Washington Babylon — May 15, 2009, 9:57 am

Corporate Front Man: Richard Berman manages the news on key labor-backed bill

Richard Berman, a prominent lobbyist for the food and restaurant industry, is one of the leading opponents of the hotly-debated Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would make it easier to organize labor unions. Berman is the sole owner and executive director of Berman and Company, a for-profit management firm that runs fifteen corporate-funded groups. He holds at least sixteen positions within these interlocking organizations.

Two of Berman’s groups are fighting EFCA: the non-profit Employee Freedom Action Committee and the Center for Union Facts, a grassroots lobbying firm that gathers “information about the size, scope, political activities, and criminal activity of the labor movement.” The two groups share office space and staff.

Berman is not required to publicly disclose financial information about his company. Federal tax returns for his non-profit, the Center for Union Facts, however, show that it took in $2.5 million in 2007, almost entirely from unnamed donors, including one individual who put up $1.2 million. About half of the group’s money was spent on an anti-union print and online ad campaign, and $840,000 went to Berman and Company for “management” services. The Center rails against highly-paid union officials, listing on its website the annual salaries of top officials at the AFL-CIO. The federation’s three highest-paid employees — president John Sweeney, vice-president Linda Chavez-Thompson, and secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka – make about $680,000 combined, well less than what Berman’s company took in to manage only the Center for Union Facts.

The Orlando Sentinel ran an item Monday, “Growing Number of Dems Opposing EFCA,” which cited a political consultant named Joe Kefauver and another local political official — “both longtime Democrats who supported Obama” — as being stern opponents of EFCA, with Kefauver adding that support for organized labor shouldn’t be the only “litmus test for being a good Democrat.” The article was instantly posted on a website run by Berman’s Center for Union Facts.

What the article didn’t mention is that Kefauver has long and close ties to Berman. The most recently available public disclosure forms list Kefauver as both a director of Berman’s Center for Consumer Freedom, and as a compensated “director of development” for Berman’s Employment Policies Institute Foundation. Berman and Company has also paid Kefauver’s firm for consulting services.

Up until early-2007, Kefauver was in charge of all of Wal-Mart’s state-level lobbying efforts in Florida. “Joe was responsible for prioritizing and developing the company’s legislative and political agenda, their interaction with Governors, Attorneys General, Mayors and legislative leaders, as well as executing the company’s aggressive store expansion program,” says his firm’s website. Wal-Mart is one of the vocal corporate opponents of EFCA.

Next time it writes about EFCA the Sentinel might want to look for someone other than a Berman plant as a source.

Update: Berman had an op-ed of his own in the Sentinel earlier this year.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

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The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

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