The mainstream media seems all too willing to let left-wing labor groups affiliated with the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC) get away with dressing up their blatant efforts to thwart the will of the people. Let every vote be counted and everyone’s opinion be heard, say the left, unless their favorite government-enforced labor union privileges are under attack. Then, all bets are off. *(It has come to our attention via fax, that BISC was issued a cease in desist letter on March 27, for their unauthorized use of Kessler International trademark for the use of "Fraudbusters." )
Take the case of the Denver Post’s April 9 report on a legal challenge brought by the Colorado AFL-CIO alleging ballot fraud and unreported financial dealings on the part of the organizers of a state right-to-work ballot initiative. Incredibly, Mike Cerbo, executive director for the Colorado AFL-CIO defends the suit to the Rocky Mountain News by asking "We want to know who we are dealing with… [a]nd where are they getting their money? ... That's why we have campaign finance laws." And the suit comes right on the heels of the right-to-work group’s recent announcement it has gathered nearly double the signatures necessary to get its petition on the November ballot. But what the Denver media are missing in their reporting of the controversy is that the AFL-CIO and labor ally United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCWU) are part of an ongoing state by state effort to thwart popular conservative and libertarian ballot initiatives by any means necessary.
Both AFL-CIO and UFCWU are represented on the board of BISC along with most of the other major unions and other left-wing allies. The group is a left-wing labor-funded organization that describes itself as “the nerve center for progressive ballot measures across the United States,” and as “a resource for grassroots advocates seeking to promote issues of economic justice, environmental protection, expanded health care, quality public education, and much more.”
BISC stands for raising the minimum wage, expanding government power through taxation and implementing various costly environmental regulations. It actively opposes tax reform, property rights protections, and education reform. More recently, BISC has turned its attention to alleged fraud in the petitioning process and is targeting supporters of ballot initiatives that unions like the AFL-CIO and UFCWU oppose.
On March 20th, BISC Executive Director Kristina Wilfore unveiled “FraudBusters” in a post on OpenLeft, the group’s new website for smearing those who oppose organized labor and other so-called progressive reforms. Apparently, trying to bring true democracy to the workplace is a new variety of fraud, and its perpetrators, criminals.
Although BISC claims it “uses the initiative process as a tool for achieving policy goals and building broad citizen power in the states,” it only favors the use of voter-initiated referendums when an opportunity arises to strengthen coercive labor monopolies. BISC is scared to death of democracy. In 2006, Michigan labor unions allied with BISC launched a legal challenge to Ward Connerly’s Michigan Civil Rights Initiative in several different courts, hoping to disqualify it from the ballot. The coalition of unions and Democratic officeholders, like disgraced Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, sought to have the initiative thrown out for petition fraud, but the courts have repeatedly refused to go along.
It appears BISC is afraid of allowing the referendum to proceed, given that Connerly’s MCRI won by a nearly 2-1 margin that November. In Colorado, the Denver Business Journal reported that the UFCWU filed five separate ballot initiatives in response to the right-to-work initiative, proposing more onerous requirements for cost-of-living increases, mandated healthcare, and expanded rights to sue for workplace injuries.
The union proposals are obvious efforts to force a backroom deal brokered by Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Ritter to get the right-to-work petition withdrawn before it can reach the voters.
The AFL-CIO and UFCWU’s actions in Colorado should thus come as no surprise; they are working straight out of the BISC/"FraudBusters" playbook. First, work with sympathetic elected officials to thwart the popular will, and then try to create confusion among voters by filing left-wing initiatives with appealing-sounding names, and when all else fails, head to court to disenfranchise legitimate petitioners.
If you’re trying to loosen organized labor’s death grip on employment markets, reduce the size and scope of government, or give parents greater options in the schooling of their children, then you’re an enemy. FraudBusters is devoted to exposing the so-called “conservative political operatives, profiteering signature gathering companies, and right-wing funders who are dependent on fraudulent practices to get their ballot initiative gimmicks on the ballot.”
And what exactly would those “fraudulent practices” be? In her OpenLeft column, Wilfore accused racial preference opponent Ward Connerly of wanting to roll back civil rights while claiming to want to protect those rights. She also accused libertarian activist Paul Jacob and others of “campaigning for profit” by collecting petition signatures for pay. However, none of these practices are considered “fraud” when BISC preferred-vendors like ACORN use them to favor their Big Labor patrons.
FraudBusters has an Orwellian, war-is-peace, approach to language. It characterizes any school choice ballot initiative as “anti-public education.” Measures to end preferences are “anti-civil rights,” and they even have the nerve to argue that efforts to reign in runaway state tax burdens are calculated to “bankrupt state government.”
BISC charitably describes its own efforts to further warp labor markets through minimum wage hikes as promoting a “fair economy that works for everyone.” Moreover, Wilfore’s rhetoric about “protecting the integrity of the initiative process and signature gathering and enacting reforms that will protect voters against fraud” is just unadulterated deception.
In a 2007 report accusing ARNO Consulting of signature collection fraud, BISC admitted that it is “not opposed to paid signature gathering,” since that is “often the only means of qualifying initiatives.” But BISC claims to want petition collectors to “play by the rules.” At the same time the group wants to game the rules in favor of Big Labor’s deep pockets, which can afford to pay signature gatherers by the hour.
The proposed reforms found on the “FraudBusters” site include entirely barring paid per-signature compensation for signature gathering and several layers of regulation, red tape, and certification in the process. These proposals would do nothing to protect the “integrity” of the initiative process or voters from fraud, rather they would only serve to further stack the deck against real citizen advocacy by making it more expensive and time consuming for citizen activists of any political stripe to organize.
When BISC says it wishes to reveal “the motivations of donors, activists, and organizations that use the ballot measure process to hide their political spending… and buy state laws with their big checkbooks instead of creating thoughtful policies based on good ideas,” remember they are hiding their true motivations, protecting the power of the big checkbooks and political agenda of their union patrons.
Mainstream media outlets like the Denver Post, Denver Business Journal, and Rocky Mountain News need to wake up to the fact that the efforts of their local unions are not isolated, but rather part of an effort by Big Labor and their friends at BISC/ “FraudBusters” to impose union rubber-stamped rules across our nation ballot process.
(For more information on Big Labor and BISC’s funding and agenda please refer to the April 2008 edition of Capital Research Center’s Labor Watch. For more information regarding the Right to Work Ballot Initiative fight in Colorado this election season please refer to Ballotpedia. I would like to thank Karl Crow for his time, research, and content toward this post.)