NY Times nauseated by AFSCME in N.H.

As we’ve been driving around New Hampshire this week, we can’t help but hear the radio ads playing repeatedly. We’ve heard Ron Paul ads, John McCain ads and then ads that just stopped us — those for Hillary Rodham Clinton and against Senator Barack Obama.

We had to listen hard (and not veer off the road) to hear AFSCME as the sponsor at the end of one of the messages. And while we’ve been paying attention tonight to the debates, Mark Halperin’s item over at The Page caught our eye, and we thought we should share it with you.

As Mr. Halperin reported, several members of the International Executive Board protested loudly in a letter to AFSCME president Gerald McEntee that an independent expenditure unit run by two people had been using funds solely to attack Senator Obama (and no other Democratic candidate). Keep reading this letter, posted on The Page, and keep in mind that it comes at a time when Senator Obama has emerged victorious out of Iowa and is in a very tight race here in New Hampshire.
We are writing to protest in the strongest terms the negative campaign that AFSCME is conducting against Barack Obama. We do not believe that such a wholesale assault on one of the great friends of our union was ever contemplated when the International Executive Board (IEB) made its decision to endorse Hillary Clinton.

"In fact, when the vote to make a primary endorsement was taken by the IEB, there appeared to be widespread agreement that we had a strong field of Democratic candidates all of whom had made a very positive impression on the IEB Screening Committee. The argument for endorsing Hillary Clinton was not that her positions were better than those of the other candidates or that she would be the better president for working families, but rather that she was the clear frontrunner, the most likely primary victor, and the strongest general election candidate."

We were therefore shocked and appalled to learn that our union-through “independent expenditures”–is squandering precious resources to wage a costly and deceptive campaign to oppose Barack Obama. As Barack’s standing in the polls has soared, according to numerous press reports AFSCME has spent untold dollars in Iowa and New Hampshire to send out mailings and run radio ads whose sole purpose is to undercut his candidacy. And now AFSCME has even registered a website with the explicit purpose of “opposing Barack Obama.”

It is also worth noting that the campaign that AFSCME is waging against Senator Obama is fundamentally dishonest and inconsistent with past positions of our union, i.e. attacking him for not forcing individuals to purchase health care even when they can’t afford it. The ads are misleading in attempting to give the impression that they are associated with John Edwards rather than Hillary Clinton and in their claims that Sen. Obama’s health care plan will exclude 15 million people when in fact every person will have the opportunity to participate. This dishonesty is giving our union a “black eye” among many in the media and the progressive community.
Earlier this week, The Concord Monitor reported that voters had received emails criticizing Mr. Obama’s health care plan as “a Band-aid solution” that would leave “15 million Americans uninsured.” (We are pretty sure Mrs. Clinton has used the same term — Band-aid solution — to refer to plans that weren’t hers.) These mails included comments by John Edwards that criticized the Obama plan, The Monitor said, which residents could have inferred meant they were backed by Mr. Edwards and his supporters.

But, no, they were financed by an AFCSCME committee. The Monitor reported that AFSCME had spent nearly $80,000 on such mailings recently. And it had paid for radio ads, as we mentioned earlier.

The issue of primary endorsements has been loudly debated among labor unions. And in fact, some unions or their umbrella organizations decided not to endorse in the primaries — sometimes citing the fact that the field was fairly strong. Others, remembering how they were stung by supporting a candidate who lost in previous cycles, were still skittish this time around.

If you read the entire letter by members of the board, you can sense their concerns about such a scenario. It’s pretty palpable.


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