Name That Party: Opportunistic Hartmarx-Wells Fargo Dems Aren't ID'd

May 12th, 2009 11:32 AM

HartmarxLogo.jpgIt is disappointing, but not at all surprising, that the Democratic Party affiliation of the politicians involved in the union-driven campaign to force Wells Fargo Bank not to liquidate the Chicago-area operations of Hartmarx, the high-end clothier which has made suits for President Obama, has not been noted in the vast majority of stories I have reviewed about ongoing developments there.

The two Illinois politicians (there are others named below) are Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who has formed a US Senate seat exploratory committee in hopes of unseating current occupant Roland Burris, and 13th District Congressman Phil Hare.

The situation, for those just learning of it, is described pretty well at this Chicago Sun-Times story by Sandra Guy, who at least flagged Hare's Democratic affiliation:

Even after Hart Schaffner Marx plant workers in Des Plaines unanimously stood up shouting their approval of staging a sit-in if Wells Fargo presses their parent company to liquidate, Wells Fargo said parent company Hartmarx is unable to repay more than $114 million it owes the bank.

Wells Fargo issued a statement that it has continued to finance operations at Chicago-based men's suitmaker Hartmarx after Hartmarx filed in January for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, even though Hartmarx "has been in default of its loan obligations to banks in the group that have provided it credit, including Wachovia Capital Finance, part of Wells Fargo." Hartmarx issued a statement responding, "Since we value the confidentiality of any dealings with our senior lenders, it would be inappropriate and counter-productive to respond to the content of the Wells Fargo statement." Wells Fargo said it wants Hartmarx, which employs 3,000 nationwide and 1,000 in the Chicago area, to stay in business "so we can earn all of their business and help them succeed financially." "We're trying to do whatever we can to keep Hartmarx in business, but it's something they're going to have to work on," a Wells-Fargo spokeswoman said.

..... Hartmarx filed for bankruptcy protection in January after its U.S. creditors pulled its credit lines.

At the Hart Schaffner Marx plant in Des Plaines, union officials with Workers United rallied the 600 workers, who shouted and applauded and stood on their feet in support of a sit-in should Wells Fargo force Hartmarx's liquidation.

..... Longtime labor leader Bruce Raynor, who shouted out the message, "We're not afraid of Wells Fargo," said labor leaders chose Hartmarx's plant outside of Chicago for the sit-in action because Hartmarx is headquartered here and because Illinois "has given us" President Barack Obama, who regularly wears Hart Schaffner Marx suits.

U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., who spent 13 years cutting the linings for men's suits at at Hartmarx plant, said he had called White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to try to get President Obama to talk with Wells Fargo's chairman of the board.

Hare said that though Wells-Fargo claimed it never asked for the $25 billion in federal bailout money it received, "I told the bank, 'I didn't see you running down Pennsylvania Avenue trying to give the money back.'" State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who last week threatened to drop Wells Fargo as his office's money custodian and to take the bank off its list of preferred vendors if it pressed Hartmarx into liquidation, said Monday he will encourage other states in which Hartmarx plants are located to do the same.

Des Plaines Mayor Martin J. Moylan, whose city received $63,626 in property tax revenue and $47,860 in utility revenue in fiscal 2008 from the Hart Schaffner Marx plant, wrote a letter to President Obama seeking Obama's intervention.

Guy did not identify Giannoulias as a Democrat. Des Plaines Mayor Moylan ran last month as an independent, but this Chicago Clout blog post from March says that "Marty should never sell out his (Electrical) Union or the Democrat Party no matter what."

The list of stories in which the Democratic affiliations of Giannoulias, Hare, or both men are not identified includes at least these:

  • In the May 12 New York Times ("Workers Pressure Bank to Keep Clothier’s U.S. Plants Open"), reporter Steven Greenhouse did not identify the party of Hare (D-IL), Barney Frank (D-MA), or Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The union has asked Frank and Schumer to intervene in the situation. Schumer, in whose state Hartmarx also has a plant, exercised his alleged business acumen somehow learned during a lifetime in politics, by saying that a Hartmarx liquidation "would certainly hurt the economy in several states, including New York, and might not serve their shareholders well either." Greenhouse also managed to keep Giannoulias's name completely out of the story, even though the Illinois Treasurer is the one who has threatened to take away $8 billion in state-related business from the bank if it liquidates Hartmarx.
  • In a brief item at the Chicago Tribune, Sandra M. Jones kept the politicians and party associations totally out of the story.
  • Also at the Chicago Tribune ("A touch of history in Hartmarx struggle"), columnist David Greising mentioned Giannoulias, but not his party.
  • Like the Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business ("Hartmarx workers rally to preserve firm") identified Hare as a Democrat, but not Giannoulias.
  • For an idea of how the story is being treated outside Chicago, Sophia Tareen of the Associated Press, in an item carried at the Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, mentioned Giannoulias but not his party, and didn't note Hare's presence at all. The AP, violating its own written standards as usual, apparently doesn't think non-local readers should know these things, even though they would likely be quite curious.
  • The only identification of a Democrat at this link was of the newspaper carrying the item, namely the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. In fact, the story gives no indication at all that the union's actions are being politically encouraged. The Rochester, NY plant's workers are taking a sit-in vote today.

I suppose the excuse will be that as news consumers we're "just supposed to know" that politicians conducting intimidation campaigns against banks and private companies must be Democrats. That's lame. Republicans have occasionally done some similar heavyhanded things (e.g., urban eminent domain proceeding in various cities involving various, sports stadiums). More important, less than fully-engaged readers need to know which party happens to be engaging in intimidating activity -- especially when it involves potential union sit-ins and TARP-associated blackmail.

Cross-posted at