It's hard to know where to begin: The Howie Rich attack machine growled into full snark mode during the last week of September -- which was expected, based on their past campaigns. After fourteen years of stealth initiative campaigns, none of the friends of Howie Rich have term-limited themselves out of "bypassing the legislature" by enacting their own edicts.
If this all sounds familiar then listen to Common Cause Magazine in 1993, reporting on the Term Limits campaign that Howie Rich and Eric O'Keefe started in early 1992 or even the winter of 1991, fourteen years ago:
Common Cause Magazine
The money behind the movement: term limits is touted as a grassroots uprising. But guess who's paying the bills?
Amy E. Young
... a Common Cause Magazine analysis of campaign finance reports filed in the 14 states suggests that something else is fueling the fire: More than three-fourths of the movement's financing in 1992 came from four national groups and a relatively small number of wealthy individual donors.
According to the analysis, term-limit committees in 14 states raised $5.9 million in cash and in-kind contributions, of which 80 percent was raised from the four groups and just 624 donors of $500 or more. The groups -- USTL, the now-defunct Citizens for Congressional Reform (CCR), Americans Back in Charge and Americans to Limit Congressional Terms -- supplied more than $2.2 million, while more than $2.5 million came from the 624 individual donors.
Term-limit proponents say they were forced to raise big money in anticipation of a strong opposition financed by special interest groups out to protect their friends in Congress. While powerful interests indeed helped finance opposition efforts, term-limit backers outspent them by nearly 6 to 1.
From the very beginning the term-limits movement was financed by large donors. The first major national term-limits group, CCR, spent more than $1 million in California, Washington and Michigan and then closed shop amid controversy surrounding its funding sources. CCR was bankrolled largely by two conservative billionaire industrialist brothers, Charles and David Koch of Wichita, Kan., who often wired money from their bank accounts directly to the term-limit committees. The group disbanded in late 1991, just after term-limit opponents filed a complaint with the Michigan secretary of state questioning the validity of a list of donors CCR filed to comply with a state law.
In early 1992 Howard Rich bought CCR's assets -- mainly a mailing list and some office furniture -- assumed its liabilities and set up shop as USTL. The group contributed $1.8 million to various 1992 state term-limit campaigns, while members of its finance committee kicked in another $119,700 in personal donations and loans. USTL's donations went for petition printing, signature gathering and, late in the campaigns, advertising. The group also provided political advice to the campaigns, emphasizing local coalition building and paid media.
USTL spokesperson Langan, who stresses his group's independence from the defunct Koch-financed organization, says his group's money comes from 80,000 members nationwide, whose donations average $17, and 58 national finance committee members who kicked in nearly $2 million. Langan declines to provide specifics about the contributions, saying the nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization has no obligation to do so. Rich refused a request for an interview....
Patterns are patterns. And people tend to repeat their patterns. That was 1993, this is 2006.
So, the Rich reticence has been entirely expected. And the attack-dog approach had been expected. But what was not expected was that it would be laid at my front door via two entirely different routes. I've told you about the personal attacks on the bloggers. But this odd back-door confluence appeared right here, in my home town on September 29:
KOPT-AM, the local AirAmerica affiliate -- for whom I've been a regular guest since early 2005 -- began running a strange ad that Friday. (CLICK HERE to download the mp3
A woman's voice told you how your union was using your union dues for (gasp!) politics, and how the SUPREME COURT said you have a right to tell them not to. And contact this phone number or website to find out how YOU CAN GET YOUR MONEY BACK!
Well, given the shows that it ran during -- Stephanie Miller, Al Franken, Randi Rhodes, Ed Schulz -- it was tantamount to offering a free steak dinner for two during a vegetarian talk show. Evidently, several angry callers complained about the "ad" which turned out to be a PSA -- a Public Service Announcement -- which meant that the anti-union ad was running for free during the entire Friday lineup. FCC rules demand that a certain number of PSAs be run to comply with stations' broadcasting license requirements.
This seems particularly ironic in light of this week's news that the business-controlled National Labor Relations Board has just ruled that nurses, and other workers numbering about 8 million are "supervisory personnel" and, therefore, cannot belong to unions.
Unions are, right now, the only counterweight to unlimited spending in state campaigns, as in the case of Howie Rich & Friends' several ballot measures in several states. I am not, please note, suggesting that Rich has the political clout or stature to lead or even influence such a movement, but he certainly is riding the wave.
And there is an odd connection between Howard Rich and that PSA that was yanked from the air by the weekend. It's not what you would think, but I'm getting ahead of the story.
The PSA group's letter to the station reads, in part:
"That's why I hope you'll utilize the enclosed PSAs to inform your listeners of their rights regarding this vital issue which affects unionized employees throughout the state."
The letterhead at top contains a 72 point process blue legal scales, along with a standard lawyerly-looking name and address block of type.
And the 8 point name "Stefan Gleason," is followed by the 6 point title "Vice President." (Tiny, in other words).
Radio stations get these mailers by the barrelful, and often shuffle them in without actually looking very closely at them. At least, that's what I'm told.
The boldface and underlined paragraph of the letter (the only part that the reader is likely to skim) reads:
"The enclosed public service announcements describe how employees can receive (bold) free information and free legal aid ( un-bold) in reclaiming forced union dues spent on political causes they find objectionable."
Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I have seen the actual CD that was sent (which is probably what was read, and not the florid PR letter that accompanied the disc). Now, see if you, as someone who gets dozens of these square white CD mailers a week, get an entirely different message from the CD label itself.
At about a 50% screen in the background, a montage, with a pretty black girl of about 9 or ten, with flowing curly tresses looking at what seems to be a flower, but on closer inspection is revealed to be her "working mother's" hand holding a green bug. The mother-figure is presented in profile, facing right, but is mostly obscured by the type.
In the upper right hand corner, a blue shirted, blue-jeaned man holding a clipboard, and in the upper left -- I kid you not -- there is a man wearing a tangerine hardhat, staring purposely upwards (towards the future, one supposes) wearing a white shirt and an enormous purple satin-finish tie. The knot on it looks half as long as the (engineer? foreman? hardhat model?) fellow's face. It seems a rather odd fashion choice, given, but that's not the point.
The photo in the back is merely meant to express something about labor and kids on casual examination. OK. Labor and kids. A cute little black girl. That's important somehow. But how, we really can't say.
Below the red line it says in straight Helvetica bold: Public Service Campaign. Below that, in italics, centered:
Overcoming the Illegal Use of Forced (line break)
Union Dues for Partisan Politics.
And then here are the titles:
1. Working Man/
2. Single Mom/
3. Working Woman/
Union Politics PSA, :30
Politics PSA, :60
(You can find all of these, plus more at: http://www.nrtw.org/media/psa.php
But that 50% screened photo -- faded back from 100% where the type would be swallowed by the shadows -- is meant to say:
Hey, we're about having pretty young black girls learn to be scientists and unions and warm and fuzzies. The "Single Mom" and "Working Woman" and "Teacher/Union" all neatly overlays the girl's mother/teacher's head, which is why the first thing you see is the cute little black girl.
Little Girl. Working Mom. Union Dues. Public Service.
And the type suggests "Overcoming Illegal" -- hey who's not for overcoming illegal? -- and "Union Dues" and we can see all those "union" people on the cover. (I presume that the beautiful child is a member of the Beautiful Children's Modeling Union).
And so, without realizing it, someone at KOPT ran the PUBLIC SERVICE CAMPAIGN CD and is currently catching hell for it. Or not.
The real point is that the ad ran, just as they'd planned the ad to run: for free and under the radar. If you hate unions, you use mobster caricatures and big stogies and lots of forearm hair. No: the warm and fuzzy nature of the "Public Service" CD was meant to deceive. Just the way that those YOU WON $1,000,000 Envelopes with their official certificates are meant to deceive.
The internal politics at the radio station are their own concern and don't need addressing to understand that the group behind the PSA just snookered a "liberal" radio station into running free union-busting advertising all day.
How many "conservative" radio stations are running that free advertising, right at the height of the political season, right in the midst of an all-out war on Unions?
We don't know.
Certainly the purpose of the ads is to defund union contributions to various political races and ballot measure campaigns, et al.
It's sort of the same thing as if union lawyers were traveling the land, freezing the assets of all the millionaires, like Howard Rich, just long enough so that they couldn't contribute to any political campaigns.
So, an attack and a particularly weasely attack: if no radio station runs the "PSA"s -- which the stations' FCC license requires them to run a certain number of -- then they're only out the price of the mailing. But if only a few stations run the ads, then they've 'made money on the deal.'
I would be curious as to WHICH states these "Public Service" announcements were sent out to. We know already that Rick Berman's "Center for Union Facts" launched a series of attack ads early in September, specifically in states that Rich-related ballot measures were also in. So, it would be interesting to know whether the PSAs that ran on KOPT were similarly targeted.
Who is "they"? you might ask.
Good question. Glad you asked.
"They" is a group called the "National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc."
8801 Braddock Road
Springfield, VA 22160
fax: (703) 321-9613
So: the warm and fuzzy nature of the "Public Service" CD was meant to deceive. They only do full disclosure down in the part of the letter that they know no station manager has any time to read:
"The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization that provides free legal assistance to employees across America whose human and civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuse. As a public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, the Foundation is providing pro bono* [*lawyerese for 'free'- HW] assistance to thousands of employees in more than 200 cases nationwide. Part of its charitable mission is also to provide employees with accurate information about their rights through public service announcements and other means of outreach.
To be frank, I had never known what "compulsory unionism abuse" was before, and I have a feeling that it's not a term much in linguistic vogue.
But it turns out that I was wrong. And you need to understand that Oregon, a union state for many, many years, generally doesn't know what "Right To Work" actually means.
Returning the compliment, the "Anti Union Network" notes:
Role of National Right to Work in the Anti-Union Network
National Right to Work is the country's oldest organization dedicated solely to destroying unions. Its network consists of four organizations that share leadership, offices, resources and staff, all with the common goal of undermining workers' freedom of association. To carry out this mission, the National Right to Work Committee employs over 200 staff to lobby, fundraise, distribute propaganda, and interfere with workers' union organizing efforts, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation employs nearly 50 staff for its litigation efforts.
While the organization has doggedly pursued an anti-union agenda for a half century, its public profile has recently been eclipsed by the big-budget anti-union front group the Center for Union Facts.
Does National Right to Work have anything to do with right-to-work laws?
When anti-union ideologues lost an effort to enact a national law weakening unions, they created the National Right to Work Committee in 1955 to pass such laws at the state level. The group's single-minded focus of doing away with unions was as unambiguous then, as it is today, however the name it shares with the very legislation it was created to pass, is purposely confusing....
Clearly, we have two diametrically opposing viewpoints there, but the "purposely confusing" statement certainly gibes with observable fact.
Two of the vice presidents of the NRTWLF, Inc. are of interest here. The first, the fellow named on the letterhead, has been a staunch advocate of anything that would advance the NRTW agenda: ending unionism as we know it. They never quite say that, in the same manner that the "school choice" advocates never quite say that they want to end public education. Instead, they want to weaken the unions (e.g. 'collective bargaining') to the point where they would collapse. His name is Stefan Gleason.
But it's the Board's vice president and executive committee member -- serving on both the Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors of both the National Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation -- that is of interest to us here.
You remember that I said there was a Howard Rich connection? You might even recall this person from part 14, The Hoop Snake
. His name is Duncan Scott.
Here's Shea Anderson, the reporter on the Boise WEEKLY
who was one of the first to get a sense of the strange electoral machinations of the eponymous rich man back east:
JULY 5, 2006
Idaho's Measure, New York's Money
BY SHEA ANDERSEN
Laird Maxwell disdains taxes. But he apparently welcomes out of state money.
The proponent of the newly-certified ballot measure against property takings in Idaho used a healthy chunk of out-of-state cash to get his brainchild on the ballot. In a nutshell, the measure would require Idaho state government to pay any Idaho landowner for any impact to their property value created by a new land-use law.
Except for $50 donated by Maxwell, the entire budget for This House is My House came from out of state, according to reports from the Idaho Secretary of State. $100,000 came from Montana-based America At Its Best. Another $237,000 came from the New York-based Fund for Democracy, headed by Howard Rich, a libertarian activist and major donor.
Like Duncan Scott, Rich spends his money nationwide, funding libertarian candidates and initiatives across the country. He is listed alternately as a real estate developer, an attorney and the president of the political action group U.S. Term Limits on federal campaign finance reports....
Not enough to jog your memory?
Well, Duncan Scott has been a huge, if discreet player in all of this, sending money from Montana to Nebraska, to the tune of $1.7 million.
This is just a little complicated, but you'll pick it up very quickly, dear reader. Watch the pieces of the puzzle interlink and mesh:
A very good researcher at TPM Cafe who goes by the name of mrs panstreppon first ran across this cross-indexing of entities
Grover Norquist's $650k Grant to the "National Alliance"
... I learned that William A. Wilson, a conservative activist, lives at 10424 Woodbury Woods Court in Fairfax but I did not find an organization named the "National Alliance". Recently, another member of the TPM Cafe wrote to me and identified the National Alliance For Worker and Employer Rights (NAWER) as the probable recipient of the $650k grant.
NAWER was registered in Virginia in September 2004. Richard Quinn Jr. is the chairman and William A. Wilson is the treasurer. The NAWER Foundation was registered in December 2005.
William A. Wilson, NAWER treasurer, is the owner of Associated Public Affairs Professionals, a consulting firm which was paid $15k by Gary Bauer's campaign in 2000. Wilson is associated with numerous conservative organizations. Here's a partial list:
US Term Limits
US Term Limits Foundation
Term Limits America PAC
America At Its Best
Council For Responsible Government
Parents In Charge (formerly Legislative Action Drive)
[sic: it's actually LEAD and is still is PIC's charitable 'twin' - HW]
Feeling a little woozy?
Well, no wonder. It gets dizzying trying to sort out this Rosetta Stone of Howie Rich led and managed organizations. (And the list is by no means complete.) Add "Americans for Limited Government" and "Foundation for Democracy" and you've just about sewn down every dollar "contributed" in every state, whether the petitions made it onto the ballot or not.
There is no time, nor space to go into NAWER, but suffice it to say that its mission parallels the "National Right To Work" groups Duncan Scott Boards with -- who were numero uno in the union-busting game until Rick Berman suddenly came on the scene early this year with his "Center for Union Facts."
Sense a pattern here?
And, remember that Duncan Scott is a high muckety-muck in the NRTW Legal Foundation that slipped that "public service" CD into the AirAmerica station's regular PSA rotation -- effectively helping itself to hundreds of dollars of free air time to spread their message, which is, essentially: "defund the unions' political coffers now, at the height of the electoral season."
To which it might be noted that you have seen nearly every one of these foundations, PACs and "charitable" groups in previous installments of this series. I have been waiting to tell you the tale of "SocialSecurityChoice.org" but the time is not yet propitious.
But special attention must be paid to "America At Its Best" above. As noted in Part VIII, "America At Its Worst," "Americans for Limited Government" and the National Taxpayers Union (Norquist's original outfit before he formed "Americans for Tax Reform" for the Reagan White House) gave all the money to "America At Its Best."
So, follow the money: Howie Rich to his Chicago ALG office, to Laird Maxwell and Duncan Scott, respectively. Maxwell to Missouri. Scott to Maxwell in Idaho and Nebraska.
And, now that the cat's out of the bag about "Montanans in Action," Howie Rich to MIA's Trevis Butcher to the Prop. 90 campaign in California.
When you think about that, MIA is a particularly apt acronym for what has happened to the eponymous rich man's money: Tinker to Evers to Chance.
Let's follow it from Duncan Scott, because we're going to be following Scott and Maxwell quite a bit in the next installment.
Duncan Scott to Mike Groene and Thomas Mann in Nebraska for two petition drives, and most of that $1.7 million to Leslie Graves in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and then across the bed to her husband, Eric O'Keefe, Howard Rich's right-hand 'strategy" man for a couple of decades now.
US Term Limits Press Release:
For Immediate Release
February 2, 1999
Contact: Jason Miller
Americans for Limited Terms President Eric O'Keefe today announced the release of his long-awaited book "Who Rules America: The People vs. The Political Class," an expose on how incumbent Members of Congress have used the power of government to entrench themselves and hobble opponents, and the citizens who are trying to change this.
O'Keefe is recognized as one of the driving forces behind the success of the term limits movement in the 1990's....
So, Scott to Groene to O'Keefe.
Now, can you tell me which shell the pea is under?
The cut that they played on the radio was the sixty second cut: Single Mom/Union Politics. (CLICK here to listen
And part of our thanks for that public service must surely go to Duncan Scott. We shall see more of him in the very near future.
But I still don't know what any of this has to do with showing a bug to a cute little black girl.