Pro-Obama Labor Group Blasts Clinton in Nevada Radio Ad
Updated 7:17 p.m.
By Matthew Mosk
While labor unions have played a heavy role supporting Hillary Clinton and John Edwards during the early state contests this month, Barack Obama has largely had to fend for himself.
No longer. The group UNITE HERE, which represents 440,000 textile and hotel and restaurant workers, gave Obama his first national labor endorsement last week. And this morning, the group filed reports with the Federal Election Commission that disclosed it was producing more than $34,000 in radio ads to air in Nevada in advance of the caucus there.
But Obama will not be alone. Last night, AFSCME's political arm reported it was spending another $30,000 on mailings in Nevada that would support Clinton's candidacy. That adds to two prior $30,000 Nevada mailings the union paid for earlier this week, and a $230,000 expenditure listed as a "media buy" in the state.
The emergence of a labor effort on Obama's behalf touched off a barrage of criticism from both the Clinton camp and aides to Sen. John Edwards, who said they considered it a surprising turn of events given that Obama's campaign was sharply critical of labor organizations that campaigned heavily for Clinton and Edwards in New Hampshire and Iowa.
"He loudly and repeatedly attacked independent ads by unions in Iowa as the product of special interests," said Edwards for President Deputy Campaign Manager Jonathan Prince. "But when a different outside group starts running ads on his behalf in Nevada, there's not a peep from him or his campaign. It must be because he's burning up the phone lines calling the head of UNITE HERE personally to demand he pulls the ads down right away."
Obama press secretary Bill Burton countered that the Illinois senator "has said clearly that campaigns should fund themselves and discourages supporters from spending outside the campaign. But no one should be confused about the effort that was run on behalf of John Edwards in Iowa. In that case, it was not the independent speech of individual union members, each contributing small amounts to amplify their voices. It was a special project of outside donors funding a massive 527 effort run by one of Edwards' top political lieutenants."
The Clinton campaign also took aim at the Obama camp for remaining "strangely silent" now that a labor union is attacking the Clinton campaign.
"In Iowa, Senator Obama and his campaign went out of his way to attack labor unions for independently promoting other candidates. But in Nevada, he's looking the other way as they falsely attack his opponents," said Phil Singer, a Clinton campaign spokesman. "That's wrong. Senator Obama shouldn't be saying one thing about independent groups in Iowa and another in Nevada."
The Clinton camp took particular offense at the tone of the radio spot, which is in Spanish, and targets Hispanic voters.
"Hillary Clinton does not respect our people," the ad says, according to a transcript distributed by the Clinton campaign. "Hillary Clinton supporters want to prevent people from voting in their workplace on Saturday.
This is unforgivable. Hillary Clinton is shameless."
Singer said the Clinton campaign "clearly disagrees with the attacks being made against us," adding that "We do respect the right of labor unions to participate in the process. Senator Obama apparently has no problem with groups running ads as long as they attack others. While that's audacious, it's certainly not hopeful."
Burton, Obama's campaign spokesman, replied in an e-mail, that the Clinton objections "take some chutzpah."
"The fact is their camp clearly would like to have worker's voices silenced and they need to live with that unfortunate position," Burton wrote.
Chris Bohner, a spokesperson for the Culinary Workers Union, an affiliate of UNITE HERE whose Nevada local has endorsed Obama, defended the ad, saying his union's leadership was deeply offended by a lawsuit filed by supporters of Clinton that aimed to shut down nine casino precinct sites for the Nevada Democratic caucuses.
"We can't think of a more negative and disgraceful political tactic than publicly supporting a lawsuit that would disenfranchise thousands of workers, bell hops, dishwashers, housekeepers, recent immigrants who've just become American citizens," Bohner said. "The ad intends to point out the fact that the Clinton campaign is supporting this lawsuit, which is entirely appropriate, and we completely stand by the ad. We've waited for the Clinton campaign to denounce the lawsuit and they didn't."
The ad is running on Spanish radio. Unlike earlier labor efforts undertaken on behalf of Clinton and Edwards in earlier contests, the UNITE HERE commercial is not paid for by an independent "527 group." It is paid for by the union, which is permitted as a means of communicating to its 60,000 members, Bohner said.
The full text of the ad follows:
UNITE Here Negative Ad
Hillary Clinton does not respect our people. Hillary Clinton supporters went to court to prevent working people to vote this Saturday - that is an embarrassment.
Hillary Clinton supporters want to prevent people from voting in their workplace on Saturday.
This is unforgivable.
Hillary Clinton is shameless.
Hillary Clinton should not allow her friends to attack our people's right to vote this Saturday. This is unforgivable, there's no respect
Senator Obama is defending our right to vote. Senator Obama wants our votes. He respects our votes, our community, and our people.
Senator Obama's campaign slogan is "Si Se Puede" ("Yes We Can").
Vote for a president that respects us, and that respects our right to vote.
Obama for president, ""Si Se Puede" ("Yes We Can").
Paid for by Unite Here Campaign Committee
Hillary Clinton no respeta a nuestra gente los partidarios de Hillary Clinton fueron a corte para evitar que la gente que trabaja pueda votar este sÃ¡bado, eso es vergonzoso. Los partidarios de Hillary Clinton quieren evitar que la gente que trabaja el sÃ¡bado pueda votar en sus lugares de empleo. Â¡Imperdonable! Hillary Clinton no tiene vergÃ¼enza.
Hillary Clinton no deberÃa permitir que sus amigos ataquen el derecho de nuestra gente de votar este sÃ¡bado. Es imperdonable! No hay respeto el senador Barack Obama esta defendiendo nuestro derecho de votar.
El senador Barack Obama quiere nuestros votos, el respeta nuestros votos, nuestra comunidad y a nuestra gente. El lema de la campaÃ±a de Barrack Obama es "sÃ se puede, si se puede". Vote por un presidente que nos respeta y respeta nuestro derecho de votar. Obama para presidente. Si se puede.
Pagada por UNITE HERE
Web Politics Editor
January 17, 2008; 7:17 PM ET
Categories: Barack Obama , The Hidden Campaign
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