K Street’s Dr. Evil

K STREET’S DR. EVIL…. Last week, when Senate Republicans blocked a rescue package for the U.S. automotive industry, an internal party memo said it was the “first shot against organized labor.”

It seems likely that Rick Berman will fire the second shot. Not that Rick Berman, this Rick Berman.

Meet the fine fellow who will be the number one foe of the big unions as they try to pass their number one legislative priority next year: He’s a D.C. cartoon villain business lobbyist who fights efforts to restrict drunk driving, mandate healthier foods, and, of course, to hike the minimum wage.

He’s Rick Berman, a notorious and familiar figure in D.C. who has spent years lobbying for business interests, many of them in the food and restaurant industries, and has been called everything from “sleazy” to “Dr. Evil” by his enemies.

We’re introducing you to Berman because he is going to be at the center of one of the biggest looming fights in Washington this spring: The battle between business and labor over the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize and is labor’s number one legislative goal.

Berman runs a group called the “Center for Union Facts,” which bills itself as a union watchdog organization but is described as a front group for business interests by labor officials. The group, which doesn’t disclose its donors, will be one of several key business and right-wing groups leading the charge to kill the Employee Free Choice Act.

Berman himself has vowed to raise some $30 million to fund various efforts to battle it. The other day his group took out a full page ad in The New York Times showcasing the new strategy being employed by the Act’s opponents: Use the Blagojevich scandal and SEIU’s contacts with the Blago camp to smear unions and portray the Act itself as some kind of payoff from Dems being demanded by Big Bad Labor.

If you’re thinking this is going to get ugly, we’re on the same page.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.