In the annals of corporate propagandists, few men are as industrious as Rick Berman, the puppet-master behind the Center for Union Facts, Employment Policy Institute, and the Center for Consumer Freedom. So our interest here was bound to be piqued by the announcement from CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, that the organization had just released a copy of the results of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit detailing the connections between Berman and George Bush's Department of Labor. That could make fun reading, we hoped.
Well, not really. There's not a whole lot in the way of smoking guns to be found here. The biggest revelation, that Lynn Gibson, an aide in the Department of Labor's Public Liaison office, had sent an e-mail urging colleagues to go to unionfacts.com for information "on labor unions and their expenditures" had been reported in the Washington Post in March. And much as we would like to be outraged along with Melanie Sloan, the executive director of CREW, who declared in a press release that "These documents make it clear that under the leadership of Secretary Chao, the Department of Labor has become anti-labor," uh, well, come on -- that's been a calling card for this administration since Day One.
And why shouldn't it be? Big Labor supported Democratic presidential candidates Kerry and Gore with money and manpower. Bush owes nothing to the unions and everything to employers. His administration has put mining and energy execs in charge of the Department of Interior, and lawyers who made a living defending polluters into the Environmental Protection Agency. Why shouldn't anti-union activists have free rein over Labor? That's politics.
Still, you feel an ugly little frisson reading the e-mails between Bush's Labor Department staffers as they chat with Berman's employees. In a sane world, one only has to skim Berman's Web sites to realized that they are corporate advertisements, bought and paid for. Even with a predisposition to be cynical, it's still alarming that officials in our government consider them valuable resources.