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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
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”