With the labor movement in full panic mode over the prospects of a devastating mid-term election, the SEIU is turning up the heat all across the country, trying to figure out ways in which to demonize Republicans as well as to get ballots into boxes.
So far, in addition to vowing to spend tens of millions, the SEIU’s tactics seems to be gearing up its election machine in ways that seem…well, shall we say…questionable?
In Illinois, the SEIU’s focus appears to be attacking Sarah Palin in order to turn out “Obama voters,” according to Progress Illinois, (an SEIU-funded website):
No message has more power to motivate Cook County’s so-called “Obama voters” — a group that cast a ballot in the presidential election two years ago but did not vote in the 2006 mid-terms — than one that focuses on Sarah Palin and the Republican Party.
That’s the conclusion of a survey undertaken at the behest of the Service Employees International Union’s Illinois State Council, one of Illinois’ largest labor organizations and a force in Democratic Party politics in the state.
“What we’re trying to figure out is what we’re all trying to figure out: how we get Obama voters, how we get them engaged and out to the vote this year,” said Jerry Morrison, the political director of SEIU’s state council.
References to the ex-Alaska governor and the Republicans proved the most motivating, according to the memo, trumping issues like crime, state budget cuts, or student loan issues. “Two of the three top testing messages also have to do with Republicans, including Sarah Palin, taking the country backwards,” a summation of the poll reads. “The best motivating messages are dominated by evoking negative images of what could happen, more from an ideological perspective than one focused on issues.”
Read the polling memo to the SEIU here.
In Wisconsin, SEIU lobbyist John-David Morgan has been caught in a potential legally-compromising situation, planning to attack Milwaukee County Executive (and current gubernatorial candidate) Scott Walker:
Organized labor is hatching a plan to use prominent Democratic officials and TV ads to pummel Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker over the O’Donnell Park garage accident to try to keep him from being elected governor.
So says a local union official with loose lips who was secretly recorded yakking away outside an east side bar earlier this month. `
Here’s what he said everyone can expect in the next six weeks:
TV spots will hit Walker for neglecting county facilities; supervisors will continue to call for an independent investigation of O’Donnell Park; Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, will push legislation on the subject; and Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration may let state engineers come in to inspect the county facility.
“I’m kind of at the center of a maelstrom right now in terms of kicking Scott Walker’s (expletive),” said John-david Morgan, a lobbyist and spokesman for the Service Employees International Local 1, on Sept. 10 outside the Y-Not II tavern on E. Lyon St. “I’ve been kicking Scott Walker’s (expletive) for two months now. We’ve been on TV; we’ve done all kinds of stuff.”
Using his cell phone, a Walker campaign staffer recorded a 15-minute talk in which Morgan laid out what he said were his union’s plans to tie the problems at the O’Donnell Park garage and the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex to the Republican nominee.
Oops! It seems the SEIU might have been doing something that isn’t quite kosher:
Morgan suggested that, based on a conversation with a Barrett campaign staffer, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee is expected to bring up the accident in the upcoming debates and push for legislation on the matter. In addition, Morgan talked in his unguarded chat with the Walker worker about trying to get state engineers from the Doyle administration to lend a hand with the O’Donnell Park probe.
The Barrett staffer, Phil Walzak, dismissed any suggestion that he was coordinating efforts with the labor union.
Walzak, the campaign spokesman, said he did have a brief discussion with Morgan at Laborfest, as Morgan discussed in the taped conversation. Walzak said he can’t remember what they talked about, but he is sure it had nothing to do with the debates.
“Why would I do that?” Walzak said. “That’s ridiculous.”
Morgan, a former reporter for the Shepherd-Express who contributed stories to the neighborhood and suburban sections of the Journal Sentinel in the mid-1990s, said Friday that he now works full time for SEIU in Milwaukee. His local represents about 1,400 janitors in the area.
In an interview, he emphasized that he doesn’t work for the labor group’s political action committee. He said he is employed by the union’s nonprofit doing lobbying and research on legislation.
“It helps me to work on governance issues,” Morgan said. “Then I can talk to whoever I want. Hey, Tom Barrett is the mayor of Milwaukee, right? I’m not coordinating anything with the campaign.”
State law bars groups making independent, election-related expenditures from coordinating with politicians or their campaigns.
The PAC for Morgan’s union local has been inactive this year. But SEIU’s state chapter endorsed Barrett and gave his campaign $5,000. Last year, the union’s national fund donated $40,000 to the Greater Wisconsin Committee, a liberal group that is airing ads critical of Walker.
Told that he is not registered to lobby with the state or county, Morgan said: “I guess we should probably go do that. That would probably make everything kosher.”
Well, the SEIU may make everything “kosher” in Wisconsin, but it might have a harder problem dealing with the arrest of an SEIU member for forging signatures on a ballot initiative in Washington:
Criminal charges have been filed against a member of Service Employees International Union, Local 775 NW for submitting allegedly forged signatures in support of Initiative 1098, the high-earners income tax measure.According to papers filed with the King County Superior Court, Claudia McKinney has been charged with signing an initiative petition with other than her true name, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
McKinney was paid by her union for time she spent away from her job gathering signatures as well as for meals and mileage, according to an affidavit by a Washington State Patrol detective that accompanied the charging papers.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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