Creative attacks on EFCA

CREATIVE ATTACKS ON EFCA…. We learned last week that conservative activist Rick Berman will be taking the lead in opposing the Employee Free Choice Act, supported by congressional Democrats and Barack Obama, which would make it easier for unions to organize. Berman, Greg Sargent noted, is “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.”

Berman’s hardball background suggested that his attacks on labor and EFCA would get pretty ugly, and thanks to the corporate and far-right financial support Berman enjoys, his tactics are likely to have a significant reach.

We’re already getting a sense of what to expect.

The 30-second television spot opens with a picture of Chicago’s skyline and a mug shot of an allegedly corrupt governor. Then another photo bleeds onto the screen of a labor union boss with ties to the politician.

It may sound like a preview for the latest mobster-inspired drama. Instead, the commercial is a not-so-subtle attempt to implicate one of the fastest growing U.S. labor organizations, the Service Employees International Union, in the corruption scandal swirling around Illinois Democrat Rod Blagojevich.

The aim isn’t mere union bashing. The larger goal behind the ad campaign is to derail controversial legislation that would make it easier for workers to unionize, the so-called card-check proposal.

“We will keep hammering on this,” said lobbyist Richard Berman, referring to the Blagojevich scandal. He heads Center for Union Facts, a Washington-based group that ran a full-page ad in the New York Times last week that sought to discredit the card- check measure by connecting the Illinois governor and SEIU.

Along with Americans for Job Security, a separate organization that paid for the recent television ads, the groups are following a common tactic of Washington’s influence industry: a clear message funded by hard-to-trace benefactors.

Both are incorporated under a federal tax-code section that allows them to keep their donors secret. They declined to release a list of those funding them.

What does Blagojevich have to do with making it easier for workers to form a union? Nothing, but when debating legislation on the merits isn’t an option, this is what the right comes up with.

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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.