Today, Greenpeace and the Coalition to March on Wall Street South sent a letter to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, highlighting the DNC’s connection to the American Legislative Exchange Council through Duke Energy.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is a corporate bill mill that not only drafts state laws attacking clean energy and global warming laws, but circulates voter suppression laws that the Democratic party has called “unnecessary and suppressive.” These “Voter ID” laws require registered American voters to show government-issued identification at the polls, something millions of legitimate voters do not have. Voters who are disenfranchised by these laws disproportionately represent communities of color, senior citizens and college students. A recent report by the Philadelphia Inquirer found that of the 39 of the 62 “Voter ID” bills introduced in various states over the last two years were linked to ALEC.
In May, Duke gave ALEC $50,000 for its meeting in Charlotte, NC and has consistently offered staff support at multiple levels of ALEC operations. Now its providing office space and a ten million dollar loan for the Democratic National Convention, also in Charlotte. Beyond acting as a political double-agent, Duke Energy’s heavy support for ALEC’s anti-environmental work goes against its own commitments to take climate change and clean energy seriously.
For these reasons, Greenpeace is asking the Democratic Committee to end its relationship with Duke Energy until the company has cut all ties with ALEC. ALEC’s controversial agenda has already led to an exodus of 32 of its corporate members, including Walmart, General Motors, Best Buy, and Amazon.com. The text of our letter is posted below; a full version with references is available for download on DocumentCloud.
Dear Rep. Wasserman Schultz,
The upcoming Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC has raised concerns with Greenpeace and others in the progressive community about the Democratic National Committee’s relationship with Duke Energy. Despite assurances that the Convention (DNC) would not be funded by contributions from corporations and lobbyists, Duke Energy has clearly played a significant role in bringing the Convention to Charlotte and underwriting the event. On the whole, we are concerned that both major parties are far too close to corporate interests. But in the case of the Democratic Party’s relationship with Duke Energy, we also believe it directly undermines the party’s own interest.
We are writing you today to make clear that by doing business with Duke Energy, you are supporting a radically conservative agenda that seeks to weaken public participation in American politics.
Duke Energy is deeply involved with the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”). ALEC is a fossil fuel-funded think tank that not only drafts state laws attacking clean energy programs and delaying action on climate change, but also promotes voter disenfranchisement policies throughout the country.
ALEC is working to disenfranchise millions of voters in key states around the country. Thirty states have “voter identification laws” requiring an extra layer of proof, usually a government issued identification, from voters prior to exercising their franchise. Since ALEC’s “Voter ID Act” was finalized in August, 2009, at least 39 of the 62 voter suppression laws introduced at the state level have been attributed to ALEC. Though there is not unanimity of design, the primary function of such a law is to create a barrier to exercising the fundamental right to vote—a crucial right in free and open democracy. As you well know, the impact of voter identification laws falls disproportionately on lower-income, minority and senior citizen voters.
Up to eleven percent of eligible voters—21 million people—do not have government-issued photo ID. That is an unacceptably high number of citizens potentially disenfranchised by Voter ID laws, the majority of which appear to be circulated by ALEC. Voter ID laws, which the Democratic National Committee has characterized as “unnecessary and suppressive,” are a key tactic employed by networks associated with the billionaire Koch brothers, longtime supporters of ALEC who are coordinating hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat President Obama. Duke’s support for ALEC poses a clear danger to the fundamental principles of American democracy and threatens not only the Democratic Party, but also the separation of corporate and public interests.
Duke Energy’s support for ALEC is extensive. Duke’s Chuck Claunch assists ALEC operations as a private sector co-chairman in South Carolina; Duke executive Julie Griffith serves in the same capacity for ALEC in Indiana. Several Duke and Progress Energy employees are liaisons to ALEC’s Energy, Environment & Agriculture (EEA) task force. The task force is charged with ghostwriting state laws attacking regional climate programs, controls for hazardous coal ash storage, renewable energy standards, and EPA enforcement of clean air and water laws. Duke has spent $116,000 on ALEC meetings since 2009, including $50,000 for ALEC’s May 2012 meeting in Charlotte, NC. This well exceeds the top annual ALEC membership fee of $25,000 and supports general operations that span beyond Duke’s stated interest in ALEC’s anti-environmental agenda.
As Duke has bankrolled ALEC’s controversial activity it has simultaneously provided substantial resources to the Democratic party.
Duke is currently the largest utility in the country and has used its size and influence to deepen its relationship with the party. Duke has provided office space and a $10 million line of credit for the Democratic National Convention, and Duke CEO Jim Rogers was instrumental in bringing the convention to Charlotte. While complications with his company’s merger have distracted him from fundraising for the event, Rogers still co-chairs the Charlotte Host Committee and personally donated $100,000 for the convention in addition to the millions Duke spends yearly in lobbying and donations to both major political parties.
President Obama and the Democratic Party have expressed outrage at voter suppression efforts, decried the influence of lobbyists over public policy, and voiced support for clean energy and action on climate change. Duke Energy, with its investments and its participation in groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, are working to directly undermine those goals.
Given these facts, we encourage the Democratic National Committee to end its relationship with Duke Energy until the company renounces its membership in ALEC and other radically conservative associations.
Phil Radford and members of the Coalition to March on Wall Street South