Left-wing front group doesn't like public employee study
At 9:45 a.m. yesterday, my post "Public employee unions: Entitled to their own views, but not their own facts" went up on the website. In that post, I reviewed two studies on public employee unions. One was from the Center for Union Facts and one was the work of professors from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago. These debunked studies that favored two pro-union narratives, namely that union public employees are underpaid and that unfunded liabilities for union benefit plans aren't all that large.
At 11:23 a.m., I received an e-mail from the communications director for
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Garrett Russo. His letter read in part:
Today, you published a post in the Washington Post's Right Turn blog regarding a study released by the Center for Union Facts that questions the findings of an earlier study showing that public-sector employees are underpaid. I thought you might be interested to know that the Center for Union Facts is a project of Richard Berman, a Washington, D.C.-based hired gun who uses front groups to defend his corporate clients against the public interest. I also thought you might be interested in seeing the numerous "positions" Mr. Berman holds within these groups. . . .
Last year, CREW launched this website (www.bermanexposed.com) to introduce the public to Richard Berman, the PR svengali. Several reports have explored Berman's tactics. Mr. Berman was recently interviewed on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, where he was questioned about the funding for his numerous front groups. He has created at least 23 of these tax-exempt groups and "projects," of which the Center for Union Facts is only one.We have contacted the Senate Finance Committee Chairman and ranking committee members in the hopes of initiating an investigation into Berman, and his misuse of the 501(c)(3) status for his groups.
I responded to Russo:
Other than the fact you don't like Mr. Berman do you have anything substantive to say about the report's contents? Or the Northwestern study?
And where can I find a list of CREW's donors?
At that point Russo fell silent. I've yet to hear back from him.
But let's look at what CREW is and why it's so interested in telling me bad things about Berman. Back in 2006, long before Karen Tumulty came to The Post, she wrote an informative piece on CREW. A sample:
Since its founding in 2003, CREW has worked through legal and regulatory channels to press allegations of impropriety almost exclusively against Republicans. Ironically, given CREW's new prominence as a favorite target of vast-left-wing-conspiracy theorists, its litigious approach borrows heavily from the conservative group Judicial Watch, which in the 1990s helped propel Paula Jones' sexual-harassment accusations against Bill Clinton into his impeachment.
[Executive Director Melanie] Sloan, a former congressional staff member for such liberal lawmakers as Michigan's John Conyers and New York's Charles Schumer, was working as an assistant U.S. Attorney when two Democratic activists approached her with the idea of trying something like Judicial Watch from the left. For its first 18 months, CREW was a one-woman shop. An early target was the seemingly invincible DeLay. Sloan asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the House majority leader's fund raising and sued the Federal Election Commission to get more info about his dealings with a Kansas utility.
But it's no wonder Russo wouldn't answer my question about donors. Karen explained:
For an organization dedicated to holding government accountable, CREW isn't transparent about its own operations. Organized as a 501(c)3 under federal tax laws, it does not have to reveal the names of all its donors. "I wouldn't have any donors if I revealed all my donors," says Sloan. However, CREW acknowledges that it has received $100,000 from the foundation of liberal financier George Soros and several annual donations of at least $10,000 from that of entertainer Barbra Streisand.
In 2008 Soros's Open Society Institute gave $250,000 to CREW.
Others have looked into CREW's operation. In 2008 Roll Call reported:
The ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has made its mark by issuing dozens of complaints since 2003 alleging that Members of Congress have taken official actions that benefit their families, friends or financial benefactors.
But a review of entities against which CREW has filed complaints and information about its donors suggests that the organization may be guilty of the same practice -- attacking groups and individuals who are the foes of CREW's donors.
Roll Call's report continued:
In February 2006, CREW asked the Senate Finance Committee to investigate the Center for Union Facts, an anti-union group, and its sister organization, the Center for Consumer Freedom, which CREW claimed are "front organizations for for-profit industry entities." The complaint noted that the Center for Union Facts Web site had "negative information about unions," including the Service Employees International Union. Later that year, CREW launched a Freedom of Information Act request, followed by a lawsuit, to get the Department of Labor to hand over documents regarding the department's contacts with the founder of the two centers.
On Sept. 1, 2006, CREW received $75,000 from the SEIU, according to documents that the union filed with the Department of Labor.
"CREW has long targeted Richard Berman, the executive director of the Center for Union Facts, the Center for Consumer Freedom and other alleged charities, for doing the bidding of business behind the veil of nonprofits," [Deputy Director Naomi] Seligman said.
Ah, so CREW has been on its Berman vendetta for some time. And plainly its agenda includes going after those who would undermine the position of organized labor.
Likewise, Roll Call explained:
The Gill Foundation is heavily invested in organizations advocating gay and lesbian rights. One of the prime antagonists of the gay rights movement is Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), who introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Two weeks before the 2004 election, CREW filed a complaint with the Department of Justice alleging that Musgrave's campaign was operating out of her district office in Loveland, Colo. Musgrave Chief of Staff Guy Short said the allegation was untrue. He said Musgrave's office never was contacted by the Justice Department and to the best of his knowledge the allegation was never investigated by the DOJ.
In September 2005, CREW named Musgrave to its list of the "13 Most Corrupt" Members of Congress, and filed a complaint against her before the FEC in February 2007. The FEC dismissed that complaint.
In September 2006, CREW filed complaints with the IRS and the Postal Service against two "anti-gay marriage organizations" in Minnesota for allegedly supporting a state Senate candidate.
The Gill Foundation donated $125,000 to CREW in 2006, according to the foundation's annual report.
Roll Call reviewed a similar pattern concerning its legal onslaught against anti-Castro groups. "While CREW will not release its donor records, since 2003 the group has received $125,000 from the Arca Foundation, according to the foundation's annual reports. Over the same period, Arca -- a family foundation that has backed a host of liberal causes -- has provided about $1 million to organizations to advocate opening ties to Cuba and reducing barriers to travel."
So what can we conclude from all this? CREW really isn't a neutral watchdog group. It has a left-wing agenda that serves the purpose of its left-wing donors. And one of its pet projects is hounding Berman. But I don't suppose CREW has any interest into looking into George Soros's multiple organizations. Well, of course not! You don't bite the hand that feeds you.
| February 24, 2011; 10:37 AM ET
Save & Share: Previous: Why have a press conference on Libya at all?
Next: Palin got this one right: More Jews going to Israel
Posted by: Lazarus40 | February 24, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: fingersfly | February 24, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: engdre | February 24, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: kantcould | February 24, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jiji1 | February 24, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: paco33 | February 24, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 24, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fingersfly | February 24, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fingersfly | February 24, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fingersfly | February 24, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: stinkyliberals | February 24, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Chagasman | February 24, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Inagua1 | February 24, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: clarice2 | February 24, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: econrob | February 24, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: accentmark | February 24, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: georgedixon1 | February 24, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: quilly | February 24, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mtkennedy | February 24, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: aardunza | February 24, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TheLastBrainLeft | February 24, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TerryWard | February 26, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse