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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.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature