortunately, the recent piece on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) broadcast by NBC Atlanta (WXIA-TV) sensationalizes and misrepresents ALEC member engagement and policy discussions. ALEC is a forum for the exchange of ideas and free-market policies by a diverse array of members including legislators, business and thought leaders, think tank scholars and individuals… The report exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of ALEC.
A new progressive state-focused organization has launched to mirror, and counter, the work of the conservative-GOP aligned ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).
The organization will push state initiatives on everything from climate change, criminal justice reform, education reform, immigrant and civil rights issues, and more.
The organization, the State Innovation Exchange (SIX), is holding a conference this week in Washington, DC, to be attended by hundreds of progressive state legislators.
A large part of the motivation behind the formation of SIX was the unusual success a number of progressive ballot measures had in the states this past November, considering how badly Democrats fared at the national level.
From SIX’s press release:
Despite Republican victories in last month’s mid-terms, voters nationwide passed ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage, impose limits on fracking, require criminal background checks for gun buyers, decriminalize marijuana and keep petty drug offenders out of prison. These progressive victories popped up in red states like Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, South Dakota and Nebraska, as well as blue states like Washington and California.
Politico notes that a lot of progressive groups are now focusing on the states, as a result of their success last month:
Progressives, frustrated at gridlock in Washington and at the state level, are planning a major ballot-initiative push across the country as they bank on a likely favorable electorate in 2016.
Groups supporting marijuana legalization, background checks on firearms and raising the minimum wage told POLITICO to expect a larger slate of ballot propositions in 2016 than during the past several election cycles.
In particular, organizations are confident that after achieving success on progressive ballot initiatives with an older and more conservative bloc of voters in 2014, the younger and more liberal electorate expected to turn out in the upcoming presidential contest will produce some major triumphs.
It’s widely expected that referendums on gun control, marijuana legalization and economic fairness issues, including paid sick leave and equal pay, will outnumber those in 2012, a sign that liberals are embracing a state-based model that allows them to circumvent legislatures and Congress.
At the same time, a new non-partisan coalition of state legislators concerned about gun violence was also announced this week. And while the coalition is non-partisan, gun violence is still an issue that progressives seem to care more about than do conservatives:
Today a new nonpartisan coalition of state legislators focused on gun violence prevention announced its formation at a press conference with several of the group’s founding members, on the eve of its first official meeting, a national policy summit in the capital. The organization, American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention, includes nearly 200 state legislators from both parties, in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
It’s an interesting time to be focusing on the states, as one could argue that much of the success gay rights has seen on marriage equality these past few years definitely came from state lawsuits. Now, it’s also true that without having won the presidency, we might not have had (probably would not have had) a sympathetic US Supreme Court to finally open the floodgates with its decision in US v. Windsor.
So it’s really a two-part dance, where the state efforts have supplemented the federal effort. (Though, gay groups have also had far more success passing gay and trans civil rights laws and ordinances than anyone has had at the federal, or likely will have for years to come.)
Still, it’s good to see progressives moving the fight to the traditionally conservative battleground.
But there were also some victories for progressives in 2013, especially in state and local politics. While Washington was stuck in the grip of the politics of obstruction, grass-roots activists did their part, scoring some major wins for economic justice, civil liberties and democracy.In politics, as in sports, you can’t win ‘em all. With a divided government and a House of Representatives firmly in the control of tea partiers, it was a tough year for progressives in Washington – one marked by the painful cuts of sequestration and austerity’s continued drag on an already anemic recovery.
As we near the end of the year, here are some of the biggest progressive wins we saw. They’re in no particular order, but you can rank them in the comments.
1. Wounding ALEC …
They say sunlight is the best disinfectant, and that proved true this year as activists continued to expose the previously shadowy workings of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
The group took a big hit in 2012 when controversy over Florida’s Shoot First law, also known as “stand your ground,” peaked after the killing of Trayvon Martin and ALEC’s fingerprints on the legislation came to light. ALEC’s hand in pushing voter disenfranchisement laws was also revealed before the 2012 election. And earlier this year, ALEC got more bad press for pushing model legislation that would require science teachers to include pseudo-scientific rebuttals to the data on climate change in their curricula.
While ALEC’s corporate sponsors were happy to back the group’s efforts to secure lower taxes and less regulation, they didn’t want to share the heat associated with these other issues. State lawmakers who had enjoyed ALEC’s luxurious junkets also came under pressure to cut ties with the organization. As a result, The Guardian reported that, “by Alec’s own reckoning the network has lost almost 400 state legislators from its membership over the past two years, as well as more than 60 corporations that form the core of its funding. In the first six months of this year it suffered a hole in its budget of more than a third of its projected income.”
2. Love wins …
Last New Year’s Eve, gay Americans could legally marry in 10 states. When the ball drops this year, they’ll have that right in 18 states.
2013 also saw the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) overturned by the Supreme Court, a victory that was years in the making.
3. Progressive cities …
In New York City and Los Angeles – two of the most influential cities in the world – unapologetically populist candidates backed by grass-roots community groups organized labor and scored decisive wins over more centrist rivals.
These weren’t partisan battles – in LA, two Democrats, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel, made it through the runoff to face each other in the final election, and in New York, the real battle was in the Democratic primary as polls showed that any of the three leading Dems would have beaten Republican Joe Lhota in the general election.
They were contests of ideas. Garcetti ran a campaign focused on restoring public services that had been cut and attacking Greuel for relying on heavy spending by outside groups. Greuel, who had earned plaudits from the Chamber of Commerce for slashing corporate taxes in LA as councilwoman, lost to Garcetti by eight points.
In New York, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio rose from the bottom of the pack to win the nomination – and then trounce Lhota – by relentlessly campaigning against the city’s sky-high levels of inequality. He also condemned the NYPD’s controversial ‘stop-and-frisk’ policies and promised reform. Democratic City Council President Christine Quinn, outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preferred successor and the front-runner going into the race, had wounded her reputation by blocking paid sick leave legislation – while raking in contributions from business groups opposed to the measure – and came in third in the primary. Peter Dreier and John Atlas wrote in The Nationthat de Blasio’s victory wouldn’t have been possible without years of progressive grass-roots organizing in the City that Never Sleeps.
4. Stop-and-Frisk checked …
Even before the mayoral race, community groups and civil libertarians had made real progress reining in what they viewed as the NYPD’s rampant racial profiling. Not only did they shine a light on the practice, with the help of excellent reporting from NYC’s NPR affiliate, but they also helped win passage of the Community Safety Act, which established a civil liberties watchdog for the NYPD and made it easier to sue the department for incidents of racial profiling. In August, the City Council overrode Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the law.
5. Predatory lending checked …
In November, regulators enacted tough restrictions on predatory lending by banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Sally Kohn reported that the rules were largely the fruit of a two-year campaign by National People’s Action, “a national network of grass-roots organizations with more than 200 organizers in cities and states across the country.”
6. People got raises … and sick days
On January 1, 2014, working people in 13 states will see their minimum wages increase, according to the National Employment Law Project.
New Jersey not only raised its minimum wage by a dollar, but its citizens also approved a constitutional amendment that ties future hikes to the rate of inflation. Connecticut is raising its minimum to $9 per hour by 2015. A regional block consisting of Washington, DC, and two of its suburban counties in suburban Maryland are on the cusp of enacting an $11.50 living wage that will cover 2.5 million residents. In Massachusetts, the state Senate approved a measure that will enact a living wage of $11 per hour over the next two years – and double the minimum for tipped workers. The Assembly is expected to take up the bill next year. And in Sea-Tac, Wash., voters narrowly approved a $15 wage that is expected to be matched by Seattle next year.
Also this year, NYC and Portland, Ore., became the fifth and sixth major cities to require employers to offer workers paid sick days. Washington, DC, will soon become the seventh. And the fight continues: According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, “legislators and advocates continue to advance proposals in Congress and about 20 other states and cities.”
7. Larry Summers derailed …
Progressive Democrats in the Senate, led by Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Jeff Merkeley (Ore.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) — and pressure from reform-minded activists — forced Larry Summers to withdraw his nomination for Federal Reserve chairman in favor of Janet Yellen, who was generally expected to be much tougher in terms of regulating Wall Street.
Summers, who served as Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary before a controversial tenure as president of Harvard University, was widely respected for his knowledge and backed by President Obama. But he was also associated with financial deregulation in the 1990’s, had pushed a tepid response to the 2008 crisis and helped keep millions of homeowners underwater by refusing to endorse allowing bankruptcy judges to reduce what struggling homeowners owed to their lenders.
8. Fili-busted …
After facing unprecedented obstruction that ground the institution to a halt, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) finally killed the filibuster for most executive branch nominations. As CNNnoted, a handful of progressive bloggers, led by Daily Kos writer David Waldman, deserve a huge amount of credit for the change, having spent eight years writing about and organizing around the issue.
9. Gun safety …
Bizarrely, some states and localities responded to the nightmarish shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School by loosening restrictions on firearms. But that doesn’t negate the fact that, asMother Jonesreported, “41 new laws in 22 states made it harder for people to own guns, hard for people to carry them in public and enhanced the government’s ability to track guns.” Seven states passed legislation requiring universal background checks for gun purchases.
10. A march to war was stopped …
Progressives can’t take all of the credit for blocking the Obama administration’s path to entering Syria’s bloody civil war, but they deserve a good amount of it. Highly energetic opposition from the American left let Democrats in Congress know that they would pay a price if they uncritically supported the president’s planned attack.
11. Domestic workers got some dignity …
This year, Hawaii and California became the second and third states to enact a bill of rights law for domestic workers (New York led the way in 2010). The laws guarantee workers overtime pay and some days off and offer protections against sexual abuse and other workplace violations.
12. A global fight in a Washington county…
Whatcom County elections aren’t usually a subject of national attention. But this year, a slate of four progressive candidates for the county council, backed by grass-roots activists and environmental groups, beat back a group of business-backed rivals. As Joel Connelly reported for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the results of the race will likely kill the development of the massive, $600 million Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would export as much as 48 million tons of climate-changing coal to China every year.
13. California expands access to reproductive health care …
While many red states were passing overly burdensome regulations on abortion providers – which pro-choice activists say amount to “back door” bans on the procedure – California went the other way. A law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October permits more health care providers — trained nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurse midwives – to perform abortions in the first trimester. According to Washington Post health reporter Sarah Kliff, it was the first time a state had expanded abortion access since 2006.
14. Homeowners got some protection against foreclosures …
Homeowners’ bill of rights legislation passed in Minnesota and Nevada and went into effect inCalifornia this year. Among other protections, these laws banned so-called “dual-tracking,” when lenders foreclose on a homeowner who has an application pending for a loan modification. During the first month the law was in effect in Nevada, foreclosure-related filings fell by almost 40 percent.
15. Immigrant rights activists win a couple in Connecticut …
If immigration reform isn’t dead in the nation’s capitol, it’s gravely ill and on life support. But in Connecticut and California, lawmakers decided that public safety was more important than anti-immigrant sentiment. Those states joined a growing number that allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses after passing a background check and the necessary written tests and driving exams.
Connecticut also passed the TRUST Act, which gives law enforcement officers discretion regarding whether or not to hold individuals for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The intent of the law is to encourage the undocumented to report crimes and cooperate with police without fear of deportation.
School privatization laws crafted by corporate interests have been introduced in nearly every state in the first half of 2013, according to the Center for Media and Democracy. 43 states and the District of Columbia are considering school legislation developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the umbrella organization that pushes state laws catered to business interests on a myriad of topics.
CMD’s report, “Cashing In On Kids,” details 139 separate ALEC-designed bills promoting for-profit education in the states and D.C. this year alone. Three states have considered school voucher programs, and 10 have taken up another ALEC measure that funnels public dollars to private schools via tax credits. Three states have considered the “Virtual Schools Act,” which spends taxpayer money on an online education model “few educators think is appropriate for young children.” So-called “Parent Trigger” laws designed by ALEC and the conservative Heartland Institute have come up in 12 states.
“Cashing In On Kids” notes that Wisconsin taxpayers have sent nearly two billion dollars to for-profit, religious, and online schools since Milwaukee became the nation’s first school vouchers city in 1990. School voucher programs in Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma have sent taxpayer money to schools that teach creationism. In Louisiana, almost none of the private schools receiving voucher funds have maintained the separate accounts for public dollars which the law requires, making it impossible to audit their use of the funds. Just two schools have been properly audited, and one of them relies on uncertified teachers and “plopping students in front of televisions to watch lessons on DVDs.”
Whether public education contributes to the Common Good depends, of course, on what kind of education it is, to whom it is available, and what we take to be the Common Good. There’s no need to tarry on the fact that these are highly contested matters, have been throughout history, and continue to be so today.
One of the great achievements of American democracy has been the introduction of mass public education, from children to advanced research universities. And in some respects that leadership position has been maintained. Unfortunately, not all. Public education is under serious attack, one component of the attack on any rational and humane concept of the Common Good, sometimes in ways that are not only shocking, but also spell disaster for the species.
All of this falls within the general assault on the population in the past generation, the so-called “neoliberal era.” I’ll return to these matters, of great significance and import.
Sometimes the attacks on education and on the Common Good are very closely linked. One current illustration is the “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” that is being proposed to legislatures by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded lobby that designs legislation to serve the needs of the corporate sector and extreme wealth. This act mandates “balanced” teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms.”
Even with Borders gone and independent booksellers struggling to get by, the war for the future of publishing rages on. As Steve Wasserman explains in “The Amazon Effect,” which appears in this week’s special issue of The Nation, booksellers and publishers have shifted toward digital books, and Amazon.com, which sells more electronic Kindle books than physical hardcovers, is well positioned to overpower its rivals. But what’s at stake in the battle over e-commerce and why should you avoid doing business with Amazon.com?
1. Amazon Dodges Taxes and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Doesn’t Contribute to Local Economies Through Charity
Last year, the Greenlining Institute reported that Amazon’s tax rate was among the lowest, at just 3.5 percent, of all companies included in the study. Yet despite the massive savings Amazon enjoys from exploiting tax loopholes, the company contributessurprisingly little to charities around its Seattle-area headquarters.
2. Amazon’s Business Model Is Monopolistic
Amazon is the world’s largest bookseller, offering more than 2 million titles. In an effort to lower prices, the company has demanded additional discounts from distributors—which, as Colin Robinson points out, is illegal under anti-trust law that prevents companies from selling a product at different prices to different customers. The company has been accused of having a “monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.”
3. Amazon Contributes to the Demise of Small, Independent Businesses
Amazon offers bestsellers at a loss in order to attract customers, a practice that has upended traditional publishing in the United States. But it doesn’t have to be this way, as Germany’s bookselling model illustrates.
4. Amazon Collects Your Information
Amazon.com states that it is “not in the business of selling” customers’ private information—e.g., what you buy, what you review, how you browse—to other companies, but last year Amazon.com was embroiled in a class-action lawsuit (Del Vecchio et al. v. Amazon.com) for allegedly bypassing customers’ privacy settings. Others have raised concerns about Kindle Fire’s web browser, fearing it would allow the company “to track customer behavior all over the Web, gathering data and marketing intelligence as it goes,” according to the New York Times.
5. Amazon Removed WikiLeaks from its Cloud Server
Under political pressure, Amazon removed WikiLeaks from its cloud server in 2010, prompting this question from Keir Thomas of PC World: “In an idyllic future where we make heavy use of the cloud, what happens if a cloud service provider removes content it deems inappropriate, or just doesn’t like?”
6. Amazon Was a Long-time Member of ALEC
Amazon was late to pull out of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative, pro-business nonprofit that recently came under fire for helping spread voter-identification and “Stand Your Ground” laws. Amazon, which has fought state-level taxation, focused on tax laws in ALEC.
7. Amazon Fights Unionization
When the Communications Workers of America launched a campaign to unionize Amazon’s customer-service representatives, the company argued that “unions actively foster distrust toward supervisors” and “create an uncooperative attitude among associates by leading them to think they are ‘untouchable’ with a union,” according to theNew York Times. To make matters worse, many Amazon employees are temporary workers who do not receive basic benefits like healthcare, and for whom forming a union is “virtually impossible.”
8. Amazon Abuses Its Workers
Working conditions at Amazon.com warehouses can be brutal. Last fall, the Morning Callreported that employees were being “pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain” in warehouses where the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, causing workers to feel light-headed and pass out.
9. Amazon Has Turned Searching Into Another Way To Collect Users’ Information
Amazon has made searching easier and more efficient, providing free information about books and, in some cases, permitting readers to “look inside” them. However, as Anthony Grafton explains in “Search Gets Lost,” the company has gradually cut back on its search capabilities, instead inviting the customer to provide information of every sort for Amazon to digest and profit from.
10. Amazon Is Just Too Big
In 2011, Amazon’s $48 billion in revenue exceeded that of all six major publishing conglomerates combined. It now resembles an “online Walmart” rather than a bookseller, writes Steve Wasserman, and has begun to colonize movie, baby product and shoe retailer websites, as well as the high-end fashion industry. For more on Amazon’s outsized power, be sure to read all of the articles in this week’s special issue on the retail giant.
Open government advocates accused a conservative legislative group Monday of falsely claiming tax-exempt status while doing widespread lobbying.
Advocacy group Common Cause said Monday it had filed an IRS complaint accusing ALEC of masquerading as a public charity. ALEC is formed as a nonprofit that brings together lawmakers and private sector organizations to develop legislation and policy.
ALEC says its work is not lobbying.
Common Cause disagrees. “It tells the IRS in its tax returns that it does no lobbying, yet it exists to pass profit-driven legislation in statehouses all over the country that benefits its corporate members,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, in a statement. “ALEC is not entitled to abuse its charitable tax status to lobby for private corporate interests, and stick the bill to the American taxpayer.”
Common Cause wants an IRS audit of ALEC’s work, penalties and the payment of back taxes.
A spokeswoman for ALEC did not return a call seeking comment.
ALEC has been active since the 1970s and has long drawn the ire of open government groups who question the secretive development of legislation and close relationship between private sector officials and lawmakers who meet at conferences to jointly develop model legislation. Liberal activists have seized on ALEC’s support of so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws, coordinating a campaign against the group in the wake of the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
George Zimmerman, who has been charged in Martin’s death, maintains he shot in self-defense. His attorney plans to cite the “Stand Your Ground” law, which gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight.
Amid the backlash, several companies who have previously supported ALEC financially, including Coca-Cola Co. and McDonald’s Corp., said they are no longer members. And ALEC said it was disbanding its public safety task force that helped export the Florida law to other states.
Those task forces consume much of ALEC’s spending, and Common Cause believes they are simply forums for lobbying. Common Cause said its complaint was based on more than 4,000 pages of ALEC records, including talking points that ALEC workers provided to lawmakers in order to better argue on behalf of the legislation the group develops.
One has to wonder, why the GOP think that they will truly suppress tens of thousands of voters without a valid ID from casting their ballots on election day. If their strategy was to make sure those tens of thousands don’t vote, activists and civil rights advocates are making an effort to help voters with the process of obtaining an ID before election day.
In the meantime, some of us sit and watch this attack on democracy try to take hold, but I am certain those leading the effort to retain our democratic principles will eventually rule the day. I intend to do my part.
Shortly after the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) announced it was dropping voter identification laws from its agenda, another conservative group is stepping in to fill the void.
The National Center for Public Policy Research announced this week it had formed a “Voter Identification Task Force” to continue ALEC’s “excellent work” in “promoting measures to enhance integrity in voting.” Describing itself as a “conservative, free-market, non-profit think-tank,” the group was established in 1982.
“The fact that ALEC is no longer going to be offering the services it did got us interested in doing something,” National Center for Public Policy Research executive director David Almasi told TPM. “We obviously can’t do everything ALEC did, but we can do something to make sure the issue doesn’t go away.”
“This is something that we picked up because someone else dropped it and not because anyone has come to us and said here’s a check, do it. It’s something that we feel strongly enough about that we’re willing to do it off our regular strategic plan,” Almasi said.
“We’re putting the left on notice: you take out a conservative program operating in one area, we’ll kick it up a notch somewhere else,” Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research, said in a statement. “You will not win. We outnumber you and we outthink you, and when you kick up a fuss you inspire us to victory.”
Corporate CEOs who “cower in the face of liberal boycott threats need to understand that the left never gives up,” Ridenour said. “If these corporations do not reverse course and immediately grow enough of a backbone to say no when the left tells them what to do, conservatives may as well consider them part of the organized left. It doesn’t matter if corporate executives have free-market sentiments hidden deep inside them if they continually surrender to the left’s Trotskyite strategy of making relentless demand after demand in public.”
While several conservative organizations have taken up the issue of voter identification, no national group that considered voter ID their central issue has existed since the American Center for Voting Rights disappeared back in 2007. More recently, the Tea Party group True the Vote has held a national conference to address the issue and James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas has produced a number of “undercover” videos in an attempt to show why they believe voter ID laws are necessary.
“Now we know that Yum! Brands has joined the 11 other companies that have announced in recent weeks that they’re no longer members of ALEC. These companies are McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Mars Inc., Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, Intuit, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Reed Elsevier (owner of LexisNexis and publisher of science and health information), American Traffic Solutions and Arizona Public Service.
“We want to thank these companies for making the right decision, and we want to thank ColorOfChange members and our partners. We continue to call on all major corporations to stop funding ALEC given its involvement in voter suppression. Our members and allied groups are prepared to hold accountable companies that continue to associate themselves with an organization that has attacked voting rights, causing irreparable damage nationwide.”
The loss of Yum! is also a significant loss for ALEC because the fast food giant held an important leadership role within the conservative group. YUM! co-chaired ALEC’s Labor and Business Regulation Subcommittee which, among other things, fought to repeal laws guaranteeing paid sick leave to workers.
April is proving to be an unusually unkind month for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).
First, Newark’s Star-Ledger ran a lengthy, detailed report documenting the extent to which the governor’s legislative proposals, executive orders, and agency rules were written, at times word for word, by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a shadowy far-right group that seeks to impose a conservative agenda in state legislatures.
Then, the New York Times helped shine a light on Christie’s corporate welfare practices, in which the governor is handing out lucrative tax credits to preferred in-state corporations.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey exaggerated when he declared that unforeseen costs to the state were forcing him to cancel the new train tunnel planned to relieve congested routes across the Hudson River, according to a long-awaited report by independent Congressional investigators.
The report by the Government Accountability Office, to be released this week, found that while Mr. Christie said that state transportation officials had revised cost estimates for the tunnel to at least $11 billion and potentially more than $14 billion, the range of estimates had in fact remained unchanged in the two years before he announced in 2010 that he was shutting down the project. And state transportation officials, the report says, had said the cost would be no more than $10 billion.
Mr. Christie also misstated New Jersey’s share of the costs: he said the state would pay 70 percent of the project; the report found that New Jersey was paying 14.4 percent. And while the governor said that an agreement with the federal government would require the state to pay all cost overruns, the report found that there was no final agreement, and that the federal government had made several offers to share those costs.
Even at the time, Christie’s decision on this project in 2010 was hard to understand. Conservatives, who’ve become increasingly hostile towards American infrastructure improvements, cheered the move, but from a substantive perspective, the governor’s decision was fairly characterized as “destructive and incredibly foolish.”
But this new report casts that decision in an even more damaging light. The Government Accountability Office is a non-partisan research/audit arm of Congress, and it’s reporting this week that Christie’s rationale for his strange decision wasn’t even true. It was a mistake to scrap a major public works project during a weak economy; it was a bigger mistake to explain the move with dishonest claims.
Also note, this didn’t just hurt New Jersey — the project was intended to alleviate congestion between Boston and Washington, D.C.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who requested the GAO investigation, said in a statement this morning, “This was the most important transportation project of our time. [The ARC Tunnel project] was critical to the future of New Jersey’s economy and it took years to plan, but Gov. Christie wiped it out with a campaign of public deception.”