Truth in Advertising

Posted June 19, 2007 at 6:42pm

The Center for Union Facts has its limits. For example, the shadowy, year-old group that sprung up to disparage the labor movement will not compare labor leader Bruce Raynor to Adolf Hitler. [IMGCAP(1)]

“Once you include Hitler, there’s not going to be any sort of rational debate at all,” said Bret Jacobson, senior research analyst for the group. A rational debate, however, would not preclude a comparison to Joseph Stalin, Jacobson said.

Already this week, his group has associated Raynor — president of UNITE-HERE, the hotel and restaurant workers’ union — with a who’s who of brutal dictators, including North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, former Ugandan slaughterer Idi Amin and Iranian crackpot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The reason: Raynor, like other labor leaders, supports the Employee Free Choice Act, a measure that would make it easier for unions to organize.

With the Senate taking up the House-passed version of the bill this week, the center is in full attack mode. The group this week sent reporters covering the debate a mailer featuring the statement, “There’s no reason to subject the workers to an election,” asking whether it was uttered by Kim Jong-il, Castro, or — you guessed it — Raynor.

A slightly different version of the mock-up that swaps in Amin and Ahmadinejad is running as a full-page ad in Beltway and national newspapers.

The group says the quote, which first ran in The New York Times in May 2003, demonstrates the anti-democratic nature of what union leaders are pushing. Like other critics of the plan, they contend it will subject workers to union strong-arming by removing the private ballot process currently in place.

“The sentiment is completely outrageous, and it’s time the American people know about it,” Jacobson said. “We’re not alleging that [Raynor] is a mass-murderer, but we are saying the sentiment goes along with a general sense of tyranny that the average American should not be subjected to.”

UNITE-HERE spokeswoman Amanda Cooper did not dispute the accuracy of the quote, but called it an unfortunate phrasing. She said Raynor was trying to express his frustration with a system that can stall actual unionization for years after a majority of workers vote to organize.

As for the unflattering comparisons, Cooper says, “Bruce can take it. He’s a tough guy. Employers have been beating up on him for the last two decades. What we’re concerned about is these same employers beating up on workers.”

The Center for Union Facts formed last year to launch broadsides against the labor movement. It was organized by Rick Berman, a former lobbyist for the food, alcohol and tobacco industries who now runs a number of other nonprofit advocacy groups.

Jacobson said the group is ponying up $500,000 for the latest campaign — funding he said comes from a mix of corporate backers, foundations, trade groups and individuals, though he declined to be more specific.

Meanwhile, with debate on the “card-check” bill heating up, business and labor groups clashing over the measure are pulling out their big guns.

The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a business-backed group opposing the bill, is launching radio ads inside the Beltway and statewide in Colorado, Arkansas and Louisiana. The AFL-CIO, for its part, staged an afternoon rally Tuesday in the Upper Senate Park with Senate Democratic leaders and thousands of workers.

Cuba Libre. The Federal Election Commission has let a fiercely anti-Fidel Castro fund-raising group off the hook after investigating it for potential campaign law violations. The FEC sent a letter to the U.S.-Cuba Democracy political action committee notifying it that the commission found that “there is no reason to believe that [the PAC] violated” the law. The letter, signed by the FEC’s general council Thomasenia Duncan, added: “Accordingly, the Commission closed its file in this matter.”

That was music to the ears of the group’s Mauricio Claver-Carone. “We’ve operated and have always sought to operate within the margins of the law,” he said. “Our intents are clear, and our policy objectives are clear.”

Melanie Sloan, executive director with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, which filed a complaint against the PAC, said, “I’d be pleased if I were them, too.” But, she said, “I don’t think they’re necessarily out of the woods because there is an IRS and Justice Department complains.”

In its complaint, CREW alleged that one of the PAC’s contributors is a foreign national and that a nonprofit organization was inappropriately funding Claver-Carone’s lobbying group, Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy Corp., and the operations of the PAC.

Regis and Jane. Tonight, talk-show host Regis Philbin is going live from Capitol Hill. He won’t be talking about a new celebrity diet, however, but the medical technology that helped his son’s serious spinal condition. Actress Jane Seymour, aka “Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman,” will be explaining how an innovative procedure cured her debilitating back ailment.

The Advanced Medical Technology Association, the industry trade group, is bringing Philbin and Seymour to the Cannon House Office Building to make the case for easier access to medical technology.

President and CEO of AdvaMed Steve Ubl said some of his member company’s more interesting products also will make an appearance, allowing guests to see and touch the technologies.

All this is part of AdvaMed’s larger “value of technology campaign,” which Ubl says is aimed at educating lawmakers about medical technology, getting patients to tell their stories, and showing that technology, “despite operating costs, is worth its weight in gold.”

Free Trade Argument. Later this month, amid criticism from a number of high-profile Democrats, the United States is scheduled to sign the U.S-Korea Free Trade Agreement — a move that will pave the way for Congressional action and potentially contentious debates later this year.

And despite recent denunciations by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and pro-labor Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, business leaders supporting the U.S.-Korea agreement say they are confident it will pass.

“I happen to know many of those members who were raising negative concerns are telling us privately they are supporting it,” said Matt Niemeyer, a senior vice president at the ACE Group, at a roundtable Tuesday sponsored by the U.S.-Korea FTA Business Council ahead of today’s meeting of the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The National Pork Producers Council’s Nick Giordano, referring to the Central American Free Trade Agreement, adds: “This is not the CAFTA, this is a lot of money. People are going to be coming out of the woodwork to support this,” he added. “I think it is going to pass, I think it has to pass.”

K Street Moves. Lent Scrivner & Roth has added Peter Leon, who began his Washington, D.C., career in 1994 as systems administrator for now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Leon, who will be a lobbyist, previously worked at COMPTEL and before that was legislative director for Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).

• Mothers Against Drunk Driving is mad about J.T. Griffin. The group hired Griffin, who previously worked for Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), as its new vice president for public policy.

Emma Dumain and Bryce Bauer contributed to this report.

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