Obama: No secret ballots for workers

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act" • More EFCA stories: here

Unchecked Dems to introduce Era of Labor Fascism

I like Barack Obama. He is charismatic and congenial. He is a good family man, and he is well-spoken. As a political candidate, he has generated tremendous excitement, especially among African Americans. All of this is good. I believe, however, that he is wrong on several very important issues. Here are five of them:

• Labor policy. The Democrats have promised to enact the Employee Free Choice Act. Its purpose is to stifle free choice by employees. Today, a labor union collects signature cards from employees. When it has collected a majority, it presents the cards to the employer and requests to be recognized as the bargaining representative for all employees. Either party then requests that the National Labor Relations Board conduct a secret ballot election and, if the union wins by a majority, then it will be certified as the representative for the employees.

The Employee Free Choice Act will do away with secret ballot elections, and force the employer to recognize the union simply on the basis of signature cards. History has well documented the fact that unions often use intimidation, coercion and false promises to obtain employee signature cards. Without a secret ballot election, there will be no protection against this, either for employers or employees. Obama has said that passage of this law — to do away with secret ballot elections in choosing union representatives — is one of his priorities.

• Freedom of speech. The Democrats have promised to bring back the “Fairness Doctrine.” The ostensible purpose of this law is to force radio stations to grant “equal time” to opposing political points of view. The real purpose is to censor Republicans who have been successful on talk radio, especially Rush Limbaugh. Since radio stations cannot find sponsors to pay for liberal talk programs, they will be forced to cancel the conservative programs, or run afoul of the law.

Although the law will also technically apply to television, experience shows that a Democratic administration will not apply it there, because that is largely an area where Democratic bias, not Republican bias, exists. Nor will the law apply to newspapers, where Democrats are favored by heavy majorities. The whole idea flies in the face of the First Amendment. However, Obama, as president, will approve and enforce this doctrine.

• National defense. Based upon his record and his statements, I do not believe Obama has either the will or the temperament to defend the country. He does not like or trust our military. His statements on how to deal with our enemies seem to me to be naïve. He is sympathetic to demands of leading Democrats to drastically cut our defense budget.

As the campaign has progressed, he has seemed to begin to realize that perhaps we do, in fact, have dangerous and intractable enemies. But he has come late to the game, and I worry that his newfound enlightenment is temporary and will evaporate upon his election. I do not question his patriotism, but simply believe that this is a mindset that will be difficult for him to overcome.

• Economic freedom. Although capitalism has many flaws, it works better than socialism. Winston Churchill said that, under capitalism, the prosperity is shared unequally, whereas under socialism the misery is shared equally. Obama's plan to redistribute the wealth cannot be sugar-coated by calling it “tax credits.” And despite all his talk about “fairness,” there is not much that is fair about taking money away from people who earn it and sending it to people who did not earn it. In a democracy, the true capital is in the persons who are entrepreneurs. However, as the Russians discovered, in a socialist society, entrepreneurs disappear and so, eventually, does the economy.

• Medical care. The proposals set forth by Obama will not, to paraphrase Lincoln, provide the greatest good for the greatest number. The long-run objective, not just of him but also of ranking congressional Democrats, is to nationalize health care and to bring it entirely under federal government control. The rallying cry is that such a program is needed in order to provide coverage for Americans who do not now have it. But the overwhelming majority of Americans who do now have access to medical care will find that their standard of care will be diminished. It is bad enough that health care will be rationed. It is even worse that your medical choices will be determined by a distant federal bureaucrat.

According to our modern-day gurus (i.e., pollsters), Obama will win the election handily. Many people seem to be climbing onto his bandwagon. Nonetheless, even though he seems like a nice guy, he won't get my vote.
Howard Chapman is a resident of Fort Wayne.


Road to Fascism: Unchecked Power

More collectivism stories: here

What if Democrats win it all?

If Barack Obama is elected into office as the 47th president of the United States on Nov. 4 and voters, in tandem, give the Democrats 60 seats in the Senate and give them a solid majority in the House. What happens after Inauguration Day?

Single-party rule is inherently totalitarian whether the people consent to it or not. In most cases, one-party states rise out of authoritarian regimes, including former monarchies, or socialist revolutions. There are currently seven - China, Cuba, Eritrea, Laos, Vietnam, Syria, Korea. The United States would become the eighth.

Single-party rule is something to fear in and of itself - particularly from a spending standpoint, regardless of which party has absolute power. From 2003 to 2005, George W. Bush and the Republican Congress created the largest expansion of Medicare in history the prescription-drug bill and started two wars. They also succeeded in creating the largest tax cut in history.

From 1932 to 1980, virtually every Democratic president with the exception of Harry Truman had a period of single-party rule. The difference is that Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton didn't have cohesive majorities of the same mind.

"In 1976 under Carter, you still had Southern Democrats," said David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute. "The question is, does the president have a working majority in Congress? Arguably Democratic presidents from 1932 to 1980 didn't have a working majority. Even in the Clinton administration, it is not clear that Clinton had a working majority, because he couldn't get gays in the military and he couldn't get health care."

In the case of Mr. Carter, liberal Democrats like Ted Kennedy, who ran against Mr. Carter in the 1980 Democratic primary, the president could have been considered a Blue Dog, a fiscal conservative Southern Democrat. Mr. Carter was a former businessman who deregulated the trucking, airline, rail, finance, communications and oil industries. He also happened to be a Teddy Roosevelt environmentalist, expanding the National Park Service and increasing Federal park land and had a very authoritarian energy policy, including gas rationing. Then again, Mr. Carter and the Democratic Congress also created the Department of Education.

LBJ's majority increased spending by about $5.4 trillion on programs like socialized medicine (Medicaid and Medicare), the Department of Transportation infinitely increased the size and scope of government. However, ending the government-sanctioned racial oligarchy in America clearly overshadowed the inevitable fiscal destruction those policies would someday wrought. Still, there was some level of resistance in all of those administrations, even Mr. Johnson's.

An Obama administration would have none. The Democratic Congress has moved further left since 1992 and is now solidly liberal under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. There is no Southern centrist in the Northern liberal Mr. Obama.

In the first two years of Mr. Obama's term, there will be significant tax-and-spend policies and legislation, and then, in 2010, taxes will increase automatically when the Bush tax cuts expire. After that, assuming the liberal anti-war crowd has pulled us out of Iraq, spending will explode.

Here is some of what to expect from the new majority Mr. Obama has spoken of so eloquently on the stump: At least 20 new urban one-stop, job-training, parent counseling, education, arts and recreation centers will crop up in cities across America; Medicaid will grotesquely expand as Mr. Obama institutes his health-care reform policy; government regulation will grow, too; and the Blue Dogs, perhaps enthused to be solidly ensconced in the majority, won't be there to stop the raping of the coffers as liberals push for higher taxes. In fact, if the Democrats sweep all three institutions on Tuesday, expect Big Government to earn capitalization from Inauguration Day forward.


Against Obama's secret ballot ban

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: hereMore card-check stories: here

Workers disagree with Barack Obama on secret-ballot

Did you know Senator Obama:

• Wants to eliminate secret voting for union elections? (Google Obama union secret ballot)? The "Employee Free Choice Act" would eliminate the normal secret ballot election if over half the workers sign statement cards stating they favor union representation. These cards are signed, so no secrecy. Currently someone could sign a card (which is public) and then vote in secret against unionization. The measure would eliminate the second step, or secret ballot.

• Voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act in 2002 as an Illinois legislator? The same year a similar federal law was passed unanimously by voice vote in the U.S. Senate and opposed by only 15 votes in the House. (Google Obama born alive infant act). These bills were designed to give medical aid to infants who were born alive after botched abortions. They were born living on their own, and had been placed aside with no medical care so they would not live.

• Calls those who disagree with him "bitter Americans who cling to their guns and religion"?

• Is the first presidential candidate endorsed by moveon.org, an extreme leftist group, run by George Soros, an America-hating billionaire who wants the United States to lose the war in Iraq? (see www.moveon.org).

• Is still friends, according to his own officials, with William Ayers, a man who once proclaimed "kill your parents" and who planted bombs which blew up at the Pentagon, CIA and a police station in New York City? Ayers was never convicted because of legal technicalities. He is unrepentant to this day, and after 9/11 said that he wished he had done more back in the '70s.

• Spent 20 years at a church where the pastor constantly derided the U.S.?

• May eliminate many jobs in northwest New Mexico due to his desire to raise taxes on the oil and gas industry, which is a huge economic part of this community?

• Has never held an executive position, either in business, politics or the military?

- Lynn Shinsky, La Plata


The Audacity Of 21st Century Socialism

More ACORN stories: hereMore collectivism stories: here

John McCain assumes voters understand what he means when he uses the word "socialism." He assumes too much.

To slap a label on it isn't enough. Sadly, most people under 60 in this country went to schools and universities where socialism isn't considered a bad thing. McCain has to educate them about what socialists believe and how they want to rebuild "the world as it should be," as Obama quotes his socialist hero, Saul Alinsky.

In this final week of the campaign, McCain should draw contrasts between socialism and capitalism and free enterprise. He should also explain in detail what economic freedoms are at risk if liberal socialists get their way in reshaping the country from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

McCain has smartly seized on Obama's revealing side-comment to Joe the Plumber about his plan to "spread the wealth around." The GOP hopeful says it smacks of socialism, and he's right. But socialist sympathizers in the punditry have pooh-poohed his sound bites as passe or even racist.

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, for example, argued that socialism no longer has the evil connotation it had during the Cold War, when the right used it to bludgeon the left. Kansas City Star columnist Lewis Diuguid, meanwhile, dismissed the "socialist" label as merely a "code word for black."

Many economists would equate what Obama has in mind with socialism. Among them is the late F.A. Hayek, a one-time socialist, who wrote a book on the dangers of socialism titled "The Road to Serfdom." When it debuted in the final days of WWII, socialism unambiguously meant the state control of the means of production and central economic planning.

But decades later, in a new preface, the Nobel Prize winner wrote that "socialism has come to mean chiefly the extensive redistribution of incomes through taxation and the institutions of the welfare state." Yes, that's Obama's economic plan.

He concluded that even this softer socialism means reduced economic liberties, opportunities and living standards for all.

According to Marxist theory, socialism is the stage between capitalism and communism where private wealth is distributed for the benefit of all. It's a romantic notion because hardly anyone is willing to share their wealth with strangers.

So to get from theory to practice, force must be used. Wealth must be taken by the state — and not by a faceless bureaucratic machine, but rather by flawed humans with their own selfish ambitions and ulterior motives. They decide who gets what, taking cuts for themselves and their cronies in the process.

Think ex-Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines and ACORN.

Socialism is centralized power. That's why socialist movements, which often begin as cults of personality, usually end in fascism. Witness Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism — and, yes, Nazism, which, as Hayek noted, stands for "National Socialism."

Again, almost every major society that started with socialism has ended badly. Socialism has been refuted repeatedly, yet that hasn't stopped neo-Marxists — hiding now behind the title "community organizer" — from dreaming their dreams of collective sacrifice for collective good.

They see capitalism with its profit motive as vulgar and immoral because it's at odds with altruism — the idea that the general welfare of society is the proper goal of individuals.

What they fail to realize is society is the greatest beneficiary of our system of rational self-interest. The poorest of the poor and the laziest of the lazy still benefit from the genius of the entrepreneur and the risk-taking of the venture capitalist.

Almost every modern-day invention, from lifesaving drugs to computer software, was inspired by profit, not public welfare. Yet everyone shares in the greater efficiencies, cost savings, life expectancies and job opportunities created by the inspiration and perspiration of money-hungry individuals.

No system in history has created more wealth, per capita, over a shorter time than unbridled American capitalism.

In fact, America has led what economist Angus Maddison calls the "capitalist epoch" — a 17-decade period in which workers saw their hours cut in half and life expectancy doubled. In a seminal study last decade, Maddison calculated the aggregate output and population growth in the U.S. and 15 other advanced capitalist nations since 1820. He found a 14-fold explosion in combined per capita product, dwarfing the living standards of communist and other nations.

Ignoring this history, the left uses the current financial crisis to redefine capitalism as "dangerous" to the welfare of mankind, and to justify greater government economic controls.

"Market capitalism is a dangerous tool, like a machine gun or a chainsaw or a nuclear reactor," former Clinton budget chief Alice Rivlin last week told Democratic Rep. Barney Frank's finance committee. And she's a moderate in her party.

The left wrongly asserts that unregulated capitalism caused the financial crisis; in fact, government overregulation of banks distorted market incentives and corrupted capitalism.

Wielding a socialist-inspired cudgel called the Community Reinvestment Act, government forced banks to make loans to uncreditworthy minorities who couldn't repay them.

It didn't matter that banks weren't racist. The assumption was they might be, and it was government's role to enforce "fairness." The same assumptions are made about the rich.

"The problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed are . . . rooted in societal indifference and individual callousness — the desire among those at the top of the social ladder to maintain their wealth and status whatever the cost," Obama wrote in his 2006 autobiography. "Solving these problems will require changes in government policy."

In other words, people get rich on the backs of the poor, even take from the poor. It's therefore up to the state to take from the rich and give to the poor. In a feudal or colonial society, such a sentiment might be noble. But capitalism is a system in which one person lives well and another person lives better.

The idea that whole classes of people are exploited or oppressed in this country is a figment of the left's class-obsessed imagination. And it's refuted by Federal Reserve data showing constant income mobility even between the lowest and highest quintiles. Policy shouldn't be built on such fantasy.

Still, Obama insists that spreading the wealth is "good for everybody." But as the rich shelter capital or reduce their work to avoid higher taxes, all Obama will end up "spreading" is poverty and all he'd redistribute is more power to Washington.

He argues that raising taxes is not socialism, and he's right: By itself, it is not. But it is socialism when the motive is "for purposes of fairness," as Obama explains it, which is simply class-warfare jargon for punishing the rich.

"Was John McCain a socialist when he opposed the Bush tax cuts?" Obama asks. No, McCain wanted spending cuts first. His motive was fiscal restraint, not restraint on society's most productive members. Obama further argues that redistributing wealth to the needy is better than redistributing it to greedy bankers as the Bush administration has done. Actually, both policies are wrong, since both favor groups over individuals.

Obama denies having socialist designs. But it's no coincidence he virtually always votes with socialist pal Bernie Sanders, as the two most liberal members of the Senate.

Nor is it a coincidence that nearly all of Obama's mentors and close advisers supported Marxism, including: James Cone, Dwight Hopkins, Jeremiah Wright, Frank Marshall Davis, Jim Wallis, John McKnight, Cornel West and William Ayers.

It's also no coincidence that Obama devoted his first memoir to the memory of his late father, a communist, who proposed massive taxes and redistribution of income in Kenya.

"What is more important is to find means by which we can redistribute our economic gains to the benefit of all," wrote Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a Harvard-educated economist, in a 1965 policy paper. "This is the government's obligation."

Make no mistake: Sen. Obama isn't a liberal in the tradition of Jimmy Carter or John Kerry. He envisions a bloodless socialism, where IRS agents take wealth and where the Justice Department dictates contracts between labor and management.

But while force isn't used for murder, it's force nonetheless. And it does violence to the American promise of a right to pursue your own life, your own riches and your own happiness without government interference. America promises a chance at success, yet Obama and other neo-Marxists twist that to mean America guarantees success through equal outcomes, and that it's government's role to do the equalizing.

"What would help minority workers," Obama wrote in 2006, "are tax laws that restore some balance to the distribution of the nation's wealth."

"It may sound noble to say, 'Damn economics, let us build up a decent world,' but it is, in fact, merely irresponsible," Hayek wrote. "Our only chance of building a decent world is that we can continue to improve the general level of wealth."

If Obama wins, he can claim a national mandate for his socialist agenda. If he gets a filibuster-proof majority of Democrats in the Senate, he might get major planks in that radical agenda passed in the first 100 days. It's shaping up as a battle between those who create wealth and those who loot it.


All systems go for ACORN get-out-the-vote fraud

More ACORN stories: hereWade Rathke: hereVoter-fraud: here

ACORN co-founder Wade Rathke also founded jumbo militant SEIU

ACORN, the liberal "community organizing" group that claims it will deploy 15,000 get-out-the-vote workers on Election Day, can't stay out of the news.

The FBI is investigating its voter registration efforts in several states, amid allegations that almost a third of the 1.3 million cards it turned in are invalid. And yesterday, a former employee of ACORN testified in a Pennsylvania state court that the group's quality-control efforts were "minimal or nonexistent" and largely window dressing. Anita MonCrief also says that ACORN was given lists of potential donors by several Democratic presidential campaigns, including that of Barack Obama, to troll for contributions.

The Obama campaign denies it "has any ties" to ACORN, but Mr. Obama's ties are extensive. In 1992 he headed a registration effort for Project Vote, an ACORN partner at the time. He did so well that he was made a top trainer for ACORN's Chicago conferences. In 1995, he represented ACORN in a key case upholding the constitutionality of the new Motor Voter Act -- the first law passed by the Clinton administration -- which created the mandated, nationwide postcard voter registration system that ACORN workers are using to flood election offices with bogus registrations.

Ms. MonCrief testified that in November 2007 Project Vote development director Karyn Gillette told her she had direct contact with the Obama campaign and had obtained their donor lists. Ms. MonCrief also testified she was given a spreadsheet to use in cultivating Obama donors who had maxed out on donations to the candidate, but who could contribute to voter registration efforts. Project Vote calls the allegation "absolutely false."

She says that when she had trouble with what appeared to be duplicate names on the list, Ms. Gillette told her she would talk with the Obama campaign and get a better version. Ms. MonCrief has given me copies of the donor lists she says were obtained from other Democratic campaigns, as well as the 2004 DNC donor lists.

In her testimony, Ms. MonCrief says she was upset by ACORN's "Muscle for Money" program, which she said intimidated businesses ACORN opposed into paying "protection" money in the form of grants. ACORN's Brian Kettering says the group only wants to change corporate behavior: "ACORN is proud of its corporate campaigns to stop abuses of working families."

Ms. MonCrief, 29, never expected to testify in a case brought by the state's Republican Party seeking the local ACORN affiliate's voter registration lists. An idealistic graduate of the University of Alabama, she joined Project Vote in 2005 because she thought it was empowering poor people. A strategic consultant for ACORN and a development associate with its Project Vote voter registration affiliate, Ms. MonCrief sat in on policy-making meetings with the national staff. She was fired early this year over personal expenses she had put on the group's credit card.

She says she became disillusioned because she saw that ACORN was run as the personal fiefdom of Wade Rathke, who founded the group in 1970 and ran it until he stepped down to take over its international operations this summer. Mr. Rathke's departure as head of ACORN came after revelations he'd employed his brother Dale for a decade while keeping from almost all of ACORN's board members the fact that Dale had embezzled over $1 million from the group a decade ago. (The embezzlement was confirmed to me by an Acorn official.)

"Anyone who questioned what was going on was viewed as the enemy," Ms. MonCrief told me. "Just like the mob, no one leaves ACORN happily." She believes the organization does some good but hopes its current leadership is replaced. She may not be alone.

Last August two of ACORN's eight dissident board members, Marcel Reed and Karen Inman, filed suit demanding access to financial records of Citizens Consulting Inc., the umbrella group through which most of ACORN's money flows. Ms. Inman told a news conference this month Mr. Rathke still exercises power over CCI and ACORN against the board's wishes. Bertha Lewis, the interim head of ACORN, told me Mr. Rathke has no ties to Acorn and that the dissident board members were "obsessed" and "confused."

According to public records, the IRS filed three tax liens totaling almost $1 million against Acorn this spring. Also this spring, CCI was paid $832,000 by the Obama campaign for get-out-the-vote efforts in key primary states. In filings with the Federal Election Commission, the Obama campaign listed the payments as "staging, sound, lighting," only correcting the filings after the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review revealed their true nature.

"ACORN needs a full forensic audit," Ms. MonCrief says, though she doesn't think that's likely. "Everyone wants to paper things over until later," she says. "But it may be too late to reform ACORN then." She strongly supports Barack Obama and hopes his allies can be helpful in cleaning up the group "after the heat of the election is gone."

ACORN's Mr. Kettering says the GOP lawsuit "is designed to suppress legitimate voters," and he says Ms. MonCrief isn't credible, given that she was fired for cause. Ms. MonCrief admits that she left after she began paying back some $3,000 in personal expenses she charged on an Acorn credit card. "I was very sorry, and I was paying it back," she says, but "suddenly ACORN decided that . . . I had to go. Since then I have gotten warnings to 'back off' from people at ACORN."

ACORN insists it operates with strict quality controls, turning in, as required by law, all registration forms "even if the name on them was Donald Duck," as Wade Rathke told me two years ago. ACORN whistleblowers tell a different story.

"There's no quality control on purpose, no checks and balances," says Nate Toler, who worked until 2006 as the head organizer of an ACORN campaign against Wal-Mart in California. And Ms. MonCrief says it is longstanding practice to blame bogus registrations on lower-level employees who then often face criminal charges, a practice she says ACORN internally calls "throwing folks under the bus."

Gregory Hall, a former Acorn employee, says he was told on his very first day in 2006 to engage in deceptive fund-raising tactics. Mr. Hall has founded a group called Speaking Truth to Power to push for a full airing of ACORN's problems "so the group can heal itself from within."

To date, Mr. Obama has declined to criticize ACORN, telling reporters this month he is happy with his own get-out-the-vote efforts and that "we don't need ACORN's help." That may be true. But there is no denying his ties with ACORN helped turbocharge his political career.

- John Fund


Honest voters overwhelmed by ACORN fraud

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed voter fraud group a rogue partisan force for Obama, Dems

The for-profit conglomerate known as ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) consists of an assemblage of hundreds of left-leaning activist groups, engaged in the lucrative business of "community organizing" - in other words, agitating for as much government money as possible.

One of its perennial efforts is registering new voters, mostly for the Democratic Party, and it claims to have registered 1.3 million of them during the current election season. The Barack Obama campaign has subsidized some of that registration to the tune of over $832,000, through ACORN's affiliate Citizens Services, Inc., one of 70 subsidiaries using ACORN's New Orleans address.

Project Vote, another activist organization which often works with ACORN on voter-registration issues, also brags on its website about its joint effort with ACORN to register 1.3 Million people to vote in 21 states. However, the New York Times refutes that claim in an October 23 article, stating the total was closer to 450,000. The Times article quotes an ACORN spokesman as admitting that about 20 to 25 percent of the registration forms submitted are duplicates, 5 percent were incomplete and 1 to 1.5 percent were fraudulent, some of which cropped up in all eighteen states in which they did major voter drives. Last week, Project Vote's Michael Slater admitted that some 400,000 of its claimed 1.3 million newly registered voters were rejected by election officials as either duplicates or fraudulent.

Newsweek magazine has investigated claims that ACORN has committed voter-registration fraud and found some merit in them. Its article avers that "the evidence that has surfaced so far shows they faked forms to get paid for work they didn't do," but they defend the ACORN street workers' motive as financial desperation rather than malevolently trying to "stuff ballot boxes."

Apparently, the champion of the common man, ACORN, does not pay its low income, often single-parent workers an adequate wage, so they resort to illegal voter-registration tactics in order to keep their jobs. In fact, the Albuquerque Journal in New Mexico reported that ACORN has admitted that up to a hundred employees may not been paid at all in that state for their "get out the vote" work. Several have sued for back wages.

So, it wasn't fraud or rabid Obama partisanship which led to the false voter registrations. It was just good old capitalism at work: Exploited $8-per-hour employees resorted to cheating their stingy, heartless employer by padding their performance. A New York Post article elicits information from some Ohio ACORN vote canvassers, who stated that they are required to meet daily voter-registration quotas. Accordingly, they resorted to submitting falsified voter-registrations, signing up people more than once, and bribing them with cigarettes, cash, and food if need be. In one Ohio county, the election board there suspects it received over 8,700 suspect registrations.

The ACORN fraud tactics that have recently come to light are not new. In 2004, four Ohio ACORN employees were indicted for submitting false voter-registration forms. In January 2005, two Colorado ACORN workers were sentenced for submitting false voter registrations. In 2006, four Missouri ACORN employees were indicted for voter-registration fraud, and the FCC targeted its employees in Maryland. In 2007, five Washington-state ACORN employees were sentenced for voter-registration fraud there. This year, Las Vegas officials have raided ACORN offices to seize records, identifying hundreds of fraudulent registrations beyond those admitted by ACORN. Investigations of more irregularities are ongoing in no less than thirteen states.

Barack Obama has admitted, "Now with respect to ACORN, ACORN is a community organization. Apparently what they've done is they were paying people to go out and register folks, and apparently some of the people who were out there didn't really register people, they just filled out a bunch of names." This comment sounds as though he was speaking incredulously about an entity that he had just discovered was perpetrating wrong, rather than one with which he has been associated for 15 years as an employer, employee, attorney, seminar leader, and supplier of copious amounts of cash through two Chicago charitable foundations which he controlled.

When Obama was on the board of the charitable Woods Fund in Chicago with former terrorist William Ayers, it gave large grants to ACORN in 2000 through 2002. He gave yet more money to ACORN from his post as chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a charitable fund which distributed at least $50 million to radical groups. Obama represented ACORN in a lawsuit against the Illinois "motor voter" law. ACORN employed Obama to train its staff on numerous occasions. Obama paid about $830,000 to an ACORN subsidiary, Citizen Services, Inc., which shares ACORN's New Orleans address, for a "get out the vote" campaign during the primary election season, which the campaign omitted in its FEC filings. The campaign had instead logged it as payments for "staging, sound, lighting." So, Obama was well acquainted with ACORN's operating methods and propensity to skate around the law.

ACORN's own actions belie its high sounding rhetoric about "voter disenfranchisement." False registrations do not just sit dormantly on election commission rosters. When hundreds of thousands of non-persons are registered, substitute voters can come into those local precincts and take their places to vote fraudulently.

Thus, ACORN itself is disenfranchising the honest voters by diluting and counteracting their votes with false opponents. In an era where the margin of victory for presidential candidates has been wafer thin, such chicanery will certainly raise questions about the integrity of the election system in any areas where ACORN has been operating.

- Gregory A. Hession, J.D.


Obama to ACORN: Steal This Election

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

'In your face' community organizer plans to win the old-fashioned, Chicago way

Most Americans know about the allegations of election fraud leveled against the liberal activist organization ACORN. What you may not know is how closely they work with the campaign of Barack Obama.

"The group's voter-registration fraud is rampant," reported Investor's Business Daily. "In Nevada, state officials say the fraudulent registrations included forms for the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys football team, including Tony Romo. Nevada, along with several other key battleground states, requires no ID to vote."

"No ID to vote?" Even countries like Mexico have far more secure election systems than ours, says expert John Fund, author of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy." "To obtain voter credentials, the citizen must present a photo, write a signature and give a thumbprint. The voter card includes a picture with a hologram covering it, a magnetic strip and a serial number to guard against tampering." In order to vote, the individual is required to present the card and submit to a thumbprint scan. Fund credits this system for securing the election of the first opposition candidate for president of Mexico, Vincente Fox. It was the first change of political party in 70 years when Fox was elected.

"What does all this have to do with Obama," reports Investor's Business Daily "besides the fact that he'd be the beneficiary of most, if not all," of the new votes that ACORN has obtained?" Plenty. To begin with, not only did ACORN's affiliated political action committee endorse Obama for president, he also paid the group $800,000 to register new voters. Working to cover up the connections, his campaign disguised the ACORN payments in his FEC disclosure filings. The payments were funneled through an ACORN front group called Citizen Services Inc. for "advance work."

But Obama's ties to ACORN go back much further than his presidential bid. In 1992, Obama worked as executive director of ACORN's voter-registration segment, Project Vote. Obama, along with two other South-Side Chicago community organizers, led the voter-registration drive that played a part in the election of Carol Moseley Braun to the U.S. Senate.

To tighten the connection, in 1993 Obama joined the civil-rights law firm Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, where he sued the state of Illinois on behalf of ACORN. Then-Governor Jim Edgar argued that the Clinton National Voter Registration Act ("Motor Voter" law) would invite voter fraud, and refused to implement it. Consequently Obama and ACORN sued the state. Edgar was proven right about the "Motor Voter" law. Fund says it has "imposed fraud-friendly rules on the states by requiring drivers' license bureaus to register anyone who applies for a license, to offer mail-in registration with no identification needed, and to forbid government workers to challenge new registrants, while making it difficult to purge" voters who have died or moved away.

Despite all the documented evidence tying Obama to ACORN and the overwhelming stench of impropriety, Barack Obama has the unmitigated gall to deny his connection to this far-left, socialist organization.

ACORN is the same group that pressured banking institutions into making the toxic loans that are at the heart of our current financial crisis.

Central to the successful working of our republic is honest elections. If citizens believe that politicians are winning elections by committing fraud, our entire governing consensus will break down. Cynicism and despair are the inevitable outcomes.

Barack Obama should announce to the public that he is committed to free, fair and honest elections and if any of his campaign workers encouraging election cheating, he will immediately dismiss them. It is incumbent upon him to set a high standard. Instead, we hear silence from him about the prospect of rampant fraud and a stolen election.

- Floyd and Mary Beth Brown are both bestselling authors and speakers.


Obama - Rathke connection exposed

More collectivism: hereSaul Alinsky: hereWade Rathke: here

From Little ACORNs, Big Scandals Grow

The in-your-face Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is currently being investigated for voter-registration fraud in 13 states. ACORN is often referred to as the spawn of Saul Alinsky (1909-72), the godfather of radical community organizers, whose most famous aphorism was "Keep the pressure on." ACORN's founders certainly had Alinsky's principles in mind when they founded the organization in 1970.

There is a web of connections between Alinsky, ACORN, and the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama. From 1985 to 1988, Obama worked for the Developing Communities Project, a church-based consortium operated by several Alinsky disciples on Chicago's poverty-plagued South Side. The DCP was imbued with Alinsky's philosophy of helping poor people band together at the grassroots level to confront a city government that frequently neglected them. (Obama contributed to the anthology After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois, touting the "impressive results" his Alinsky-inspired project had achieved.) Just before he left Chicago for Harvard Law School, Obama also went through training with the organization Alinsky founded in 1940, the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), and which carries on his legacy today.

Back in Chicago in the early 1990s, Obama represented ACORN in a voter-registration suit and directed a voter-registration drive for an ACORN affiliate, Project Vote. He sat on the board of the Chicago-based Woods Foundation that made hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of grants to Project Vote and (according to a report published in an ACORN journal in 2004) ran a session on power as part of ACORN's annual leadership training sessions for several years before his first run for public office in 1996.

To hear it from people connected to IAF, though, Obama took an unfortunate turn when he linked himself to ACORN, whose activist shenanigans would have Alinsky spinning in his grave. These range from allegedly procuring thousands of phony and multiple signatures on voter registration lists (one 19-year-old in Cleveland claimed to have been bribed with cash and cigarettes to register 72 times over 18 months) to using taxpayer funds to strong-arm mortgage companies into lending to the un-credit-worthy, helping precipitate the current financial meltdown.

"Shakedowns" and "blackmail" were the words used by IAF's director, Edward Chambers, a protégé of Alinsky, about ACORN and its activities when I called the IAF's Chicago headquarters (IAF today trains organizers in a loose network of some 57 affiliates in 21 states). It was the day before the New York Times published a story about a June 18 internal report by an ACORN lawyer which contained a laundry list of "potentially improper use of charitable dollars for political purposes; money transfers among [ACORN's 174 affiliates, some of them tax-exempt, others not], and potential conflicts created by employees working for multiple affiliates," as Times reporter Stephanie Strom put it.

One area of potential impropriety detailed in Strom's story is the relationship between Project Vote, registered as a tax-exempt charity with the Internal Revenue Service since 1994 and thus barred from engaging in partisan political activities, and ACORN itself, a membership organization incorporated under Louisiana law that is nonprofit but not tax-exempt and is thus free to be as partisan as it wants. ACORN's political action committee, for example, endorsed Obama in February, and the Obama campaign in turn paid an ACORN consulting affiliate, Citizens Services Inc., more than $832,000 for its work in helping Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

ACORN has a contract with Project Vote to conduct voter-registration drives using ACORN employees, who initially claimed to have signed up 1.3 million new voters at a cost of $16 million, then lowered that figure to around 450,000 (according to an October 23 New York Times story) after eliminating fraudulent registrations, duplicates, and incomplete forms. The internal report, by Washington lawyer Elizabeth Kingsley, pointed out that until very recently, Project Vote's executive director, Zach Pollett, was also ACORN's political director. (Pollett resigned from Project Vote in July but continues to work for the charity as a consultant via another ACORN affiliate.) Furthermore, the report noted, Project Vote has had only one independent director (who served only briefly) throughout its entire tax-exempt history. The rest of the board has consisted entirely of ACORN staffers plus two dues-paying ACORN members. Some of them told Strom they had no idea they were on the Project Vote board, which, like the boards of many ACORN affiliates, met seldom, if ever, and failed to keep minutes.

The potential for abuse in an interlocking arrangement governed top-down from New Orleans is as obvious as a thicket of "Change" signs at an Obama rally. ACORN's using Project Vote to trawl for voters for ACORN-backed candidates--such as, um, Barack Obama--would be a clear violation of the IRS's ban on partisan activity by a charity, as Kingsley noted in her report. Strom pointed out that ACORN is already facing demands for back taxes from the IRS and "various state tax authorities."

ACORN is secretive about its financial condition, which, because it is not tax-exempt, it has no legal obligation to make public. When I called ACORN's New Orleans headquarters to ask about its funding arrangements, its press spokesman, Charles Jackson, refused to answer my questions unless I put them in writing, and after I did via email, Jackson was not heard from again. The New York Times in a 2006 article, however, stated that ACORN's budget for that year, not counting its research spinoff and the ACORN Housing Corporation, another tax-exempt charity among ACORN's affiliates, amounted to $37.5 million. Only $3 million of that came from the claimed 500,000 ACORN members' dues, according to the Times story, with the rest rolling in from foundations, private donations, and arrangements called "partnerships" in which corporate targets of ACORN activism, such as the Household Financial Corporation (one of ACORN's focuses is "predatory lending") pay money to ACORN for the organization to operate, say, loan-counseling programs.

A Wall Street Journal article published on July 31 noted an additional source of ACORN funding: U.S. taxpayers. Journal reporters Elizabeth Williamson and Brody Mullins analyzed the IRS filings of the tax-exempt ACORN Housing Corporation for 2007 and noted that some 36 percent of the funds raised by the housing affiliate last year--$2.8 million out of $7.7 million--came from the federal government, mostly in the form of grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. (According to an October 14 editorial in the Wall Street Journal, that represented only a small part of the estimated $16 million in federal grant dollars that various ACORN affiliates bearing names such as American Institute for Social Justice and American Environmental Justice Project took in from 1997 through 2007.) Wade Rathke, ACORN's founder and, until this past summer, CEO, writing on his blog "Chief Organizer" on June 18, the very date of Kingsley's critical report, estimated that ACORN's total budget for 2008, counting all affiliates, would likely be a record $110 million.

Rathke was forced out of his job at around the same time he posted his optimistic budget projection because of another eyebrow-raising matter raised in Kingsley's report: the way ACORN hushed up the embezzlement of nearly $1 million from the organization by Rathke's brother Dale, who headed an ACORN affiliate that provides financial-management and accounting services to other ACORN units. The theft occurred in 2000, but ACORN's top management concealed it from both the board and law-enforcement authorities until this past May, when word leaked out at a meeting of ACORN organizers. Dale Rathke had even been allowed to keep working for ACORN, although at a reduced salary and in the lesser capacity of his brother's assistant, while the Rathke family agreed to pay back the organization at the rate of $30,000 a year (in other words, over 30-plus years).

The Rathkes were permanent fixtures at ACORN. Wade Rathke had cut his teeth in radical activism in 1967, when he helped George Wiley found the National Welfare Rights Organization, a quintessential 1960s group that mobilized hordes of welfare mothers to invade benefits offices with lists of demands. (Melees involving overturned desks, and broken glass often resulted from these encounters.) The movement failed to impress the general public, and the National Welfare Rights Organization went bankrupt in 1975. Meanwhile, Wade Rathke had founded ACORN and soon brought his brother on board.

Once the ACORN embezzlement became public in May, however, along with the news that the Rathkes, thanks to the snail's-pace terms of their restitution agreement, had reimbursed ACORN for only $210,000 out of the $948,000 stolen eight years ago, Dale Rathke was finally fired and Wade Rathke obliged to resign, although he continues to hold the title of chief organizer for ACORN International, yet another entity on the seemingly endless list of ACORN affiliates. Even here, Kingsley's report revealed that the version of the embezzlement that ACORN gave out to the public this past summer differed from what her perusal of internal ACORN documents revealed. On July 8, according to the Times, ACORN's new top executive, Bertha Lewis, had said that 90 percent of the money had come from ACORN itself and the remainder from its charity affiliates. In fact, Kingsley found, $215,000 had been charged to an American Express card paid by an ACORN pension fund that later wrote off the amount as a gift to ACORN in possible violation of federal pension-fund regulations. According to a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the embezzlement scandal cost ACORN, already encumbered with debt and tax problems, grants from some of its key funding foundations, and the organization has had to close several offices and lay off employees. (A friend of Wade Rathke has eased the cash-flow crisis somewhat by paying off the $738,000 the Rathkes still owed in restitution, according to the Chronicle.)

As for ACORN's protest tactics, the kind that have netted it decades' worth of counseling contracts and other cash handouts from corporations and municipalities, they indeed seem to fall into the category of "shakedowns." The 2006 New York Times article was about a cadre of utility customers wearing red ACORN T-shirts who descended on the Gary office of the Northern Indiana Public Service Company to pay their heating bills out of bagfuls of pennies. The aim was to force the utility, via hours of tedious coin-counting and unpleasant media coverage, to drop delinquency penalties for tardy bill-payers with hard-luck stories. A company spokesman pointed out that the utility already had an assistance program in place for poor people unable to pay for heat and said the ACORN tactics amounted to "bullying."

Nonetheless, such stunts, which seem to come straight from the yellowed pages of Tom Wolfe's send-up of 1960s radical activism, "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers," are remarkably effective even nearly 40 years after the Sixties officially ended. Corporate executives, bureaucratic lifers, and foundation grant-processors alike seem either cowed or impressed by such tactics as protesting a bankers' dinner with inflated rubber sharks, piling garbage in front of city hall, or yelling profanities at a mayor's wife and children. All of these were part of a prolonged ACORN protest in Baltimore a few years ago that, according to Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, were the likely source of an annual $50,000 payout from the city to ACORN for providing housing counseling to the poor. On the very eve of the collapse of Wachovia Bank this September--done in by its fatal investments in home-mortgage instruments that the ACORN watchdog Consumers Rights League says were pushed by ACORN itself through its taxpayer-subsidized housing affiliate--ACORN was busy trying to mau-mau Wachovia into rewriting the terms of those swiftly defaulting loans by portraying the bank to the media as a piranha lender.

The IAF's Edward Chambers told me that scarcely any act in ACORN's three-ring circus of urban radicalism would have met with the approval of Alinsky, the man whose ideas supposedly underlie the rubber sharks and sacks of pennies. "They take other people's money instead of raising it from the people they're organizing," said Chambers. "They take federal money, money from foundations, and it corrupts them." The IAF insists that any organization that wants to affiliate with IAF--and benefit from IAF's training--come up with its own money, money voluntarily donated by people who believe in the group's causes so fervently that they are willing to dip into their own pockets to pay for it. "We work a lot with churches, with unions," said Chambers. "They hire their own organizers, and they hold them accountable. And we never endorse political candidates."

Indeed Alinsky himself was a far more complex and idiosyncratic figure than either his disciples or his ideological opponents (who assume that his last book, Rules for Radicals, published in 1971, was all about turning yourself into another Abbie Hoffman) typically admit. Alinsky, a self-styled radical who studied at the University of Chicago and began his professional career as a union organizer, was widely accused of being a Communist, but was in fact vehemently anti-Communist. Later on, during the 1960s, he was as much a foe of Lyndon Johnson's big-spending War on Poverty as he was of conservatives. He also detested the 1960s New Left for its antinomian cultural hedonism and its insistence on smashing the "system," as they termed it. Alinsky believed genuine radicals ought to work within for change. "Alinsky believed that the liberal welfare state led to dependency, and that people should stand up for themselves and have the confidence to assert their own interests," said Peter Skerry, a political scientist at Boston College.

Alinsky's self-selected territory as a community organizer during the 1940s was Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood, then a working-class slum abutting the city's stockyards and peopled with ethnic Poles, Lithuanians, and Slovaks. They might have felt marginalized economically (many worked low-grade jobs in the meat-packing industry) but they remained deeply conservative socially. Most were devout Catholics, and, in order to organize them to demand better municipal services, Alinsky allied himself with Bishop Bernard Sheil and the Catholic labor organizer Joe Meegan. Later, during the 1950s, as Chicago's meat-packing clout declined and its Eastern European ethnics moved elsewhere, Alinsky turned his attention to working-class blacks who were also socially conservative and church-oriented. Although confrontation with the prevailing establishment was a key component of Alinsky's efforts to turn lower-class communities into effective power blocs, he had little interest in class struggle. If a movie analogy is apt, Alinsky's ethos of activism was more On the Waterfront than Salt of the Earth.

Alinsky's legacy organization, the IAF, has continued his practices: working with churches, trying to shore up families and other traditional institutions, and insisting on fiscal independence. They have also worked to sand down the edges of the founder's harsh style to reposition the IAF as a service organization focused on training community organizers rather than provocation. "When I was on the board, I heard more criticism of Saul Alinsky than anything else," recalled Jean Bethke Elshtain, a philosopher at the University of Chicago's divinity school, and a political centrist and prolific writer associated with the "communitarian" movement of the 1980s and 1990s, who until recently served on IAF's board of trustees. Elshtain, whom Chambers personally recruited to serve as an IAF trustee, said she had been drawn to the IAF precisely because of its commitment to "shoring up families and schools and personal responsibility."

Because the IAF insists that its affiliates rely on grassroots contributions, not outside grants, its projects tend to be strictly local and relatively small-bore, centered around liberal Protestant and Catholic churches and their members. One of the most successful has been the Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS), a consortium of churches, founded in San Antonio, Texas, in 1974. COPS, the brainchild of the IAF-trained Ernesto Cortes Jr., is credited with giving political clout to San Antonio's Mexican-Americans, who had lived in the city for decades but who had enjoyed little power under the city's Anglo majority. Another successful IAF project is the Nehemiah Houses, which over the past 20 years has built nearly 4,000 moderate-income homes on once-desolate parcels of city-owned land in New York City. Nehemiah requires its buyers to demonstrate their commitment to home-ownership via modest but not negligible down payments, and so its projects have generally escaped the foreclosure blight that easier borrowing has brought to other low-income neighborhoods in recent years.

Some IAF undertakings, such as a successful 1994 effort to have the city of Baltimore hire only contractors who paid their employees a higher-than-minimum "living wage"--a cause later picked up by ACORN in other cities--aren't likely to appeal to free-market conservatives who believe that the net effect of such measures is to increase unemployment by eliminating low-wage entry level jobs. Still, the IAF's organizational emphasis on personal responsibility and commitment cannot help but resonate. "Alinsky never tried to organize the really poor; he never tried to organize welfare mothers, who are pretty hard to organize, as you might imagine; he always focused on people who had a little but wanted more," said Skerry, whose 1993 Mexican Americans, the Ambivalent Minority told the story of Cortes and COPS.

Since the allegations of voter-registration scams surfaced in the media in September, ACORN has taken pains to distract public attention from both itself (its website blames "the right wing noise machine" for its troubles) and its connections to Obama. The effort at distancing has undoubtedly been eased by the soft spot in the hearts of many journalists for any left-of-center organization that claims to promote "social change." Pablo Eisenberg of the Chronicle of Philanthropy covered the Rathke embezzlement and wrung his hands over the fact that ACORN's "impressive group of smart, dedicated, and hard-working change agents" had gone wrong.

The question remains as to why Obama chose to forge close links with ACORN during the 1990s, when its rock-throwing style of community organizing had been a matter of public record for decades. After all, he could easily have returned to the lower-key, more centrist IAF. Not long before enrolling at Harvard Law School in 1988, Obama underwent IAF's standard eight-day training session for organizers. "I was very impressed by him," Chambers told me. "I told him that once he finished his schooling, to get back in touch with us. But he never did get back to us."

In a September 10 article in the New Republic, John Judis described what he called the "myth" that Obama had created about the centrality of community organizing to his political philosophy. Judis quoted a primary stump speech of Obama's declaring that community organizing was "the best education I ever had, better than anything I got at Harvard Law School" and implying that politics was for him simply community organizing by different means. The reality, noted Judis, after interviewing Obama's mentor during the mid-1980s--the Alinsky disciple Jerry Kellman--was that Obama had long before Harvard become disillusioned with the tedium and apparent pointlessness of trying to get toilets fixed in South Side housing projects when a career in politics that law school would make possible offered him charisma, power, and glory. Power, glory--and plenty of publicity--were also ACORN's goals and its forte.

It is not surprising that, as soon as the ink dried on Obama's Harvard degree, the future U.S. senator forgot all about Saul Alinsky and what he stood for in order to link himself to a charisma-craving group that, at least right now, seems to be giving community organizing a bad name.

- Charlotte Allen, a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute's Minding the Campus website, is writing her doctoral dissertation in medieval and Byzantine studies.


SEIU pension grab: Bankrupt policy

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Militant special interest group kills the golden goose

While most people have watched their 401K values drop with the stock market over the past several weeks, taxpayers may have spend millions more propping up pensions paid to county and state retirees.

"No matter what happens to the economy, the county has to pay the pension fund to pay the employees who are retired and that will retire," said Mike Turnipseed of the Kern Taxpayers Association

That means many government retirees won't see their retirement payments drop.

Public employee unions have pushed hard for pension benefits for their members and many lawmakers agreed to guarantee those retirement benefits at specific levels.

So when the economy tanks, more taxpayer money is cut from the county's budget to pay the pension.

"Something as unsustainable as this, I don't know why they gave it away," Turnipseed said of the pension deals. "I'm sure they were given a rosy scenario."

Fourth District Supervisor Ray Watson said it was pretty much a done deal when he was elected.

"There are rules that you have to go by in negotiating and that was pretty much a done deal when I came on board," Watson said.

In the last round of negotiations, Watson said the system was changed so new employees share more of their pension costs.

"Politicians want to take the easy route out, and if they can give something that keeps employees happy they will," Watson said.

Figures from December show the county's pension plan is $766 million underfunded if all employees who are eligible to retire did all at once.

Though that scenario is remote, the underfunded figure is also expected to grow.

SEIU Local 521 spokeswoman Aimee Barajas defended the pension plans.

"It just has to do with our economy these days. It costs so much to live," Barajas said. "It's one of the benefit of being a county employee. When you're dedicated, work hard, those are some of your benefits,"

The State pension fund is also losing billions in the stock market and looking to taxpayers for help.

The Sacramento Bee reports the California Public Employees' Retirement System lost 19 percent since the fiscal year began July 1, which could force CalPERS to demand higher contributions from local governments agencies that rely on the fund for pensions.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) previously served in the California Assembly, representing the Bakersfield area.

McCarthy said he arrived in Sacramento after the pension agreements were made but blames the failure to fix the problem not on the Legislature, but on labor.

"We have to be very honest, this is all we can afford," McCarthy said. But as it was defined as it went through, the Union fought it and it was defeated."

Pension problems can sink local governments.

"I don't think there is any way out of it, unless you're looking at bankruptcy," Kern taxpayers' Turnipseed said.

Pension problems did help force the city of Vallejo to file for bankruptcy.


Editorial: Shame on SEIU

More SEIU stories: here

Ugly, disgusting, negative campaigning by fat-cat jumbo militant union

Voters, beware. Specifically, Sonoma County voters should be wary of some last-minute election "hit" pieces that have been appearing in the mail. They're toxic. Here's some advice: If the message sounds too incredible to believe, it probably is.

The fact is negative campaigning in Sonoma County has hit new lows for enmity and inaccuracy -- and reached new highs in spending. A prime example is the independent expenditure committee being funded primarily by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other labor groups which have spent in excess of $150,000 trying to get their candidates (mainly Shirlee Zane and Rue Furch) elected to the Board of Supervisors. They're doing this largely through attacks ads directed at Sharon Wright and Efren Carrillo.

Some of these ads would make Karl Rove blush.

One of them presents a large aerial photo of a clear-cut forest. The mailer states "The developers backing Efren Carrillo want to clear cut Sonoma County forests."

What hogwash. The only thing being clear-cut here is the truth.

The ad refers to the proposed 19,650-acre Preservation Ranch project which includes planting 1,800 acres of vineyards across 30 square miles near Annapolis. No clear-cutting is proposed. On the contrary, sponsors of the project are seeking approval under the very timber-conversion rules approved by county Planning Commissioner Rue Furch, Carrillo's election opponent. This important fact is missing from this campaign ad.

The ad also states that "Carrillo has refused to take a position on the project, saying he is waiting for a report to be issued . . ."

That report happens to be the environmental impact report which will trigger the county's review process. Furch, it so happens, also has refused to take a position on the project for basically the same reason.

Similar extreme ads have come out against Sharon Wright. A mailer from unions and environmental groups supporting Shirlee Zane are contending Wright, while on the board of Memorial Hospital, "presided over the closing of vital services" such as the psychiatric center.

Baloney. This decision was made after Wright had left the board, a body that had limited influence on such decisions anyway. Worse, it exploits a complicated and emotional community issue for political gain.

Efren Carrillo has responded to the hit pieces against him with his own attack mailer titled "FurchFacts.com" which focuses on Furch's well-covered delay in paying her property taxes. The piece also alleges that Furch supports the Rohnert Park casino. She has made it clear that she has not taken a position.

This garbage has to stop. Unfortunately, it has filtered into the Santa Rosa City Council election as well.

Candidates who are supported by these kinds of tactics need to repudiate the attack ads - and set the record straight.

The best hope is for a voter backlash against this kind of campaigning. Otherwise hit pieces and independent expenditure committees will become a bedrock of future Sonoma County elections. And truth will be a regular casualty of our politics.


Left-wing SEIU retirees for socialism

More SEIU stories: hereMore collectivism stories: here

Ineligible voters propel SEIU election win

More SEIU stories: here

SEIU demonstrates expertise in rigging elections

"Yes" ballots led in Thursday's union vote at St. Anthony Community Hospital, but 11 challenged ballots might still sway the election.

The count was 121 to 118 in favor of unionizing certified nursing assistants and other workers, but pro-union workers challenged 11 additional ballots they said were cast by people not eligible to vote.

"As far as we're concerned, we are victorious," said Faith Pennick, spokeswoman for healthcare workers union SEIU 1199. "They won this vote in a very contentious situation where the hospital had a very vicious anti-union campaign, and they still stood firm and voted for the union. The National Labor Relations Board has to decide what happens with the ballots, but we feel this election should stand."

The National Labor Relations Board took the 11 ballots — still sealed and untallied — and will decide whether or not they should be counted. A decision will probably take about seven days, said hospital spokeswoman Ann Lombardi-Nathan.

About 300 certified nursing assistants and other workers have been trying to unionize for about a year.

The unionization effort was contentious by any standard. Accusations of intimidation tactics and threats were leveled first by pro-union workers, then by others who were against it.

The NLRB is investigating charges of discrimination and interference with union activities.

The discord has led to rifts among co-workers. Certified nursing assistant Mayra Valdez-Martino, who is against unionizing, was angered by assertions by pro-union workers that patient care was suffering because of short-staffing.

"That was an insult to me as a CNA," she said. "Patient care is first for us."

Certified nursing assistant Robin Matthews said the hospital had a unit secretary calling and offering rides Thursday night to workers who would vote against unionizing.

Lombardi-Nathan said she was unaware of any such effort.

"I have no idea what they're talking about," she said. "I don't know of any such situation, so I can't comment on that."

If the "yes" vote holds, the union will begin contract negotiations as soon as possible, Pennick said.

The hospital will wait for the final result before deciding whether to appeal, Lombardi-Nathan said.

But Matthews is confident the vote will stand.

"We won," she said. "We won fair and square."


Black eye for SEIU's Rivera, Stern

Dennis Rivera stories: hereMore SEIU: here

Puerto Rico teachers repel SEIU raid

Public school teachers in Puerto Rico overwhelmingly voted October 23 to reject representation by the Puerto Rico Teachers Union (SPM by its initials in Spanish)--a union affiliated with the U.S.-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Those who voted "no" to the SPM weren't voting against having a union, however. In effect, they were voting in favor of their current union, the Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR), which was not allowed on the ballot.

The 42-year-old FMPR previously had exclusive rights to represent the teachers. However, the FMPR was decertified by an anti-labor government in January 2008 for voting to go on strike. This created an opening for the SEIU to push its affiliate, the SPM.

The cards seemed stacked against the FMPR. Under Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vilá of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), the Puerto Rican government had been unwilling to agree to a collective bargaining agreement with the teachers. The FMPR sensed an impasse and decided strike for better wages, better conditions at schools for both teachers and students, and a halt to the privatization of the schools through the expansion of charter schools.

However, the island's Law 45 prohibits public workers from striking, so the government decertified the FMPR even before the strike began in early February.

More than just a viciously anti-union government was at play here. In the New York Daily News, columnist Juan Gonzalez revealed that Vilá and Dennis Rivera, a top leader of SEIU, had arranged a deal in which SEIU would contribute to Vilá's campaign for re-election if Vilá would support SEIU's attempts to gain representation. The plan for the raid was for Vilá to refuse to negotiate, and then let SEIU run in a representation election.

The vehicle for this plan would be the Teachers Association of Puerto Rico (AMPR), which associated with SEIU in late 2007.

The AMPR is an organization of administrators of the school system, such as principals and regional directors. As such, it can't represent the teachers under Law 45, and in practice, it never represents the interests of actual teachers in work disputes. So the AMPR created the SPM, whose general secretary and main spokesperson, Aida Diáz, is also president of the AMPR.

While the FMPR won widespread support for its strike, the AMPR moved to undermine the struggle. It denounced the FMPR for striking, and then ran uncontested, via the SPM, and aided by the staff and resources of SEIU, for exclusive representation rights.

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AT FIRST, the FMPR challenged the decision that it wouldn't be allowed to participate in the election on the grounds that Law 45 had no provision prohibiting decertified unions from participating. So FMPR leaders submitted 12,000 teachers' signatures petitioning for their appearance on the ballot--for which only 8,000 signatures are required. Yet the authorities still denied the FMPR a place on the ballot.

When they realized the unfair election would continue as planned, the FMPR organized a vigorous "vote no" campaign. If successful, it would mean that the SPM wouldn't win exclusive representation rights and the FMPR would still exist as a "bona fide organization" under Puerto Rican law.

By one estimate, SEIU committed between $10 million and $20 million to the campaign, with more than 300 paid organizers on the ground, slick ads and free t-shirts. The FMPR, on the other hand, spent a mere $65,000 ($30,000 of it in loans), with mostly volunteers organizing.

The difference is that these "volunteers" were the same people who helped organize the 10-day strike in February that won a wage increase and put a stop to the spread of charter schools. These volunteers were rank-and-file members with experience and a history of struggle alongside their co-workers.

The FMPR's "vote no" campaign won a clear victory. The official tally is 18,123 to 14,675, in a vote where turnout was nearly 94 percent.

The victory is all the more impressive given that the FMPR was denied the right to have observers at polling places, and that various vote shenanigans took place, with votes appearing after the last day of the election, and various "no" votes being counted as "yes."

Now that the FMPR has won, it will continue to exist as the main organizer of the teachers. However, it will no longer be the formal agent for collective bargaining. But the FMPR will maintain its network of shop stewards, continue to represent teachers at the school level, and continue to fight around issues such as wages and privatization. Eventually, the FMPR could perhaps reestablish exclusive representation for the teachers.

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THE FMPR's success is also a victory against imperial unionism. The U.S. labor movement has a sordid history of collaborating with the State Department and CIA to undermine labor and democratic movements in other countries. The SEIU's alliance with an anti-labor government to raid the FMPR is only another chapter.

SEIU's defeat in Puerto Rico is humiliating for SEIU President Andrew Stern, who seeks to remold the labor movement in his image. During Stern's 12 years in office, he and his team have increasingly centralized power in the SEIU at the International level, in the name of being able to negotiate better contracts via "partnership" with employers and organize workers even faster.

The result of substituting a militant rank and file with a small team of highly educated, highly paid staffers is apparent. The types of deals being negotiated from the top have been so bad that rank-and-file workers are increasingly rejecting them.

One SEIU local involved in these deals has fought back: the 150,000-member United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW) based in Oakland, Calif.

In June 2008, at SEIU's International Convention, held in Puerto Rico, UHW as well as reformers from other locals (such as Locals 1021, 1000, 99 and 721) challenged Stern's "Justice for All" platform on issues of democracy. One of the reformers' main goals was to ensure that rank-and-file members would participate in negotiating their own contracts.

It was at the Puerto Rico convention that the fight for reform within the SEIU connected with the FMPR's struggle against Stern's allies in AMPR-SPM. As the reformers challenged Stern inside the convention hall, teachers from the FMPR were protesting outside the building, despite being surrounded by riot police.

Many of the SEIU reformers refused to let their brothers and sisters be bullied and went outside to join the picket line. In fact, some convention delegates--including this writer--brought the message inside, passing out hundreds of flyers and helping organize two solidarity events with FMPR that week.

We were threatened with expulsion from SEIU if we continued to do so. Even so, some of these SEIU reformers would go on to help organize successful solidarity fundraising events for the FMPR in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

Since the convention, the SEIU International has been trying to place UHW under trusteeship as retribution for challenging its hegemony. The International has also been on the defensive, however, as it was revealed that top union leaders--people who had climbed Stern's loyalty ladder--were involved in scandals involving union funds.

Within a few short weeks, three SEIU leaders--the president of the big Los Angeles-based homecare workers' local, one of six international executive vice presidents, and the president of Michigan's largest local--were all forced out of office.

Obviously, the black eye received by SEIU didn't help the SPM's campaign against the FMPR. Also, the challenge to the top SEIU leadership by UHW and reformers in other locals undermined SEIU's claim to be the way forward for the labor movement.

The victory of the FMPR over the alliance of the Puerto Rican government, school administrators and SEIU teaches us important lessons about building unions today.

First, it underlines the importance of building a fighting union from the bottom up, as opposed to Stern's top-down, bureaucratic methods. Second, it teaches us the importance of genuine labor internationalism, based on rank-and-file action, solidarity and a commitment to union democracy.

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