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Each year, state lawmakers across the U.S. introduce thousands of bills dreamed up and written by corporations, industry groups and think tanks.
Disguised as the work of lawmakers, these so-called “model” bills get copied in one state Capitol after another, quietly advancing the agenda of the people who write them.
This story was produced as part of a collaboration between USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity. More than 30 reporters across the country were involved in the two-year investigation, which identified copycat bills in every state. The team used a unique data-analysis engine built on hundreds of cloud computers to compare millions of words of legislation provided by LegiScan.
A two-year investigation by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity reveals for the first time the extent to which special interests have infiltrated state legislatures using model legislation.
USA TODAY and the Republic found at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced nationwide in the past eight years, and more than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law.
The investigation examined nearly 1 million bills in all 50 states and Congress using a computer algorithm developed to detect similarities in language. That search – powered by the equivalent of 150 computers that ran nonstop for months – compared known model legislation with bills introduced by lawmakers.
The phenomenon of copycat legislation is far larger. In a separate analysis, the Center for Public Integrity identified tens of thousands of bills with identical phrases, then traced the origins of that language in dozens of those bills across the country.
Model bills passed into law have made it harder for injured consumers to sue corporations. They’ve called for taxes on sugar-laden drinks. They’ve limited access to abortion and restricted the rights of protesters.
In all, these copycat bills amount to the nation’s largest, unreported special-interest campaign, driving agendas in every statehouse and touching nearly every area of public policy.
The investigation reveals that fill-in-the-blank bills have in some states supplanted the traditional approach of writing legislation from scratch. They have become so intertwined with the lawmaking process that the nation’s top sponsor of copycat legislation, a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, claimed to have signed on to 72 such bills without knowing or questioning their origin.
For lawmakers, copying model legislation is an easy way to get fully formed bills to put their names on, while building relationships with lobbyists and other potential campaign donors.
For special interests seeking to stay under the radar, model legislation also offers distinct advantages. Copycat bills don’t appear on expense reports, or campaign finance forms. They don’t require someone to register as a lobbyist or sign in at committee hearings. But once injected into the lawmaking process, they can go viral, spreading state to state, executing an agenda to the letter.
USA TODAY’s investigation found:
* Models are drafted with deceptive titles and descriptions to disguise their true intent. The Asbestos Transparency Act didn’t help people exposed to asbestos. It was written by corporations who wanted to make it harder for victims to recoup money. The “HOPE Act,” introduced in nine states, was written by a conservative advocacy group to make it more difficult for people to get food stamps. * Special interests sometimes work to create the illusion of expert endorsements, public consensus or grassroots support. One man testified as an expert in 13 states to support a bill that makes it more difficult to sue for asbestos exposure. In several states, lawmakers weren’t told that he was a member of the organization that wrote the model legislation on behalf of the asbestos industry, the American Legislative Exchange Council. * Copied bills have been used to override the will of local voters and their elected leaders. Cities and counties have raised their minimum wage, banned plastics bags and destroyed seized guns, only to have industry groups that oppose such measures make them illegal with model bills passed in state legislatures. Among them: Airbnb has supported the conservative Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, which pushed model bills to strike down local laws limiting short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods in four states. * Industry groups have had extraordinary success pushing copycat bills that benefit themselves. More than 4,000 such measures were introduced during the period analyzed by USA TODAY/Arizona Republic. One that passed in Wisconsin limited pain-and-suffering compensation for injured nursing-home residents, restricting payouts to lost wages, which the elderly residents don’t have.
“This work proves what many people have suspected, which is just how much of the democratic process has been outsourced to special interests,” said Lisa Graves, co-director of Documented, which probes corporate manipulation of public policy. “It is both astonishing and disappointing to see how widespread … it is. Good lord, it’s an amazing thing to see.”
The impact of model legislation is undoubtedly larger than the 10,000 copied bills identified by USA TODAY/Arizona Republic.
Because the investigation relied on matching identical text, it flagged instances where legislators copied model legislation nearly verbatim, but it did not detect bills that adapted an idea without using the same language.
Sherri Greenberg, who spent 10 years in the Texas Legislature and is now the Max Sherman Chair in State and Local Government at the University of Texas at Austin, said bills used to spring from lawmakers’ experiences, constituents, or lobbyists representing long-established industries. Model legislation has flourished as gridlock in Congress forced special interest groups to look to the states to get things done, she said.
Not all model legislation is driven by special interests or designed to make someone money. Some bills were written to require sex offenders to register with law enforcement, while others have made it easier for members of the military to vote or increased penalties for human trafficking.
Charles Siler, a former external relations manager for the Goldwater Institute, which has pushed copycat bills nationwide, said it’s a fast way to spread ideas because with little modification lawmakers can adapt it to their state.
“It’s not inherently bad, one way or the other,” said Siler, who now works for a political action committee. “It depends on the idea and the people pushing it. Definitely people use model legislation to push bad ideas around.”
Allison Anderman, managing attorney at the pro-gun-control Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said model bills are simply how the system works now.
“This is how all laws are written,” she said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a law where a legislator sits in a chamber until a light bulb goes off with a new policy.”
Bills promise to protect the public. They actually bolster the corporate bottom line.
The Asbestos Transparency Act sounds like the kind of boring, good-government policy voters expect their representatives to hammer out on their behalf to safeguard public health.
Better transparency was one reason Colorado state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg said he introduced the bill in 2017, and again last year, at the urging of a tort reform group called the Colorado Civil Justice League and backed by insurance companies, including Nationwide Insurance.
“Whenever you add transparency to the mix, it helps all consumers,” said Sonnenberg, a Republican.
But the bill had nothing to do with requiring companies to disclose to consumers what products contained asbestos or informing those who had been exposed to the cancer-causing mineral how to get help.
It, in effect, cast corporations as victims of litigation filed by people harmed by asbestos. The model bill requires people battling the asbestos-triggered disease mesothelioma to seek money from an asbestos trust, set up to compensate victims, before they can sue a company whose product might have caused their cancer.
That process can take months or even a year.
Many mesothelioma victims die within a year their diagnosis. Their families can still sue on their behalf, but for far less money.
“I can tell you for a fact that families don’t have time for all these hoops they want you to jump through,” said Chris Winokur, whose husband Bob was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2015 and died nine months later. “They’re trying to make it more difficult to sue.”
Chris Winokur poses for a portrait with a photo of her late husband, former Fort Collins City Councilman and Mayor, Robert Winokur, on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Estes Park, Colo.
Bob Winokur, who worked for the U.S. Forest Service and served as mayor of Fort Collins, Colorado, never pinpointed where he came in contact with asbestos. And he never filed a claim to help pay his medical bills. The disease progressed too rapidly to allow it, even without the additional requirements proposed by the model bill, Chris Winokur said.
The model legislation was the work of corporations seeking to limit their exposure to billions of dollars in litigation associated with asbestos. Insurance companies Nationwide, AIG, Travelers, Hartford and CNA Financial Corp. together hold more than half the nation’s asbestos claim exposure totaling over $870 million.
USA TODAY/Arizona Republic found the Asbestos Transparency Act, a product of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an industry-supported model bill factory, has been introduced in at least 32 states since 2012. It became law in 12 states.
Sonnenberg, the lawmaker who introduced it in Colorado, said he didn’t write the bill and relied on “my experts” to explain it during a February 2017 hearing.
One of those experts was Mark Behrens, who logs thousands of miles a year testifying before lawmakers about ALEC’s model asbestos legislation. He has done so in at least 13 states, where he was billed as an objective authority.
Behrens is an attorney with Shook, Hardy and Bacon, which represents companies in complex civil litigation. He is a co-chairman of ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force and is a paid consultant for the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, an arm of the nation’s largest business lobby, which has the stated goal of reducing litigation.
During the hearing, Behrens testified: “The only thing the legislation does is accelerate the timing of when the trust claim is filed. It’s not putting any new burdens on plaintiffs.”
A Democratic legislator pressed Behrens on why the 26-page bill needed technical language that could confuse victims trying to be compensated. She called it, “a gift to defendants,” before voting against it.
Sonnenberg told USA TODAY he didn’t know Behrens worked for the Chamber of Commerce when he called him to testify. “I just knew they were experts and they indeed understood the legal issues and process much better than I,” he wrote in an email.
Behrens said the Asbestos Transparency Act seeks to hold wrongdoers accountable, while exonerating innocent companies paying for harm they didn’t cause.
“These companies don’t get a vote; all we can do is make our case,” Behrens told USA TODAY. “I don’t care who I’m there for, I still have to be credible and honest.”
Graves said special interests have “so-called experts who aren’t neutral. They go around the country and testify about those bills as if they’re good for that state or even as if they’re products of that state.”
Colorado lawmakers rejected the Asbestos Transparency Act in 2017 and 2018, and Sonnenberg said he doesn’t plan to introduce it this year.
“It would be wise,” he said, “for someone with a better understanding of these types of issues to carry the bill in the future.”
Bill Meierling, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of ALEC, said supporters of the asbestos model believed it did create more transparency, “but it’s up to each individual state to choose how they would name” the bill when they copy ALEC’s model.
USA TODAY found more than 4,000 bills benefiting industry were introduced nationwide during the eight years it reviewed. More than 80 of those bills limit the public’s ability to sue corporations, including limiting class-action lawsuits, a plaintiff’s ability to offer expert testimony, and cap punitive damages for corporate wrongdoing.
“No citizens are saying, ‘Hey, can you make it harder to sue if … low-paid (nursing home) orderlies happened to kill or injure my parents,’ ” Graves said. “That’s not a thing citizens are clamoring for. But you know who is? The nursing home industry, and big business in general.”
Many of the bills USA TODAY found were copied from models written by special interests were couched in similarly unremarkable or technical language that obscured their impact. Bans on raising the local minimum wage were dubbed “uniform minimum wage” laws. Changes to civil court rules to shield companies from lawsuits were described as ”congruity” or reforms to make laws consistent. Repealing business regulations was disguised under the term “rescission.”
Politicians get a shortcut to success. Special interests get their agendas turned into law.
A moderate Republican from the Philadelphia suburbs shows how copycat bills in some states set the legislative agenda.
Rep. Thomas Murt has sponsored more model legislation than any other state lawmaker in the nation, according to USA TODAY‘s database.
Murt, whose biggest campaign donors include the Pennsylvania Republican Party and labor unions, said he was stunned to learn that he was listed as a sponsor on 72 bills substantially copied from model legislation from 2010 to late 2018.
Pennsylvania House members solicit co-sponsors by circulating short memos summarizing a bill without including its actual language or who wrote it.
“I had no way of knowing unless it’s put in the … memo,” Murt said of the bills he helped sponsor.
Murt’s situation highlights how critical bill titles and summaries are – especially when it comes to copycat legislation – because lawmakers, even sponsors, often don’t read bills.
Had Murt probed further, he would have seen the bills he signed onto came from ALEC, its liberal counterpart ALICE, the State Innovation Exchange, Council of State Governments, Goldwater Institute and other groups that specialize in writing copycat bills.
They dealt with cities’ ability to take action against blighted properties, prohibitions on businesses banning guns in employees’ vehicles, and a call for the U.S. president to be elected by popular vote, among many others.
USA TODAY provided Murt with a list of all 72 bills, 13 of which became law, and asked questions about his support for them. He was the primary sponsor of only one: a ban on smoking in workplaces written by the liberal State Innovation Exchange.
Murt said he would reconsider his support for two of the bills that were copied from ALEC, after learning more about their impact. One was a call for a constitutional convention to curb federal spending, backed by the controversial Koch brothers conservative political network. The other was a bill protecting Crown Cork & Seal from asbestos liability.
“I would be suspect of such a proposal,” Murt said of the constitutional convention model. “But bear in mind that when that co-sponsor memo was circulated, I’m sure it never mentioned the Koch brothers,/ because for some people that would have been a show-stopper.”
Murt also said he would never support limiting asbestos victims’ ability to sue.
USA TODAY interviewed more than 50 sponsors of model legislation nationwide. Half said they knew they had sponsored model legislation. But 20 legislators said they didn’t know the source of their bill or claimed they wrote at least part of the bill.
Five insisted the bill was their own work, even though the wording of each included multiple passages that matched model legislation nearly verbatim. Almost all of the sponsors defended the practice of copying model legislation or had no opinion of it.
In Michigan, Republican state Sen. Joe Haveman said he worked with a lobbyist from a Lansing law firm to draft his state’s version of the law aimed at shielding Crown Cork & Seal from asbestos liability stemming from a corporate merger in the 1960s. The law firm, Clark Hill, has donated $1,800 to his campaigns since 2012, according to state records.
Haveman said he had no issues with relying on model bills and said even though Crown Cork & Seal is not a Michigan company, he said he saw it as a “fairness issue.” He said he was approached by a lobbyist and agreed with the bill when he saw a draft.
“It really had nothing to do with my passion for anything. They had to do this in all 50 states,” Haveman said. “Somebody targeted me, and I had to do it.”
It’s not just legislators circulating copycat bills. In Pennsylvania, the nonpartisan service that drafts all bills for the state Assembly – the Legislative Reference Bureau – frequently copies directly from model legislation, said director Vincent DeLiberato. But the legislator ultimately decides whether to use it, he said.
In Wisconsin, the Legislature’s nonpartisan legal staff is similarly tasked with converting lawmakers’ ideas into bills. A March 1, 2017, email to that staff from the office of Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos requested that an attached document be “drafted as stated.”
The document contained the Campus Free Speech Act, which prevents universities from blocking controversial speakers and imposes penalties on students, including expulsion, for disrupting such events. The measure, written by the Goldwater Institute, is a reaction to liberal protesters at Middlebury College, UC-Berkeley, University of Florida and other campuses who have disrupted speeches by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and white supremacist Richard Spencer, among others.
Vos did not respond to questions about the origin of his bill, which was copied nearly verbatim from Goldwater’s model. It didn’t pass, but the ideas were incorporated in new university rules adopted by Wisconsin.
USA TODAY’s algorithm found the same model was introduced in 13 states, becoming law in Arizona and North Carolina. A similar version passed in Colorado.
The relationship between groups writing model legislation and the lawmakers introducing them is a marriage of convenience, experts said.
Special interests give lawmakers fully conceived bills they can put their names on and take credit for. And those special interests can become dependable donors to their campaigns.
Conservative groups like ALEC nurture those relationships at annual conferences where lawmakers and corporate lobbyists discuss policy and mingle over meals and drinks paid for by corporate sponsors.
This arrangement is particularly appealing to new lawmakers, said Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, an assistant professor at Columbia University who has studied the influence of ALEC and other conservative groups.
His research showed less-experienced lawmakers are more likely to use copycat legislation.
They “know they are conservative, they know they are pro-business, but … they don’t really know what it means to translate that into different bills,” he said. “These networks are able to fill in what it means to be a conservative Republican who wants to support business.”
Meierling, ALEC’s chief marketing officer, said there are checks and balances on corporate influence within the organization “just like our government structure.”
Companies join ALEC because they want feedback and insight from a variety of legislators, he said.
“Sure they (companies) are going to share their perspective, but a legislator is there to represent their constituents and if they don’t they’ll be held accountable at the ballot box,” Meierling said. “ALEC … has proven it’s an asset to society.”
Progressive groups, meanwhile, have failed to replicate conservatives’ success because they’ve not invested in facilitating the relationships between lawmakers and special interests, Hertel-Fernandez said.
“What ALEC does is more than provide the model bills: They provide relationships. They approach you when you are first elected and build these enduring social connections with you at recurring events that happen every year,” he said. “You really need that social connection in addition to the model-bill resources that you’re getting, the research help.”
Bills sound like they’re protecting people from a problem. They’re actually for promotion, and persuading people to open their wallets.
“Countless American lives will be saved. … I don’t want to say thousands because I think it’s going to be much more – hundreds of thousands,” President Donald Trump said at a signing ceremony for the national “Right to Try” bill in May 2018. “It is such a great name. From the first day I loved it. It’s so perfect: Right. To. Try.”
With the stroke of a pen, Trump made a bill that had circulated in statehouses for four years the most successful copycat bill in history. Not only did it pass in 41 states, it also had conquered Congress.
The version passed by Congress allows terminally ill individuals a right to try experimental medications that have not been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The bill’s title left the public with the impression it was spurred by a groundswell of patients demanding lifesaving treatment.
Instead, it was a focus group-tested name, coined by a consultant to a for-profit corporation.
That corporation, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a chain focused on alternative cancer treatments, wanted access to experimental drugs to boost business.
Right to Try illustrates another finding of USA TODAY’s investigation: Some copycat bills amount to little more than marketing and posturing, with organizations behind them highlighting a perceived problem and then offering a solution with little or no measurable impact.
The point is seemingly to score political points, draw attention to the organization behind the model, and raise funds off the effort.
Former Goldwater President Darcy Olsen parlayed this campaign into the book “Right to Try.” In it, she said Cancer Treatment Centers of America approached Goldwater for help addressing a “national medical emergency”: the government blocking terminally ill patients from receiving potential lifesaving treatments.
When asked, Goldwater could not produce any of those patients.
Chuck Warren, corporate consultant to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, said he came up with the bill’s name.
Goldwater and CTCA paid for focus groups to make sure the name struck the right chord. “It was always our favorite name and it was the name that resonated the most with focus groups,” Warren said.
While the marketing was cutting edge, its policy largely had been implemented decades earlier.
Alison Bateman-House, an assistant professor of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Health, said Right to Try is “an effort to address a problem that did not actually exist.” Patients have been able to access experimental drugs since the 1970s, she said.
Through the FDA’s compassionate-use program, about 1,000 patients a year have gained access to non-approved drugs in recent years. The FDA approves more than 90 percent of those requests, often within days and, in emergencies, sometimes more quickly.
“The Goldwater Institute was taking advantage of a very heart-rending and sympathetic issue to push for their pet policy, which is basically to roll back regulations,” Bateman-House said. “They did pick a winner of a name. … Unfortunately, it’s a lie.”
It’s unclear how many people have received experimental drugs through Right to Try. Bateman-House said she’s heard of two. Goldwater points to those same two patients, and a Texas doctor who ran a trial involving 200 patients.
Goldwater CEO Victor Riches said those were only the individuals who informed his organization about their success using the law.
Riches said Goldwater crafts legislation it sees a need for in Arizona, where it’s based. It then considers the “exportability” of its model legislation to other states, he said.
Goldwater’s strategy for Right to Try was to get it passed in as many states as possible to pressure Congress to enact a version, Riches said.
“When you are in 41 states and you’ve had literally thousands of legislators, Democrats and Republicans alike, it is hard for the federal government not to take notice,” he said.
It’s even harder to pin down what problem the American Laws for American Courts bill is solving.
The model bill, which was introduced in legislatures 53 times during the past eight years, mandates judges’ rulings be void if based on a foreign law or doctrine that violates the rights granted to U.S. citizens under the Constitution or state law.
Even backers struggle to identify situations where this has occurred.
“This is a solution looking for a problem,” said Ahmed Abdelnaby, an engineer who testified against the bill last year at the Idaho Legislature because he felt it fomented hate against his Muslim faith.
While proponents are unable to cite court cases where U.S. law has been supplanted by Sharia or some other doctrine, those lobbying for it collected about $206 million in donations between 2008 and 2013, according to a study released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender.
“They wouldn’t be doing it if they weren’t making a buck,” said Robert McCaw, government relations director for CAIR.
Ahmed and Dalia Abdelnaby attend the Interfaith Sack Lunch Conversation event at the Islamic Center of Boise on Wednesday February 27th, 2019. Ahmed and Dalia have been vocal opponents of the so-called Anti-Sharia law bills.
Minnesota state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, who co-sponsored similar legislation in 2016, said some people fear Sharia law will be applied in the U.S., but he does not.
Drazkowski also pushed a bill in 2011 to declare English as the official language of Minnesota and prohibit conducting routine business in foreign languages, including driver’s license exams. The bill was strikingly similar to model legislation by a group called ProEnglish, which calls itself the “nation’s leading advocate for official English.”
The Saint Paul Pioneer Press editorialized that Drazkowski was using it to ensure his reelection by “pandering to the mostly conservative and card-carrying residents of … the paranoid states of America.”
Drazkowski said he is aware of ProEnglish but couldn’t remember where he got the language for his English-only bill.
“The use of these model bills is not the end of the world,” he said, noting that immigrants are more successful when they learn English. “The idea that one organization or group is somehow controlling legislation or legislators or states, that’s a fallacy.”
Voters say they want one thing. Special interests get lawmakers to do the opposite.
For Susan Edwards, it seemed like a godsend when Arizona lawmakers introduced a bill to create a new kind of school voucher for students with disabilities.
Susan Edwards speaks at her home in Tempe, Ariz. on January 2, 2019.
With the money – funded by dollars taken from a recipient’s local district school – the mother of two children on the autism spectrum could send her kids to a private school where they would receive specialized attention they wouldn’t get elsewhere.
With a sympathetic group of students as the face of the legislation, Democrats and Republicans rallied behind the 2011 bill which borrowed language from the Goldwater Institute, ALEC, and American Federation for Children, the pro-school choice group founded by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Edwards’ opinion of the program, however, changed drastically as legislators later introduced bill after bill to give vouchers to more students, culminating in lawmakers approving them for all students.
None of those bills, however, guaranteed Edwards’ sons and others with disabilities could keep their vouchers as more students were added. She didn’t know it at the time, but lawmakers were drawing their ideas from model legislation.
Edwards said she realized in retrospect that students with disabilities were used as a Trojan horse to put on the legislative agenda a fringe idea that was part of a much bigger campaign. In the years that followed, 19 other states debated 93 nearly identical proposals based on model legislation. They became law in Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina and Tennessee.
“Every single, little expansion, if you look at who’s behind it, it is the people that want to get that door kicked open for private religious education,” Edwards said. ”All we (families with disabled students) are was the way for them to crack open the door.”
Riches, Goldwater’s CEO, said starting the ESA program with a small group of students and expanding it was the best approach.
“When you are talking about a big idea, a new idea, usually the best way of approaching it is to wade into it and demonstrate it can work on a smaller level and then grow it from there,” Riches said.
The groups behind Arizona’s move toward universal vouchers, however, were shown in indisputable terms that the public opposed their ideas.
On Election Day 2018, Arizona voters rejected universal vouchers by a 65-35 margin.
It was only the most recent example of model legislation that didn’t reflect the will of voters, USA TODAY/Arizona Republic found.
Model-legislation factories have increasingly proposed what are known as “preemption” bills. These laws, in effect, allow state legislators to dictate to city councils and county governing boards what they can and cannot do within their jurisdiction—including preventing them from raising the minimum wage, banning plastic grocery bags, and destroying guns.
Kansas stopped local efforts to require restaurants to list calories on their menus.
Arizona and New Hampshire prevented local regulations on home rentals. Airbnb has lobbied against home-sharing restrictions, often with the Goldwater Institute’s assistance.
One model pushed by ALEC and the Goldwater Institute prohibits local jurisdictions from creating occupational licensing requirements. It reflects conservatives’ and libertarians’ belief that job licensing stifles competition and hurts the economy, and should only be required when it involves health and safety.
Drazkowski, the Minnesota representative, said he introduced such a bill “so you don’t have a patchwork kind of discombobulated mess of different ordinances from one community to the next.”
But Riches said his group stopped promoting similar model legislation because of the public outcry.
“We found very quickly that you bring people out of the woodwork when you try to get rid of occupational licenses,” he said. “What I would refer to as the status-quo crowd.”
Goldwater returned with another that allows anyone who’s been harmed by occupational regulation to sue for damages, including harm that occurred before the law was enacted.
It was introduced in at least five states and passed in Arizona. But Riches acknowledged no one has used it to file suit, and the only beneficiary he can point to is a person with ties to the administration of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a vocal supporter of occupational licensing restrictions.
Because preemption bills have almost exclusively been advanced by Republicans, many of whom rail against the excessive mandates of Washington, D.C., critics see such legislation as the height of hypocrisy.
“There’s real … hypocrisy in many of these so-called conservative legislators trying to rip away local control when they preached for years that a government that’s closest to you … is most responsive to you,” said Dawn Penich-Thacker, who campaigned to overturn Arizona’s school-voucher expansion with a public vote.
Penich-Thacker saw a similar disregard for the will of voters when within hours of Arizonans’ vote to overturn universal school vouchers, the Goldwater Institute and American Federation Children declared they would continue to feed their model proposals to state lawmakers.
Bills to modify Arizona’s voucher program were soon introduced. One bore a striking resemblance to model legislation from the Heartland Institute, granting vouchers to any parent who feels their child is unsafe or being bullied at school.
REPORTING AND ANALYSIS: Natalie Allison, Chris Amico, Daniel Bice, Giacomo Bologna, Ben Botkin, David Boucher, Jon Campbell, Amy DiPierro, Paul Egan, Dustin Gardiner, Ronald J. Hansen, Greg Hilburn, Greg Holman, Joe Hong, Lisa Kaczke, Keegan Kyle, Kaitlin Lange, Pamela Ren Larson, Aamer Madhani, Patrick Marley, Kelsey Mo, Dan Nowicki, Rob O’Dell, Geoff Pender, Nick Penzenstadler, Agnel Philip, Justin Price, Nick Pugliese, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Jeff Schwaner, Chris Sikich, Michael Squires, Matt Wynn
FROM THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: Jared Bennett, Kristian Hernandez, Sameea Kamal, Rui Kaneya, Mark Olalde, Pratheek Rebala, Peter Smith, Liz Essley Whyte
EDITING: Chris Davis, John Kelly, Amy Pyle, Michael Squires, Kytja Weir (CPI)
GRAPHICS AND ILLUSTRATIONS: Andrea Brunty, Veronica Bravo, Lauren Lapid, Pim Linders, Ramon Padilla, Jim Sergent, Shawn Sullivan, Mitchell Thorson
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY: Patrick Breen, Chris Powers, Pat Shanahan
DIGITAL PRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT: Robert Barnes, Christian Baucom, Andrea Brunty, Tom Foster, Tyler Hawkins, Spencer Holladay, Ryan Marx, Annette Meade, Josh Miller, Michael Varano, Stan Wilso
SOCIAL MEDIA, ENGAGEMENT AND PROMOTION: Mary Bowerman, P. Kim Bui, Anne Godlasky, Danielle Woodward
The sponsor, Shawnna Bolick, denied any knowledge of the Heartland model. Her bill, she said, was based on the experience of her daughter.
Edwards, the voucher supporter-turned opponent, noted that just like the first Arizona bill granting vouchers to children with disabilities, Bolick had sympathetic victims—kids who’d been bullied—to help sell her bill.
“It really does seem like you are fighting against the tide,” Edwards said of the influence of model legislation and the groups behind it. “They are ignoring the vote of the people.”
A letter to the editor appeared in The Arizona Republic defending renewed efforts to expand the voucher program despite defeat at the ballot box.
The letter’s author, Scott Kaufman, wasn’t a concerned parent, or even an Arizona resident.
He had sent his letter from the Washington, D.C., suburbs, from a model-bill factory: the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Contributing: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Dustin Gardiner, Ronald J. Hansen, Kelsey Mo, Agnel Philip, Giacomo Bologna, Paul Egan, Dan Nowicki, Chris Amico, Matt Wynn, Justin Price, Pamela Ren Larson
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Hail #FreeSpeech – Hail \o Hail \o Hail \o
Defend your #ideas in free & open #debate or pay the price in #Blood – like those in #Christchurch! 👍
#DefendEuropa #1488 #Those-who-forbid-speech-beget-violence #NameTheJew #Jews #Jew #Evil #Censorship #Corporations #Suppression #Oppression #Censors #Lies #Treachery #Falsehood #Enemy #Fiends #Synagogue-of-Satan #Israel
Why does a vegan get ads for ice cream?
My friend, let’s call him Jake, has been a #vegan for years, long before it was trendy.
He said the other day, “Okay, Bill, you’re the one who keeps telling me about the terrible things the #internet can do (he usually ignores most of my advice) so how come I get #ads for Ben & Jerry’s in my emails on my Mac? They keep screaming at me “Hey, Jake! Buy Ben ‘n’ Jerry’s now!”
I try to ignore the irritation I feel that he hasn’t even installed an #adblocker yet and ponder the problem. “Hmm, which email provider do you use, Jake?”
“Hotmail,” he said, sheepishly.
I gave a weary sigh. As some in the Federation know, Hotmail and Gmail collect keywords in our private subject lines and contact list and sell them on to advertisers without our knowledge or permission – especially if we don’t fix our privacy settings.
I asked him if he had any people in his contact list called Ben or Jerry. He had a think. A flicker of recognition shone in his eyes and we both knew.
“Stop using it, Jake,” I said. “Use Tutanota or Mailfence at least…”
He is addicted to convenience.
He is still using Hotmail.
#apple #consumertech #privacy #tech #Google #locationtracking #surveillance #monitoring #adblockers #ads #digitaladvertising #internetmarketing #gmail #hotmail #outlook #microsoft #mail #data #corporations #telemetry #mass-surveillance #surveillance #tracking #trackers #spyware #surveillancecapitalism #icecream #icecreamcone #mac #ios #ipad
@ivan zlax It is in Asia that l´on destroys the most forests for cultivation or palm oil (much more than in the Amazon). India has limited the birth of girls to combat overcrowding...Yes, it is:
Demand creates supply:
Netherlands: $2 billion (5.9%)
Spain: $1.4 billion (4.3%)
Italy: $1.1 billion (3.3%)
United States: $1.1 billion (3.2%)
Germany: $797.6 million (2.4%)
Russia: $701.7 million (2.1%)
Belgium: $467.2 million (1.4%)
The demand for palm oil is financing the destruction of species diversity, and my closest ponginae brothers orangutans:
email@example.com wrote the following post Wed, 05 Dec 2018 04:30:36 +0300
Do NOT consume palm oil. Palm oil plantations KILL helpless orangutans on purpose. When you eat processed food products with palm oil, THIS is what you are buying.
Palm oil and species extinction Quote Taken from COP (Centre For Orangutan Protection) "Orangutans’ #poaching is done deliberately as a policy made by #palmoil #corporations. Therefore they hire local people as pest busters, who serve the #corporation with #killing any #wild #animals, including #orangutans, which spoil #palm oil trees within the #plantations. The pest busters will bring up a cut-off hand of an #orangutan they have killed and hand it to the corporation as a proof. When they find an adult female orangutan with her baby, they will usually kill the ‘mother‘ and take away the baby for pet or sale". It is estimated that over 50 Orangutan are killed every week due to #deforestation. #Forest homes are cleared by either heavy machinery or fire. Orangutans are left starved with no #food source and often trapped in pockets of isolated areas with no way out and often wander onto plantations searching for food. The orangutan are considered a pest by many of the oil palm companies as they often destroy young palm plants in the hope of finding food. They are run over by excavation equipment, doused in petrol and burnt alive, captured, tortured, beaten, shot with air guns or slaughtered. As forest home is destroyed they become vulnerable to poachers. Infant orangutans have monetary value and are often kept as pets or illegally smuggled, the only way a mother will let go of her infant is if she has been killed.#animalrights #wildlife #habitat #vegan #veganism
#capitalism #domestication #forest #hominid #orangutan #future #property
Which websites featured on the Federation have the worst privacy?
My last post highlighted how ticking the OEmbed box to add a website picture to a post can compromise Federation users if it contains a tracker.
I also mentioned tools, like Disconnect, we could use to detect websites which track their users. In this post I reveal some of the most popular reference websites on the Federation with low privacy and high tracking rates.
I believe Federation users should consider not embedding, or at least warning their readers about the surveillance techniques carried out by these sites.
A Princeton University study identified almost a million websites that track their users. Here are just 5 examples of websites whose stories are commonly quoted on the Federation:
Wired is a popular website referenced on the Federation by many users because it publishes great tech-based stories. But how private is it?
Although it offers an ‘ad-free’ version for subscribers, normal visitors are ruthlessly fleeced for their data.
WIRED has embed deals (agreements to embed tracking codes into their pages for money or gain) with a staggering 171 third parties including Google, Amazon, Facebook, Vogue, GQ, Golf Digest, Bonappetit and Vanity Fair.
Some tracking beacons embedded on WIRED and captured by Ublock Origin
151 of these third parties are known tracking or advertising companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Turn, Add This, Scorecard Research, Adobe, Twitter Analytics, Typekit, Criteo and Quantserve. Aggressive trackers like Google Tag Manager (GTM), Add This and Turn are present here.
Below is a screengrab of the many scripts NoScript has blocked from the WIRED website, the 33 scripts, gifs and beacons blocked by Ublock Origin and a couple by Disconnect.
WIRED sets 25 short-term and 28 long-term cookies itself, while allowing its third party partners (including 69 tracking companies) to set 26 short-term and 133 long-term cookies.
It uses Google Analytics without the anonymization feature enabled, so user details are sent to Google servers.
All WIRED servers are based in the US so GDPR privacy rules can be ignored.
Websites loading this many scripts/cookies are usually blacklisted by most users, not least because they drain a device’s battery.
WIRED claims that subscribing with them will mean an ad free experience, but I find it hard to believe that a subscription to WIRED will suddenly load a clean page without a single tracker retrieving data. But then I am not a WIRED subscriber. Please comment if you are and have no trackers.
Seen by some as a safe pro-privacy resource celebrating Free and Open Source Software, FOSSPOST lets its users down by digitally fingerprinting their devices and loading 19 trackers into a browser.
FOSSPOST has embed deals with 27 third parties, making its embed renting in the ‘low’ category, including Google, Amazon, Creative Commons and WordPress.
13 of these are known tracking or advertising companies like Google, Amazon, Mailerlite, One Signal and the data-hungry caterpillar that is WordPress.
FOSSPOST sets 2 short-term and 2 long-term cookies itself while allowing its third party partners (including 3 tracking companies) to set 4 long-term cookies.
It uses Google Analytics without the anonymization feature so user details are sent to Google servers. All FOSSPOST servers are based in the US so GDPR privacy rules can be ignored.
Acquired by Yahoo’s parent company, Oath (a company that includes AOL), under the Verizon umbrella, in 2010, this is a popular reference source for researchers and Federation users.
Historically, Yahoo deserves some kudos as they were one of the few big tech companies that objected to sharing their users’ details with the PRISM
The Bush administration threatened them with $250k a day fines until they complied. Verizon bought them in 2017. Yahoo suffered the largest data breach in history in 2018.
The link to this NYT story is not embedded (consider blocking the GTM tracker on the site)
TECHCRUNCH.com fingerprints the user’s device and dumps 2-7 Yahoo trackers in their browser, depending on the page loaded.
TECHCRUNCH.com has embed deals with 27 third parties, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo and WordPress.
15 of these are known tracking or advertising companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, WordPress, Atwola, Typekit, AOL and Scorecard Research.
TECHCRUNCH.com sets 4 short-term and 5 long-term cookies itself while allowing its third party partners (including 4 tracking companies) to set 1 short-term and 7 long-term cookies.
It uses Google Analytics but interestingly enables the anonymization feature so some user details are not sent to Google servers.
All servers are based in the US so forget about GDPR privacy rules.
THE REGISTER .co.uk
Although a great resource with well-written and groundbreaking stories, it isn’t as private as I’d hoped.
There is no obvious digital fingerprinting but it seems to have gathered more Google syndication in the last couple of years, (9 of its 16 embed deals are with the Big G). 12 known tracking or advertising companies like Google, Admedo and the Amp Project gather data.
THE REGISTER sets 3 short-term and 4 long-term cookies itself while allowing its third party partners (including 2 tracking companies) to set 7 long-term cookies.
It uses Google Analytics without enabling the anonymization feature so user details are sent to Google servers. Although THE REGISTER’s domain is in the UK, both its data and email servers are based in the US so GDPR privacy rules could be compromised here, though I am not a lawyer.
The Guardian .com
I’ve been sitting on this for a few years now but it’s about time I blew the whistle.
I first noticed the Guardian newspaper’s website was digitally fingerprinting its users’ devices when they published an article on, um, Canvas Fingerprinting.
That page has been removed since, but they still continued doing it, long before Facebook, though not before Google.
I’ve kept quiet about this surveillance because I admire the paper for its incredible journalism, especially exclusives like the Snowdon revelations, and its general championing of freedom issues across many sectors of society. But the hypocrisy has started to wear me down.
Some tracking items & widgets embedded on Guardian .com and captured by Ublock Origin
The Guardian has embed deals with a privacy-sapping 142 third parties, including Google, Amazon, Bing, Twitter, and, despite being one of its main critics, Facebook. 132 of these third party partners are known tracking or advertising companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Turn, AddThis, Scorecard Research, Blue Kai, Twitter Analytics, Rubicon, Criteo and Quantserve.
Some of the most aggressive trackers like GTM, AddThis and Turn are present here.
The Guardian also sets 3 short-term and 5 long-term cookies itself, while allowing its third party partners (including 51 tracking companies) to set 10 short-term and 131 long-term cookies.
Yes, we NEED the Guardian’s continued existence, but castigating Facebook et al while allowing them to track its users doesn’t sit well with me.
The website uses Google Analytics but at least enables the anonymization feature, so some user details are not sent to Google servers.
Although The Guardian’s data servers are in Germany, their email servers are based in the US so GDPR privacy rules could be compromised here, though, again, I am not a lawyer.
In conclusion, I’ve given just 5 examples of popular sites Federation users quote in their posts.
I am NOT advocating a boycott of these sites but politely suggest we don’t OEmbed them, just feature a hyperlink and give readers the heads-up about these privacy concerns.
Alternatively, look for other sources featuring the same story. It’s also worth highlighting which websites do NOT add a tracker when we OEmbed a story, or have a low level of surveillance. Please promote those guys.
#news #fakenews #journalism #FreePress #PressFreedom #theguardian
#privacy #tracking #trackers #facebook #social #mass-surveillance #gdpr #google #location #user #device #setup #private #secure #internet #tips #tricks #online #os #windows #apple #ios #advertising #ad #revenue #streams #developers #media #data #corporations #telemetry #consent #spyware #surveillancecapitalism #humanrights, #anonymity #cookies #surveillance #browser #proxy #relay #network #www #leaks #fingerprint #activity #activitytrackers #thefederation #pods #federation #fediverse #friendica #mastodon #pleroma #socialhome # #Gnusocial #Funkwhale #Peertube #pixelfed #hubzilla #Diaspora
How can Federation users post more safely?
You know how it goes. We find a great story online and we want to share it with our supporters or feature it in our feed with appropriate hashtags for maximum reach.
But do we check the website featuring the story for privacy before we post?
When we embed a link by selecting the OEmbed box (often ticked by default) this displays an image or video on our post from the website we’ve featured.
They may look cool, but these images can contain beacons or other trackers. Embedded trackers also load into the browsers of any user who scrolls down the public feeds.
Should we ensure the website is safe before linking to it?
Actually some do. Posts that don’t feature a website’s images (with the OEmbed box unchecked as below) can actually protect Federation users from a serious amount of surveillance.
Some thoughtful users actually reproduce the article’s main points in their post, to protect their readers from visiting the site itself. They usually supply a link to the original content if one wants more detail and perhaps is protected with tracker blockers. So how do we know a site we recommend is safe?
Here are some privacy tips:
• Consider checking the page’s security/privacy before linking to it.
Using Tor, or a beefed-up Firefox fork or version (for detecting digital fingerprinting), and/or Disconnect, NoScript or Ublock Origin add-ons to reveal a multitude of trackers.
• There is usually more than one website featuring the same story. Consider picking the website with the least trackers and digital fingerprinting.
• Issue a warning in your post about any of the site’s surveillance methods and privacy issues you’ve detected.
• Embedding a picture/video could also make users vulnerable. Consider unchecking the OEmbed box.
In the next post I’ll give examples of a number of websites with low privacy and excessive trackers, commonly featured in the public feeds.
#secure #internet #windows #apple #revenue #streams #developers #Social #media #data #corporations #tracking #trackers #facebook #social #mass-surveillance #gdpr #google #alphabet #location #user #device #setup #private #secure #internet #chrome #tips #tricks #online #os #mobile #ie #safari #apple #ios #ad #revenue #streams #developers #telemetry #consent #windows10 #windows7 #windows81 #microsoft #linux #debian #ubuntu #mate #gnome #grub #iphone #firefox #advertising #android #chrome #browser #browsers #phone #phones #device #Tor #privacy, #humanrights, #anonymity #internet #security #cookies #surveillance #browser #web #onion #router #torbrowser #bridge #proxy #relay #leaks #fingerprint #activity #activitytrackers #spyware #surveillancecapitalism
A. Because they lost the " #Citizen'sUnited" and other cases, due to #Republican appointed judges, and now they have to, or at least they think they do.
(There are some other reasons, and there are still some other ways around corporate money, but this is reason #1 for the current stranglehold that #corporations have on us. It is #conservative, not #liberal, policy).
Breaking: The text of #Article13 and the #EU #Copyright Directive has just been finalised[l]
Please reshare widely and **take action**. This has the potential to endanger the #internet as we know it, making it more and more composed of only large platforms.
This has the possibility of killing #alternative #socialmedia projects and small #startups trying to compete with the big #corporations.
Please reshare widely and take action. This has the potential to endanger the #internet as we know it, making it more and more composed of only large platforms.
This has the possibility of killing #alternative #socialmedia projects and small #startups trying to compete with the big #corporations.
This will put everything I work for as a #hobby and at #work. So if you don't take action because the internet, take action because otherwise I might need to find new hobbies and work!
Ps. And yes, this affects people outside #Europe too. The internet knows no boundaries.
Turn off location. PART 2
Apart from Edge, which has to be tweaked from the W10 OS, most browsers can have their location services disabled through their menu. I cannot list EVERY browser in existence here, as I have a life. If you have other browser location tweaks, please share.
1. Click on Chrome’s menu and select the cog symbol – SETTINGS
2. Click the SHOW ADVANCED SETTINGS link at the bottom. Don’t be afraid of the ‘advanced’ implication, this has been worded to scare off timid sheep from reclaiming their privacy.
3. Click the CONTENT SETTINGS button under PRIVACY. While we’re here, consider unchecking the boxes urging us to use web services to ‘resolve navigational errors’ or ‘prediction services’ to auto complete our searches. This is just more telemetry.
4. Scroll down to the LOCATION section and select DO NOT ALLOW ANY SITE TO TRACK YOUR PHYSICAL LOCATION.
There are countless versions and forks of Firefox so, to save column inches, here are the about:config settings. Firefox (and especially Tor) should have location disabled.
To check, type about:config in the address bar and press enter.
• Press the button that says "I'll be careful, I promise!" or “I’ll take the risk!”
Type the terms in the search box and toggle to the following settings if you don't already have them:
geo.enabled = false → Disables the browser geolocation feature.
WITHOUT THE [SQUARE BRACKETS][geo].provider.ms-windows-location = false → Disables windows location.
geo.wifi.uri → Mozilla has used Google's geolocation service in Firefox by default for many years, so check for any Google addresses that may be here. This is an example of how Mozilla has lied about some of its user privacy claims – it seems to be posting our movements to the Big G. Erase any Google address and leave this field blank.
1. Click the TOOLS menu
2. Select INTERNET OPTIONS.
3. Click the PRIVACY tab at the top of the window
4. Check the NEVER ALLOW WEBSITES TO REQUEST YOUR PHYSICAL LOCATION box.
5. Click “OK” to save changes.
To disable Location in Safari, first click Safari > Preferences.
• Select the PRIVACY ‘hand’ icon at the top of the window.
• Under WEBSITE USE OF LOCATION SERVICES, select DENY WITHOUT PROMPTING to prevent all websites from asking to show your location.
Like the iOS, iPhone apps have to explain how they’ll use location data and must allow users to turn it off. Of course, access to this info is usually well hidden and when we find it it’s often written in brief, vague terms. To find LOCATION, do the following:
- Tap the SETTINGS icon, usually a cog or wheel
- Tap the PRIVACY icon, usually a white hand on a blue background
- Tap LOCATION SERVICES
• ALWAYS allow location (not recommended – it draws data even when it’s off)
• NEVER allow location
• Allow WHILE USING
The last one should be used for apps we think need to know our location or may be affected by disabling, although I’d venture there are few or none of these.
If you just want to block location on EVERYTHING just swipe that green switch in the pic above, to the left.
Always delete apps you never use. Limits spyware and saves battery.
Owned by Google, Android doesn’t stop snooping apps snuffle away location data, even when they’re turned off. It doesn’t even have the iPhone feature to turn off location when not using an app. After much criticism on this, on newer phones, the Big G reckons developers are only allowed to collect data “a few times an hour,” but if we don’t want ANY data collected, we have to do it from the phone’s main SETTINGS menu.
Older Androids are simpler to tweak
1. Open SETTINGS
2. Tap SECURITY and/or LOCATION
3. Uncheck ACCESS TO MY LOCATION box
4. Swipe GPS SATELLITES button to OFF
Like the iPhone, newer Android phones show a list of individual apps and allow us to turn off each app’s location button. Otherwise we can switch all location snoops off with the main button in APP LEVEL PERMISSIONS.
WIPE THE DATA GOOGLE HAVE COLLECTED
To be fair to Google, who collect data like bees collect pollen, they do have a portal where we can remove our location data (and more).
I am not sure if we can access all the data Google collects about us, or our device, if we DON’T have an account with one of their services, (#Gmail, Google Docs, #YouTube, Android, Google Drive, G+, etc) but it’s worth going through the data they’ve collected "to improve our advertising experience".
Obviously, we will be tracked within an inch of our life at Google central, but will have to suck it up if we want to clear our data. Be prepared for eyes to water and flabbers to be gasted.
#privacy #tracking #trackers #facebook #social #patent #mass-surveillance #surveillance #gdpr #google #alphabet #location #user #what3words #device #setup #private #secure #internet #chrome #tips #tricks #online #os #windows #mobile #ie #safari #apple #ios #ad #revenue #streams #developers #Social #media #data #corporations #telemetry #consent #windows10 #windows7 #windows81 #microsoft #linux #debian #ubuntu #mate #gnome #grub #iphone #firefox #advertising #android #chrome #browser #browsers #phone #phones #device
If a corporation’s propaganda destroys the world, doesn’t that conflict with our right to live?