Collectivists all ready to get ugly

Related Anna Burger stories: here

SEIU's Burger to prosecute costly smear campaign

The swift boats are coming. They'll go by different names this year, but the largely unregulated interest groups like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth - which in 2004 torpedoed Democrat John Kerry with allegations he'd inflated his war record - are gearing up for the 2008 White House race like never before.

So far this year, so-called 527 groups - named for a section of the IRS tax code - have raised a staggering $210 million, up from $182 million at this point in 2004. But here's the ideological bottom line - roughly two-thirds of that $210 million has been raised by Democratic-friendly groups, according to 527 tax filings compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

"Conservative groups like Swift Boat Veterans got all the attention in 2004, but groups on the left have always raised and spent far more," said Massie Ritsch, the center's communications chief.

When Democrat Barack Obama announced two weeks ago that he'd turn down $80 million in public funds to raise more money privately, he cited as one reason the "smears and attacks" coming from 527s that back Republican rival John McCain. But most outside money - and most of the toughest ads - has come from liberal groups.

That includes a recent spot depicting a small boy sitting in the lap of his mother, who asks McCain if he is counting on her son to help fight an endless war in Iraq. "Because if you were, you can't have him," the mother says.

The ad was paid for by the political action committee of MoveOn.org, the Democratic activist group, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, one of the largest unions in the nation.

Unions are among the biggest 527 players, with the pro-Obama Service Employees International Union topping this year's list. The union last week vowed to spend $75 million to help its chosen candidates this year.

"We expect to be the most aggressive union on the ground and on the air across the country," SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger vowed.

Of course, it's still early, and the biggest 527s don't always need to make the most impact. The Swift Boat Veterans, for instance, spent only about $22 million in 2004.

It's also true that, while Democratic-leaning 527s have raised more, GOP-friendly 527s are growing at a faster rate this year. Their ranks include a new outfit ominously named Swift Boat Obama.

The group's IRS filing traces to a Gilbert, Ariz., address with no working phone number.

"We believe that there is enough information on Sen. Obama to prove that he is unfit to be President," the group's Web site asserts, adding, "We will make sure that we check the validity of all our claims."


Have a Coke and a collectivist smile

Related Coca-Cola stories: here

'Killer Coke' shareholders take a hit

The Coca-Cola Co., the world's largest beverage maker, has agreed to pay $137.5 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit that claimed company officials misrepresented or omitted information in public statements, causing the company's stock price to be inflated.

The Atlanta-based company did not admit any wrongdoing in settling the suit filed in US District Court in Atlanta, according to the agreement dated June 26 and entered July 3.

The court has preliminarily approved the settlement and scheduled a settlement fairness hearing for Oct. 20.

The lead plaintiffs in the suit were the Carpenters Health & Welfare Fund of Philadelphia & Vicinity and Local 144 Nursing Home Pension Fund, now called 1199 SEIU Greater New York Pension Fund.

The class represented by the plaintiffs included all persons who bought Coca-Cola stock between Oct. 21, 1999 and March 6, 2000.

The complaint by the institutional investors alleged that certain material facts concerning Coca-Cola and the condition of its business and financial results were misrepresented and omitted from various public statements purportedly made by the defendants, causing the price of Coke stock to be inflated artificially.

Over the last several years, there had been rounds of mediation and settlement discussions, court records show.

The agreement says that Coca-Cola and the other defendants, who include several former top executives of the company, continue to deny all substantive allegations of wrongdoing.

The defendants believe they would ultimately prevail, but have considered the risk and expense of going forward and, therefore, decided to settle, court records show.


Elections officials suspicious of ACORN

Related ACORN stories: here

Democracy threatened by voter-fraud group associated with SEIU, Barack

Punch cards in Florida left the 2000 presidential election in limbo. Ohio's voting-machine shortage became a source of continuing controversy in 2004. If there's Election Day disorder brewing for 2008, it might well be rooted in the nation's mortgage-foreclosure crisis. In Columbus, across Ohio and in other key presidential battlegrounds, more people losing their homes means more registered to vote from addresses where they no longer live.

Although federal law ensures that most still will be able to cast a ballot on Nov. 4, Ohio voters with outdated addresses risk pre-election challenges and trips from polling place to polling place. They're also more likely to cast provisional ballots that might not be counted.

"It's a real issue," said Daniel Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor who wonders whether foreclosures might explain the increasing percentages of provisional votes cast between 2004 and Ohio's latest election, the presidential primary in March.

Nearly 3,700 people are registered to vote at Columbus addresses the city lists as vacant, according to records maintained by the city's code-enforcement office and the Franklin County Board of Elections.

The number of voters on the move, though, is higher than that. The board of elections sent out a plea in January to about 27,000 Franklin County residents who had filled out change-of-address forms with the U.S. Postal Service but hadn't updated their voter registrations.

Only about 10,000 had responded through the end of May, but Deputy Director Matthew Damschroder said that still helped fuel a 25 percent increase compared with 2004 in registration activity -- new registrations and address changes.

Keeping registrations current -- a responsibility of voters, not the county -- is a constant battle. Boards of health send regular updates so they can remove dead people from the rolls. Courts submit names of people convicted of felonies who lose their right to vote.

In Franklin County, people who are alive and registered but don't vote are removed after sitting out eight years of elections.

Ohio's 2-year-old requirement that voters show identification at the polls makes it more important that they keep their registration information current, said Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

Statewide, a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts is paying to include voter-registration forms in post-office change-of-address kits. Damschroder said Franklin County voters who have filled out postal-address changes will get another reminder in the mail this summer to update their registration as well.

In 2004, the Ohio Republican Party challenged more than 31,000 newly registered voters statewide -- including more than 4,200 in Franklin County -- after letters it mailed out came back as undeliverable. The challenges fizzled, but Brunner fears a new state law requiring counties to mail their own notices to all registered voters could fuel another round of pre-election challenges.

William A. Anthony Jr., chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party and vice-chair of the county elections board, said he also has noticed more challenges filed by new homeowners against previous occupants.

"I can see this being a residual problem because of the foreclosures," he said.

If it turns into a problem, it could extend well beyond Franklin County.

Columbus ranked 32nd among U.S. cities in the number of foreclosure filings during the first quarter of 2008, according to RealtyTrac, a Web site that lists homes on the market in most cities. Cleveland, Dayton, Akron, Toledo and Cincinnati also were among the top 50, and Ohio was ninth among states during May, with one filing for every 410 homes.

Other battleground states rank high in foreclosure filings as well: Nevada led the nation in May with one filing for every 118 homes, while Florida was fourth, Michigan fifth, Georgia sixth, Colorado seventh and New Jersey 10th.

Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Columbia University, said Ohio is stricter than most states in using outdated registrations as grounds for disqualifying voters. But increasing numbers of outdated registrations increase the possibility of voter challenges in 2008, he said.

Few in central Ohio predict a repeat of 2004. Although pre-election challenges still are possible, state law now bars party challengers at polling places.

Franklin County GOP Chairman Doug Preisse didn't rule out challenges before Nov. 4. He said his party wants "clean, accurate voter lists" and remains suspicious of outside groups such as ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, whose paid registration workers were accused in 2004 and 2006 of submitting names for people who don't exist.

As it did in 2004, the Ohio Democratic Party is putting together a "voter-protection" plan to fight eligibility challenges.


ACORN probed over labor-state voter-fraud

Related ACORN stories: here

ACORN's pattern of invalid registrations

A voter registration drive recently conducted by a national organization is being investigated by Dauphin County authorities after election officials raised questions about more than 100 of the forms. Charles Jackson, a spokesman for the union-funded ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, confirmed his organization fired a temporary employee involved in collecting registrations and said it has been cooperating with Dauphin County detectives in the investigation.

Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. said last week the investigation by county detectives is "still ongoing." John Goshert, head county detective, said a former ACORN worker had been questioned, but has not been charged with any criminal offense.

The investigation began late last month after county elections head Steve Chiavetta challenged the validity of between 100 and 150 voter registration applications.

"I've gotten some voter registration forms that are very questionable that need to be looked at by experts," said Chiavetta, who turned the matter over to the county detectives.

"We've had some calls from voters that somebody fills out this form and we send them a voter registration card and they say they've never filled out anything," Chiavetta said.

Anyone with information that may help authorities in the voter registration investigation, or who believes they were victimized, may call the Dauphin County Criminal Investigations Unit at 780-6200.


Unions' voter-fraud group pops up in desert

Related ACORN stories: here

How do unions register 60,000 new partisan voters in Las Vegas? Using fraud.

At the Department of Motor Vehicles office on East Sahara Avenue in Las Vegas last week, Ana Ramos was following Mike Wilson into the parking lot. The 24-year-old Wilson admitted he wasn't registered to vote, but didn't stop walking by Ramos and her clipboard. Walking alongside him, Ramos bugged Wilson, told him it was easy to fill out the form, that this year's election was going to be important and it was the right thing to do. It would take only a minute, she said. They were almost to Wilson's car by the time he relented and started writing down his address.

For Ramos, 22, a canvasser for the social advocacy group ACORN, it was another small victory. Signing up voters, not the $8 per hour she earns, is what makes it worth her while to spend the day in 100-plus-degree heat chasing people down, she says.

As for Wilson, he was warming to the idea of voting for the first time.

"It's time for a change," the Las Vegas audio engineer said after filling out the form. "I've been avoiding it for a long time. I might as well try and make a difference."

Wilson signed up as a Democrat but doesn't know for whom he'll vote.

"I'm not really into the whole politics thing," he said.

People like Ramos and Wilson are the faces behind voter registration numbers, in Nevada and across the country, that are climbing at staggering rates this year as Americans sign up to participate in a historic presidential election.

Analysts have attributed much of the surge to interest in the election and enthusiasm for Democratic candidate Barack Obama among young people and blacks, traditionally two groups that register and vote at lower rates than the population as a whole.

But as a day spent with canvassers showed, the new voters aren't lining up at the county building to register themselves. Rather, they're being aggressively recruited.

"We approach them. We bring the issue to them," said Chris Edwards, ACORN's Nevada field director. "We don't wait for them to come to us."

ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, claims to have collected 60,000 new voter registrations in Clark County since February. The group, which works to promote the interests of lower-income people, is aiming for 100,000 by Labor Day.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said he has never seen such a deluge. "The biggest year we ever had was 2004. That year, we processed almost 300,000 (voter) applications -- 291,000, to be exact. We're running double that rate right now."

As of this point in 2004, the Clark County Election Department had received 81,000 applications; this year, it's 161,000, he said.

According to the Census, nationally about two-thirds of those eligible to vote -- U.S. citizens who are over 18 and have not had their voting rights revoked for a criminal conviction -- are registered; in Nevada, it's just 56 percent.

ACORN's canvassers, drawn from the ranks of the lower income themselves, work outside welfare offices, free clinics and downmarket stores.

Although the group is nonpartisan, it has an overt agenda of making government do more for the poor; it sees getting lower-income people to vote as a way of forcing politicians to address their concerns.

ACORN's tactics are controversial.

The group has drawn accusations of voter fraud and criminal investigations in several states. Last year, authorities in Washington state brought felony charges against ACORN workers for filing false voter registrations.

Some ACORN workers pleaded guilty and went to jail, while the organization paid $25,000 and agreed to have its registration efforts monitored in a settlement with Washington state authorities.

Lomax said while he supports the goal of getting more people registered to vote, he sees rampant fraud in the 2,000 to 3,000 registrations ACORN turns in every week.

"Whenever people get paid to register voters, those individuals have an incentive to meet their quota, and that results sometimes in people doing things they shouldn't," Lomax said.

His office sends out thousands of letters based on registration applications that don't have valid addresses or Social Security numbers, or have other suspicious irregularities.

The office also receives frequent complaints from people who have been notified of changes in their registration that they say they didn't make.

"There's no question it's a crime. It says right there on the form it's a felony to put down false voter registration information," said Lomax, who is working with authorities to see what can be done. "It's very difficult to prosecute someone on something like this, because you have to prove it's intentional and determine whose fault it is."

Lomax recommends voters check the Election Department's Web site at www.accessclarkcounty.com/ depts/election/ or call 455-VOTE (8683), to make sure their registration is in order and avoid problems when they go to vote.

Edwards, a former union organizer, dismissed the allegations of fraud as the politically motivated accusations of elites who feel threatened by the prospect of the proletariat storming the polls.

"Robin Hood was controversial, too," he said. "When you are in the vanguard, working for the working class, there are always going to be people who don't want you to succeed for their own selfish reasons."

Edwards and the political organizers who work under him hold orientation sessions every afternoon at ACORN's Las Vegas headquarters, a threadbare suite in a threadbare building in the Commercial Center complex on Sahara east of the Strip.

The group plans to open a second office, in Henderson, this week.

On a recent afternoon, the room on Sahara held about 20 people, a down-and-out looking group drawn to the spot by fliers promising hourly work they could start right away. "WE GOT JOBS!!" the fliers blared.

Organizer Alicia Estrada asked them to state their names, where they came from and "something you would like to change about society."

It took some prodding.

People mentioned their interactions with police and the criminal justice system, the price of gasoline, money for schools, income inequality.

"My name's Deborah. I'm from Wisconsin," a woman said. "I just came here because I need a job."

"What would you like to change about society?" Estrada said.

"More jobs, I guess."

Estrada told the would-be canvassers what they were in for.

"I used to be a cashier when I was in college. I'm sure a lot of you had jobs like that, where it's just a routine. You spend all day scanning stuff and putting it in bags, and at the end of the day, did you really make a difference? No, you didn't. The next morning you're just going to do the same thing, and nothing's going to change.

"Canvassing is hard. It's 100-some degrees out. We pay $8 an hour, but it's not about the $8 an hour. You encounter so many people doing this job, so many different stories. People who lost their homes. People who just became citizens. We registered an 82-year-old man who never voted before. He said, 'It's a historic election year. This time I'm going to vote.' That's what this job is about."

Estrada explained what information goes on the voter registration form, that all the forms need to be turned in and that it's illegal to falsify them.

She emphasized getting phone numbers so that the organization can call the new voters on Election Day and make sure they vote.

She cautioned that canvassers cannot tell people for whom to vote or with what party to register.

Then she turned the floor over to Edwards. Drawing on a white board at the front of the room, he gave a rabble-rousing presentation.

"It's one of the most reliable and harmful axioms in American politics," he said, writing it on the board: "POOR PEOPLE DON'T VOTE."

"So, if the policy is made by elected officials, and elected officials work for their constituency, and their constituency is all the people who vote, and poor people don't vote, who are they not working for? It's very simple."

It's a vicious cycle, Edwards said, pacing the room and sometimes shouting for emphasis.

"So how do we break the cycle? We have to blow this up, break this axiom that poor people don't vote," he said. "We have to destroy it. You might ask me, 'Is this class warfare, Chris? Is that what you're saying: "Off with the rich people's heads?"' No, no, exactly the opposite. We believe equality of representation and opportunity benefits the entire society, rich and poor alike."

There was applause when he finished his speech, leaving the room to Estrada, who started signing up the people who wanted to give it a try. Several didn't, and filed out of the room.

Down at the Department of Motor Vehicles office on East Sahara Avenue, Ana Ramos was catching the last of the customers as they trickled out after closing time. The day's high temperature was 109.

Dressed in a lacy black tank top and baggy blue-and-white striped pants, she had a tube of sunscreen sticking out of one back pocket and a little American flag on a plastic pole sticking out of the other.

Vanessa Curiel, 19, was studying the voter form reluctantly. She was trying to figure out which box to check for political party affiliation.

"Republican, that's McCain," Ramos explained. "Democrat is Obama."

"Obama?" Curiel said. "What's that?"

"The guy that's running for president," Ramos said.

"Oh, OK," Curiel said, checking the Democrat box.

Curiel said voting was not something she thought about much, and she probably would not have registered if she hadn't been asked.

"I want to vote for president. Maybe this president will make it better. Things are pretty bad right now."


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Striking Montana miners on scab watch

Acts of solidarity monkeywrench railroad

Citing years of below-average pay and a hostile work environment, the mostly Crow Indian work force of the Absaloka Coal Mine vowed Monday to strike around the clock until conditions change. The mine, 30 miles east of Hardin, has been without its 125- member crew since miners walked off at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Railroad workers honoring the strike also left a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train half-loaded with coal at the 15,000-acre, single-pit mine, which is owned by Westmoreland Resources Inc. of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Monday, more than 60 miners raffled at the Westmoreland entrances. They brought drinks, a gas barbecue grill and floodlights for the night shift. Classic rock 'n' roll mixed with the occasional shout out to loyal pickets, blared over a public-address system.

"We're looking for better treatment, better respect and better pensions," said Conrad Stewart, lead loader hand for crew A at the coal mine. "We want to work with Westmoreland. All we're trying to do is work and make better lives for our families."

Miners had been working without a contract since March. Months of negotiations preceded the contract's expiration.

Friday night, Westmoreland proposed a new package of wages and benefits, which it deemed fain The miners rejected the offer. Westmoreland Coal Co. issued a statement Monday from D.L. Lobb, the company's chief executive offer and president.

"We continue to be committed to offer fair and reasonable wages and benefits to our Westmoreland Resources Inc. employees and remain optimistic this labor stoppage will be short in duration," Lobb said.

"We are committed to our customers during this time and will continue to strive to meet their needs."

The company declined to comment further.

Wages were a key issue in the strike but not the only factor, said Tracee Raymond, a negotiator for the Operating Engineers Local 400 Montana.

Miners complained of being "bird-dogged" by Westmoreland supervisors if laborers stopped for a breather.

In the mine's 34 years, worker-company relations had never produced a strike, but the relations became strained last year after Westmoreland assumed daily management of the mine, which had previously been operated by a third party - first Morrison Knutson and later Washington Corp.

The Absaloka Mine set a record for its coal extraction last year, shipping 7.4 million tons in rail cars.

The Absaloka is a classic Western strip mine, relying on a mammoth 2570 Bucyrus dragline shovel capable of scooping more than 450,000 pounds of coal at once. As production picked up, workers say the company started making demands on miners that it hadn't before.

In May, Westmoreland's previous CEO, Keith Alessi, told the Colorado Springs Gazette that the company's best opportunity for mine expansion would be tripling the size of the Absaloka Mine.

Overtime hours, once voluntary became mandatory, as did working holidays, said miner Norman Morrison.

He and four other miners stood at a public railroad crossing Monday, waiting to see if BNSF would send nonunion engineers across the picket line to retrieve its coal-loaded train. The men said there was so much overtime being worked at Absaloka Mine that they could be assured a two-day weekend only if they spent some of their vacation hours.

The men said they didn't like Westmoreland's Friday offer, which didn't seem to solve their overtime concerns. They also balked at the contract's length, five years, which miners said locked in their compensation for too long, considering the unpredictable nature of the economy. Initially, miners requested a one-year contract before offering to sign a three-year agreement as a compromise.

They also disapproved of the way the company was calculating mine wages. Absaloka miners expected to receive wages comparable to those at other mines in the region. Miners at the nearby Rosebud mine out- earn Absaloka miners by more than $7,000 a year in hourly pay, Raymond said. The neighboring mine is also owned by Westmoreland.

However, the company used the wages of the Big Horn County road department to determine its comparable offer. Wages on the mine's dragline crew now, at top scale, are $22.25, compared with $25.52 at the neighboring mine, which relies on members from the same union. On the picket line, miners make $35 a day.

Raymond said the union would like to see Absaloka miners and Rosebud miners on the same contract.


New church friendly to collectivists

Related story: "What a pro-worker government looks like"

Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholic have consecrated three priests as bishops of a new church loyal to leftist Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez.

Last Saturday the dissident churchman formed the Reformed Catholic Church of Venezuela in a ceremony in the western city of Ciudad Ojeda. Organized along Anglican principles, the “Bolivarian” church seeks to combine the socialist ideals of the president and nationalist heritage of Simon Bolivar - the country’s founder - with the tenets of liberation theology.

While the estimated 2,000 parishioners in five parishes in working-class districts loyal to the president pose no ecclesial threat to the Roman Catholic Church, or smaller Anglican and Lutheran churches - they have been denounced by the country’s Roman Catholic hierarchy.

"The apparent political goal of this association distances it from the true expression of Christian faith," Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabino said in a statement on Sunday. "Jesus Christ's true church is spreading the word and the gift of Christ to the whole world, separately from political issues and party affiliation."

However, the Rev Enrique Albornoz, a former Lutheran minister who helped create the independent church told the Associated Press, “We don't side with any political banner, but we cannot fail to recognize and support the socialist achievements of this government," and “back the social programmes of this revolutionary government."

The Bolivarian Church, which models itself on the nationalist catholic church formed in Nineteenth century Mexico that has since become the Anglican Church of Mexico, uses the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer and has adopted a liberal moral ethos, making clerical celibacy optional, permitting divorce and remarriage, and holding that homosexual conduct is not immoral.


Union organizers sent in to fix Denver confab

Operatives arrive to straighten out management

More officials with the Barack Obama campaign were en route to Denver on Sunday to oversee planning for the Democratic National Convention amid published reports of cost overruns and planning problems. Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro said Matthew Nugen, the campaign's convention coordinator, already is on the ground in Denver where "part of his role will be to look over the budget." Shapiro said the campaign officials - some sources report 10 - will deal exclusively with convention planning.

"I do think there is hard work to be done, and we will get it done," Shapiro said.

The budget issue arose when a published report in the New York Times cited unnamed sources complaining about costs of $6 million beyond the budget and a series of unnecessary delays in getting contracts out to begin work on building out the Pepsi Center for the convention. The Democratic National Convention Committee denies those claims.

The DNCC officially takes over the Pepsi Center this morning - though it's possible the final night of the convention actually will occur at Invesco Field.

But the DNCC, the mayor and key officials with the Denver 2008 Host Committee said they had no idea where that figure or the report of contract delays came from.

Mike Dino, chief executive officer of the host committee, said it could be related to earlier published reports where he believed they would need between $5 and $10 million more than what the contract between the host committee and the DNCC dictated.

"If you look at the contract, you know there is more to be raised than the $40.6 million," he said. "I don't know if you call them cost overruns. The reality is the contract seems to artificially define what you are really raising money for and what you still have to raise money for beyond what the DNCC wants you to raise money for."

For example, the contract calls for additional security costs of $1.5 million, another $1.5 million for reimbursement of Pepsi Center suite holders and $900,000 in host committee costs. None of that is under the $40.6 million umbrella.

The contract also requires almost $10 million of in-kind services. However, whatever is not raised must be paid for in cash. The contract also doesn't anticipate potential additional costs of a move to Invesco Field.

Failing to meet goals

Money has been an issue for the host committee. In June, it failed to meet the $40.6 million goal by more than $11 million. But host committee officials raising funds for the convention said the drawn-out primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Obama kept some donors from giving while they awaited the outcome.

Mayor John Hickenlooper said he encountered that as recently as last weekend while soliciting funds for the convention while in Miami at the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

along with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean - took issue with The New York Times story on almost all of its key points.

In a statement signed by Dean and DNCC Chief Executive Officer Leah Daughtry, they blasted the story and claimed five false items in the story.

"The New York Times asserts that this is a Democratic convention effort 'marred by costly setbacks.' That is false," the statement read. "In fact we are ahead of the game. Anyone who has ever worked on a national political convention would tell you as much. This is a well managed convention."

Natalie Wyeth, spokeswoman for the DNCC, also said the charges that major contracts for the build-out of the Pepsi Center were late is wrong.

In fact, the largest construction contract, awarded to Linda Alvarado of Denver-based Alvarado Construction, was announced in February. Wyeth said all major build-out contracts are in place now.

"We brought our construction management team - Linda Alvarado and her team - on board in February," Wyeth said. "We have a contract with them that has been executed with the construction of the Pepsi Center."

She would not speculate, however, on how that contract would be affected or altered if Obama moved his nominating speech to Invesco Field the final night of the convention.

Wyeth also bristled at the accusations that DNCC officials - which now number upward of 130 staff - occupied a lavish downtown office space with big screen televisions. The latter accusation was later removed by The New York Times when Wyeth explained that the TVs were in-kind donations.

"We would never have spent money on televisions like that," Wyeth said.

Catering already cut

Money has been a sensitive topic as the convention, Aug 25-28, draws closer. When it was announced recently that about two dozen delegate parties were trimmed to one party, it drew the ire of some caterers.

Caterers were bitter that they spent days if not weeks putting together bids for a slew of parties only to find out through published reports that the parties were scrapped to save money.

Three Tomatoes Catering believed it had eight of the parties in the bag.

"That was a big disappointment to us," said Joanne Katz, co-owner of the company.

Still, Three Tomatoes has landed several high-profile private parties during convention week, including one party for the New York delegates.

"We're still hopeful we're going to be completely booked that week," Katz said.


Overspending means dues crunch for AFSCME

Union official warns of danger from layoffs

More than 50 security jobs at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter are expected to be cut due to a budget crunch. That has some lawmakers worried, because the hospital houses the mentally ill and sex offenders, and it’s near the Gustavus Adolphus College campus.

The Department of Human Services says there will be two rounds of cuts of department jobs statewide because the department overspent by $15 million.

On July 16, 63 jobs will be cut at the St. Peter facility, 16 at the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center and 14 more throughout the state.

Department spokeswoman Patrice Vick said the cuts are being made to make the facilities more efficient. Of the jobs being eliminated in St. Peter, 28 of the employees are assigned to a unit that has been vacated.

Other security measures, such as fences and video monitoring, have made the Minnesota Sex Offender Program facility more secure and reduced the need for staffing, Vick said.

“Like any organization, we need to constantly consider ways to be more efficient and effective and bring better value to resources available to us,” Vick said.

Last week’s announcement about the layoffs caught employees at the facility by surprise, said Chuck Carlson, a security counselor and AFSCME union representative.

“I don’t know how it’s going to impact us because that’s a secret, and they’re not going to tell us until they absolutely have to,” he said.

State Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, asked, “Why are these cuts focusing on security personnel when upper management seems to be left clean of these cuts?”

The second phase of the cuts is expected by early fall and would include food services employees.

Eliot Seide is Minnesota’s executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

He was critical of the announcement, expecting most the cuts to be security workers.

“Our members who work in these very dangerous settings are the people who keep us safe,” he said.

“We think workers who keep the public safe shouldn’t be disposable and treated like trash. We all want efficiency, but the front- line people are the ones to talk to for that. Not some bureaucrat in St. Paul,” Seide said.

The DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Friday.


No justice for ACORN workers

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