On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Koch Brother-Funded ALEC Just Lost Walmart, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Democratic-voter purge is ramping up, CEOs are literally stealing workers’ wages, the Koch brother-funded American Legislative Exchange Council just lost one of its biggest fish – Walmart, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Democratic-voter purge is ramping up – although he’s now meeting some resistance from local election supervisors. In an interview with the Center for American Progress – Palm Beach County Supervisor of Election Susan Bucher said that her office received a list of 115 names from Governor Scott’s office identifying registered voters who are believed to be undocumented immigrants. But upon reviewing the list – Bucher concluded it was “not credible” and refused to send out letters asking for voters to verify their citizenship status. Bucher also noted that Governor Scott’s voter purge lists are relying on information that is a decade or more old. One Florida voter identified as a non-citizen by Governor Scott was a 91-year-old World War II veteran – who said that he was “flabbergasted” when he was asked to prove that he’s a U.S. citizen. It’s now up to President Obama and the Justice Department to end this illegal voter purge by Governor Scott in Florida before the election is stolen in Florida for the second time in twelve years.

In screwed news…CEOs are literally stealing workers’ wages. As CNN reports – wage theft complaints have increased 400% over the last decade – with over 7,000 lawsuits alleging wage and hour violations against employers filed just in 2011. The complaints center on workers accusing their employers of not paying them for all the hours they worked or not paying overtime that they were entitled to. Some of the companies that have had suits filed against them are Walmart, Starbucks, and Bank of America. This is yet another consequence of our corporate capitalism model – where executives are rewarded for squeezing whatever profits they can out of a company – including nickel and dimeing their workers – or outright stealing from them – just to hit quarterly profit goals. Time to bring back business in the public interest.

In the best of the rest of the news…

This morning – the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act – which denies same-sex couples federal benefits – is unconstitutional. Essentially – the judges – two of which were Republican appointees – ruled that by defining a marriage between a man and a woman – the law discriminates against gay and lesbian couples. Since the law was passed in 1996 – this is the first time a Federal Appeals Court has ruled against it. Last year – President Obama announced his Justice Department would no longer defend DOMA in court – prompting Speaker of the House John Boehner and Republicans to hire their own high-priced lawyer to defend the discriminatory law. Ultimately – the Supreme Court will likely have the final say in this matter – just as they had the final say in approving interracial marriage and decriminalizing homosexuality. Stay tuned.

The Koch brother-funded American Legislative Exchange Council just lost one of its biggest fish. Walmart – the world’s largest retailer – is now the 19th organization to drop its ALEC membership following public outrage over ALEC-written “Shoot First” laws that have swept the country and are responsible for the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. As the nation’s biggest gun retailer – Walmart was instrumental in writing ALEC’s “Shoot First” law – but is now fleeing the organization as more and more Americans wake up to the fact that corporations are writing our laws at annual ALEC conventions. From ALEC to Governor Rick Snyder’s so-called “Financial Managers” in Michigan to corporate America’s pledge to spend over a billion dollars in this election to elect Mitt Romney – are democracy has never been in more danger.

What started as a student protest in Quebec – is now turning into a mass movement across all of Canada. On Wednesday night – in cities all across Canada – thousands gathered to show solidarity with striking students in Quebec and push back against austerity measures being pushed by the Conservative Canadian government. This began when the Quebec government passed tuition hikes and cuts to education – prompting tens of thousands of students to take to the streets for months now. But the movement is now broadening – as one of the lead organizers – Derrick O’Keefe – said, “We need to have an open and democratic discussion about the direction of our society. The current model, where governments give billions in tax cuts to profitable corporations and high income earners, and then plead poverty as they slash our social programs, is broken.” The global anti-austerity movement is picking up steam.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is out with a new report exposing Big Oil’s strategy to pull the wool over our eyes when it comes to global climate change. Looking at 28 U.S. companies on the S&P 500 that have publicly expressed concern over climate change and carbon emissions – the UCS found that at the same time – these companies are behind the scenes funneling huge amounts of money into causes and organizations devoted to discrediting climate change. As one of the contributors to the report – Francesca GRifo with the UCS said, “The actions of many of these companies come right from the tobacco industry playbook, where the end goal is delaying sensible regulations that protect our health and safety.” Between 2007 and 2009 – just as Congress was debating crucial climate change legislation – the energy sector increased their lobbying by 92% – just enough to get a minority of Republicans in the Senate to filibuster legislation that would have put in place a cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions. Corporations using their massive financial war chests to influence lawmakers used to be called bribery – now it’s business as usual in the post-Citizens United world – a world that is getting hotter and hotter with carbon dioxide now passing the ominous 400 parts per million milestone.

And finally…a new report by Al Jazeera finds that detainees at Guantanamo Bay were forced to listen to Sesame Street music during interrogations in hopes that it would break down the prisoners. This coincides with a 2003 report that found Sesame Street music was also used to soften Iraqi POWs. So not only can Big Bird teach kids the A,B,C’s – but it’s also America’ secret weapon in the War on Terror.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, May 31, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.