Pragmatic idealist. Worked on Ubuntu Phone. Inkscape co-founder. Probably human.
1248 stories
·
12 followers

Yak loose in Virginia after escaping transport to the butchers

1 Comment
A yak described as "aloof" is loose somewhere in Virginia after escaping transport to the butchers.
Read the whole story
tedgould
7 days ago
reply
Think what would happen if a yak was lost in Silicon Valley, there'd be fights over who gets to shave it.
Texas, USA
Share this story
Delete

Community Update Meeting

1 Comment
The plans for the new Exchange Parkway Recreation Center are starting to take shape!

Read the whole story
tedgould
8 days ago
reply
Love that this community meeting about our city's parks includes childcare, makes it accessible to larger portion of the community.
Texas, USA
Share this story
Delete

Meet the Oligarchs Funding Campaign to Kill Anti-Poverty Programs

1 Comment

 

Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo

A farmer's market in Topsham, Maine, 2017.

Sludge produces investigative journalism on lobbying and money in politics. The American Prospect is re-publishing this article.

Last December, an innocuously named nonprofit, the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), wined and dined Republican politicians and White House staffers at a Walt Disney World resort, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity. The pitch: make it harder for poor Americans to access government programs meant to help them get on secure financial ground, especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and Medicaid.

The group has already achieved some victories, as states including Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia have imposed work requirements on SNAP recipients, sometimes using FGA model legislation. A nationwide version of work requirements proposed by the Trump administration is expected to kick hundreds of thousands of poor Americans off of SNAP.

A Sludge investigation has found that FGA is heavily financed by a powerful Wisconsin foundation birthed by the wealthy, conservative Bradley brothers, multiple nonprofits affiliated with rightwing billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, and two dark money vehicles funded by Koch and Bradley charitable nonprofits. A number of FGA executives and board members work or have worked for other connected Bradley- and Koch-funded think tanks and political groups.

FGA and its connected lobbying arm, the Opportunity Solutions Project, are employing a common tactic among conservative economists, policy writers, and free-market ideologues, recasting cuts to public welfare benefits as encouraging “the redeeming power of work.”

This PR approach to welfare cuts comes out of the playbook of some of FGA’s funders, including the libertarian Koch, CEO of manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries and one of the richest men in the world. The Koch political and academic networks have adopted the phrases “human flourishing” and “well-being” to characterize harsh cuts to public assistance that many poor people depend on. Regardless of the Koch network’s claims, these kinds of welfare cuts mean more money that the billionaire class gets to keep from the Internal Revenue Service.

FGA represents one of many investments that wealthy American conservatives have made in order to weaken the American majority—working class Americans—and institutions meant to benefit them in favor of the private property ownership of a small but powerful minority.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has donated nearly $2.3 million to FGA since 2013, according to its annual reports. Based in Wisconsin and named after two brothers, Lynde and Harry, whose factory automation business made them a fortune, the foundation is led in part by its president, Art Pope, a wealthy North Carolinian political donor and close Koch ally. On its board are current and former business executives including GOP megadonor Diane Hendricks, owner of building company ABC Supply. The Bradley Foundation was established in 1942, the year that Lynde Bradley died, and funded schools, hospitals, and other local initiatives in its early days. Harry Bradley, who was a “fierce anti-Communist” and supported the far-right John Birch Society, died in 1965. Twenty years later, the family business was sold to Rockwell International for nearly $1.7 billion, and with a huge influx of cash, the Bradley Foundation massively expanded its work to promote the conservative values of its namesakes.

The foundation is deeply committed to state political efforts around the country, and hacked records show the extent of its powerful political operation. The foundation finances think tanks, bill-writing groups, legal centers, and conservative media in states such as Colorado, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin to promote stricter welfare work requirements, anti-union policies, school privatization, and climate change skepticism.

 

Its 2013 donation of $25,000 went towards FGA’s general operations, according to tax documents reviewed by Sludge. Then, in 2014, the Bradley Foundation donated $200,000 for “public education about Medicaid.” The following year, it upped its annual contribution to $350,000, and in 2016 it funded FGA’s “welfare and work” project. In 2017, it began funding FGA’s Restore the Working Class initiative, “a project which created a set of 21 model reforms for states to reduce the welfare state and restore the working class.” Last year, the foundation increased its donation to $500,000, which financed “reducing the welfare state and restoring the working class,” as did another half million dollars in 2019.

Koch’s foundations haven’t give much to FGA directly. In 2017, the Charles Koch Foundation gave $3,300 to the group, and the Freedom Partners Institute, an affiliate of the central funding operation of Koch’s political network, donated $30,000 in 2016. FGA has been a host organization for Charles G. Koch summer fellows. But dark money groups that Koch heavily funds via his foundations are FGA’s biggest benefactors. Donors Trust, a nonprofit popular with far-right millionaire and billionaire donors, gave over $2.8 million to FGA from 2015 to 2017. Its affiliate, Donors Capital Fund, gave FGA more than $2.3 million from 2015 to 2016. Both organizations are donor-advised fund sponsors, meaning they manage the money of individual donors who tell them where to contribute the funds, masking the donors’ names from the recipient organizations’ public records. (Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund will be referred to as “the Donors groups” in this article.)

Several FGA executives and board members are closely linked to a host of conservative nonprofit political networks and think tanks that are also funded by the Koch and Bradley family foundations. This tight network of funders and nonprofits is an example of just one carefully organized wing of the Koch-backed political and educational network.

[image5]

Tarren Bragden, CEO of FGA, was previously CEO of Donors Trust- and Donors Capital Fund-supported Maine Heritage Policy Center, which is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of conservative, state-based think tanks funded by the Koch and Bradley foundations. FGA is an SPN member, and SPN has donated to FGA

SPN is an associate member of another umbrella group of conservative organizations, the Atlas Network, which has donated to network partner FGA. Atlas has promoted Bragden’s praise of Kansas’ SNAP work requirements.

Kristina Rasmussen, the top lobbyist at FGA’s Opportunity Solutions Project, was previously executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute, a think tank and SPN member that has received funding from the Atlas Network, the Bradley Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, and the Donors groups. The Institute’s former director of health policy and pension reform, Jonathan Ingram, is now FGA’s vice president of policy and research.

FGA chief operating officer and general counsel Jonathan Bechtle was previously CEO of the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit funded by the Charles Koch Foundation and Donors Capital Fund. The Freedom Foundation is an Atlas Network partner, an SPN affiliate, and a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate bill mill that produces conservative model legislation for state legislators and is funded in part by two Koch Foundations, the Bradley Foundation, and Donors Capital Fund. Koch Industries is a corporate board member of ALEC. ALEC promotes state bills to block Medicaid expansion and backs Medicaid work requirements.

FGA board member Robert Levy is chairman of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank co-founded by Koch and funded by multiple Bradley, Koch, and the Donors groups, as well as by the Atlas Network. Levy is also a board member of George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, which received its current name as part of a $10 million donation from the Charles Koch Foundation, which accompanied $20 million from an anonymous donor.

Bridgett Wagner, another FGA board member, is the Heritage Foundation’s vice president of policy promotion and a board member at SPN. Heritage is funded by the Bradley, Koch, and the Donors groups and is an SPN member.

Read the whole story
tedgould
8 days ago
reply
Hadn't heard of the Bradley brothers
Texas, USA
Share this story
Delete

Transformative? New Device Harvests Energy from Darkness

1 Comment
A device that produces even the slightest electricity at night, when the demand for lighting peaks, would be valuable.

Read the whole story
tedgould
9 days ago
reply
Seems they found "dark energy." (I'll walk myself out)
Texas, USA
zippy72
8 days ago
Well played, sir.
Share this story
Delete

Texas told cities they couldn’t fund abortion providers. So Austin is funding abortion access instead.

1 Comment
Austin City Hall
Austin City Hall Anne Swoboda for The Texas Tribune

Austin became the first city in the nation Tuesday to approve public funding to help women better access abortion.

The Austin City Council on Tuesday amended next year's budget and set aside $150,000 to supplement incidental expenses like travel, lodging and childcare for women seeking the procedure. The money will not go directly toward the expense of the procedure itself.

The amendment comes just days after a new state law prohibiting local and state governments from giving taxpayer dollars and some public resources to abortion providers and their affiliates went into effect. Senate Bill 22 was partially a legislative reaction to Planned Parenthood's $1-per-year lease for its East Austin clinic, which abortion opponents called a “sweetheart rent deal” with the city.

“It is appalling the city of Austin doubled-down on its policies to ‘save the trees, kill the children,’" said Nicole Hudgens, policy director at the anti-abortion group Texas Values.

The council's move almost immediately garnered national headlines. Hudgens called the amendment a "political stunt attempting to circumvent the law." She said if the city wants to help women they should lower taxes.

Sen. Donna Campbell said in an email, "I'm not surprised The City of Austin would manipulate a recently passed law (SB 22) to use taxpayer dollars to pay for transportation and lodging to those seeking an abortion."

In an August statement, Campbell, primary author of SB 22, said the proposed city budget, "... defiantly violates the spirit of Senate Bill 22, if not an outright violation against the law," which took effect on Sept. 1.

"I will be working with the Attorney General's Office on this issue," Campbell said.

Aimee Arrambide, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said the funding isn't a response to SB 22, rather a creative way for Austin to make sure its community has access to abortion healthcare.

"It's more a direct response to the combination of abortion bans that have been passed throughout the year and the abortion bans sweeping the country rather than being a direct result of SB 22," Arrambide said.

The City Council worked with Arrambide and other leaders of abortion-rights organizations following abortion bans in states including Georgia and Alabama. The coalition suggested funding incidental costs through organizations who help women gain access to the procedure since it doesn't interfere with state laws.

“I don’t make decisions based on what the Legislature wants, I make decisions based on what our community needs," said Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, who led the amendment along with Council Member Gregorio Casar.

Restrictions on access to reproductive health care, including abortion, most affect women from marginalized communities who bear the greatest burden in terms of out-of-pocket costs, taking time off work and transportation to multiple appointments, Garza said. She described abortion as an equity issue that directly affects constituents in her majority Latino and lower-income Southeast Austin district.

"People assume that Texans don't support abortion access, but that's not the case," Arrambide said. "Texans do support abortion access and have since the decision of Roe. v Wade."

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Read the whole story
tedgould
9 days ago
reply
Go Austin!

I love the tone-deaf response from conservatives: "if the city wants to help women they should lower taxes." Seems they don't quite understand how pregnancy works.

Texas, USA
Share this story
Delete

Unreachable State

1 Comment and 2 Shares
ERROR: We've reached an unreachable state. Anything is possible. The limits were in our heads all along. Follow your dreams.
Read the whole story
tedgould
11 days ago
reply
I write error messages like this sometimes, though with more spelling errors.
Texas, USA
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories