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AIM Report: How the Media Help Gore

On Sept. 12, the New York Times ran a front page story about a Bush TV ad that included one frame, visible for only a thirtieth of a second, that showed an enlargement of the last four letters of the word “BUREAUCRATS”? “RATS.” The Times nation-al political correspondent, Richard L. Berke, portrayed this as a Bush dirty trick ? a subliminal suggestion that the Gore people are rats. Aides to Gore called this to Berke’s attention. He knew it had been reported on the Fox News channel two weeks earlier, but that didn’t stop the Times from giving it big play. That propelled it onto TV network newscasts.

Earlier this year, Richard Berke, a member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, told an NLGJA gathering how the Times had changed in 15 years. He said, “I remember coming and wondering if there were…any gay reporters there…Now…there are times when you look at the front-page meeting and…literally three-quarters of the people deciding what’s on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals.” At the Times front-page meeting on Sept. 11, it was decided that Berke’s 33-column-inch story about “RATS” would go on the front page. It was trivial old news, but it could help Al Gore, the candidate that most homosexuals support.

The story said: “(S)everal Republican and Democratic advertising consultants who were told of the commercial, as well as many independent academics, said they were startled that such a word would appear and said it appeared to be a subliminal attempt to discredit Mr. Gore.” That was on page one. The reader had to plow through two-thirds of Berke’s story to find this: “The notion that subliminal messages in advertisements could influence people became popular in the 1950’s, when James Vicary, an ad executive, reported that he had increased sales of Coca Cola and popcorn during a movie by flashing ‘Drink Coke’ and ‘Eat Popcorn’ on the screen. Mr. Vicary’s report turned out to be a hoax. Three decades of study have convinced most researchers that the public is not so easily manipulated.”

There is no scientific evidence that subliminal messages have any effect on humans. This was much ado about nothing, but a Times editorial the next day described how “a studiously somber Vice President Al Gore expressed puzzlement over the strangeness of the episode,” while other Democrats were “predictably gleeful.” The Times declared that “smart Republicans know that…this is a fraught (sic) moment for the Bush campaign,” whatever that means.

Stories based on old hoaxes rarely make the front page of the New York Times, but this one vaulted from the front page to television. It was discussed on “Good Morning America” and the CBS Early Show. CNN reported it throughout the day. That night, it was the lead story on ABC’s “World News Tonight” and the second story on the CBS and NBC evening newscasts. A Nexis search covering the next two weeks found 638 stories about this quirky ad.

Serious Gore Story Buried And Ignored

Six days later, on Sept. 18, the Boston Globe reported that Al Gore had claimed that his mother-in-law had to pay nearly three times as much for Lodine, an arthritis medicine, as he paid for the same medicine for his dog. The Globe questioned the accuracy of Gore’s claim. It discovered that the prices quoted by Gore were wholesale prices found in a congressional study done for House Democrats. This meant that Gore didn’t know the retail cost of the drugs and that it was possible that his mother-in-law and his dog were not actually taking them. Gore has produced no proof, and he has closed down question-ing saying he is through talking about his mother-in-law.

The day after this story appeared in the Globe, the New York Times covered it in four paragraphs on page 15 in a story about Gov. Bush. The next day it ran a story on it at the bottom of page 18 under the headline, “Gore Misspeaks and Fabricates, Cheney Says.” This story included price comparisons, but it did not say that there is a generic version of Lodine that costs much less than the brand-name drugs. The NBC Nightly News picked up this story on Sept. 22. ABC and CBS ignored it.

Nexis found only 118 stories about the drug story. On Sept. 18, Gore, addressing a group of women on breast cancer, couldn’t remember “mammogram.” He used “sonogram” and was corrected by the audience. Nexis found only three stories about this. One was on Fox News and another on the National Journal Hotline, which described it as “kind of a George W. Bush moment.” Nexis found 103 stories about Bush saying “subliminable”instead of “subliminal.”

By Cliff Kincaid

Al Gore regularly attacks big corporations and “special interests, but the Bush campaign has done little to expose the powerful special interests behind Gore and the Democratic Party. Big Labor, a movement that includes corrupt officials, some of them with close ties to organized crime, is the most important of the special interests that provide money and manpower to assist the Democrats. Even though labor union support of Gore may decide the outcome of the election and insure that corrupt or tainted labor union officials will continue to be influential in the next administration, the Bush campaign and the Republican Party avoid making this an issue.

The Center for Public Integrity, a liberal-leaning, non-partisan group, said in its report, “The Buying of the President,” which was released earlier this year: “The White House and the Democratic Party have coddled and collaborated politically with union leaders who are known to be corrupt…the Center was unable to find a single utterance by President Clinton or Vice President Gore about the vexing problem of union corruption….The President and his party have sought and received hundreds of millions of dollars in political contributions and electioneering from the unions, and are not about to bite the hands that are feeding them.”

The media focused on the Center’s revelations about corporate influence in political parties and the elections, but they ignored the section on organized labor and the Democratic Party. Many reporters are members of the Newspaper Guild, which is now part of the Communications Workers of America. They, too, are part of the Big Labor political machine. They pay union dues, some of which may be funneled into the campaigns of Al Gore and other Democrats.

Tainted Teamsters

The Teamsters union used $800,000 of its members’ money illegally to finance the re-election campaign of their former president, Ron Carey. They poured money into the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign, and the Democrats channeled funds into Carey’s re-election campaign. William Hamilton, the Teamster’s political director, was prosecuted and convicted for this. The Wall Street Journal says that Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, “allegedly helped launder $150,000 in the union’s funds to Mr. Carey through Citizen Action, a consumer advocacy group.” The Journal says testimony at Hamilton’s trial indicated that Trumka “figured in a second scheme to make $50,000 in illegal donations to Mr. Carey.”

Trumka took the Fifth Amendment, but the Democrats gave him a speaking role at their Los Angeles convention. Brian Ross, ABC’s star investigative reporter, confronted Trumka in Los Angeles about his role in the Teamster money-laundering scandal, asking him about the status of the investigation. “Oh, come on, man,” Trumka said. “There isn’t any, as far as I’m concerned.” When asked if that meant there was no investigation, Trumka walked away. Ross reported that his sources said the investigation was still ongoing. “But to the surprise of federal investigators,” he added, “he [Trumka] has continued to play an active role in steering union money and support to the Gore campaign.” This suggests that Trumka believes that if Gore is elected president, the investigation may go away, and he won’t be indicted.

Guilty But In Gore’s Good Graces

Michael Ansara, the head of Citizen Action, pleaded guilty three years ago to having been involved in the money laundering. He has not yet been sentenced. Newsweek has reported that Ansara’s telemarketing firm has been paid $154,000 by the Gore campaign and $937,000 by the Democratic National Committee and two other Democratic committees in the current election cycle.

Charles LaBella, former head prosecutor for the Justice Department’s campaign-finance task force, told Ross, “The fact that it continues is troubling. And it says one of two things: That no one is paying attention, or two, they don’t care.” After Ross reported Gore’s continuing association with Ansara, the Gore campaign terminated its business with Ansara’s firm. But Gore continues his association with Trumka, Sweeney and the AFL-CIO.

Brian Ross also noted that Bill Clinton’s close friend, Terry McAuliffe, a leading Democratic fundraiser and chairman of the Democratic National Convention, was implicated in court testimony as being “fully aware of parts” of the alleged Teamster-DNC money-laundering scheme. He reported that McAuliffe had denied any wrongdoing and was “no longer considered a target of the investigation.”

A Wall Street Journal editorial of Sept. 13 said McAuliffe had worked closely with Martin Davis, who “pleaded guilty to conspiring to funnel union funds” but refused to testify. It also said that a former finance director of the DNC (Richard Sullivan) testified that McAuliffe and Davis “attempted to carry out an illegal funds swap scheme involving the DNC and the Teamsters.” The Washington Times reported that after the swaps were completed, Davis had lunch at the White House with President Clinton, Terry McAuliffe and his aide, Nancy Hartigan, who had told Davis where to send the union money.

Federal Funds For LIUNA

Arthur Coia, former president of the Laborers’ International Union (LIUNA), has been described by organized crime investigators in the Justice Department as a mob puppet. A frequent guest at the White House, Coia traveled with Clinton on Air Force One several times and exchanged gifts with him. The Justice Department in 1995 had drafted a racketeering lawsuit against Coia, but after Hillary Clinton spoke to a LIUNA convention, a decision was made to let the union hire its own lawyer to root out corruption. Coia stayed on as president and continued to raise money for the Democrats. He chaired a 1996 event that raised more than $12 million for the party.

In 1994, LIUNA received more than $11 million in federal grants and donated over $1 million to Democratic candidates. The Heritage Foundation found that LIUNA received nearly $30 million in grants over two years. Recipients of LIUNA largesse included Reps. Dick Gephardt, David Bonior, Barney Frank and Steny Hoyer in the House, and Tom Daschle and Christopher Dodd in the Senate.

The Reader’s Digest in April 1996 published an article on White House ties to Coia, titled “The Clintons and the Union Boss.” The White House refused to answer questions posed by the author, Eugene Methvin, about Clinton’s knowledge of LIUNA’s Mafia connections and the Justice Department’s investigations and negotiations to decide the union’s fate. Coia was forced to retire (with his pension intact) after it was proven that he had engaged in mail fraud and had cheated local and state authorities out of $100,000.

Even though Coia pleaded guilty to criminal tax fraud, his influence continued to be felt in the AFL-CIO. He played a key role in getting John Sweeney of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) elected as AFL-CIO president in 1995. Sweeney, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, has moved the AFL-CIO to the left. He has eagerly endorsed Gore for president. In return, for Coia’s help, Sweeney made him head of the AFL-CIO’s organizing department.

Dueling Indictments And Mob Unions

Officials of LIUNA were among those indicted on charges of bribery, bid-rigging or other racketeering schemes on September 7, 2000. The 57-count indictment was issued by Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau against 38 union bosses, contractors and reputed mobsters, including the reported head of the Luchese crime family.

At the same time, the Clinton-appointed U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, Mary Jo White, who has been dragging her feet on the indictment of Trumka in the Teamsters money-laundering scandal, announced her own indictments against six, lower-level mobsters. She didn’t indict any union bosses. Stories said the dueling indictments were evidence of a war between prosecutors, but it could also indicate a reluctance by a Clinton appointee to pursue a case that might complicate the efforts of unions critical to the financial and electoral success of the Democratic Party and its candidates, including Hillary Clinton.

The FBI has identified four unions as being influenced by organized crime. They are LIUNA, the Teamsters, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE) and the International Longshoremen’s Association. All but the Teamsters are member of the AFL-CIO. Just before Labor Day, NBC’s “Dateline” re-aired a story about corruption and mob ties at HERE.

High-on-the-Hog Hanley

Reporter Victoria Coderi reported that the union’s president, Ed Hanley made $310,000 a year and had three homes, including one worth $650,000, another in Palm Springs, and one on a private island. Union dues helped pay for a $63,000 luxury car for Hanley and his wife and a $2.5 million private jet. “Dateline” showed that he opened up an office in Wisconsin for a “ghost local.” The money that was supposed to be used for union organizing was spent to maintain one of Hanley’s vacation homes. HERE sent $500,000 to Ireland to build a basketball arena which included an “Edward T. Hanley Hall.”

Corderi cited several federal reports on corruption in the union. She interviewed a former FBI official, Dan Sullivan, who had uncovered a lot of it. One report said that organized crime helped Hanley rise to power and that he appointed mobsters to union positions and nurtured their careers. Called before a U.S. Senate committee in 1984, Hanley took the Fifth Amendment 36 times when asked about Mafia ties and other matters.

Hanley “cut a deal” in November 1998 to avoid prosecution on embezzlement charges. Corderi said that the Justice Department gave him “full immunity” from prosecution. He paid a small fine without admitting any wrongdoing, and retired with a luxury car and a pension of $310,000 a year. Corderi couldn’t get the Justice Department to explain why he was not charged and prosecuted. Not long after, Hanley was killed in a traffic accident. His widow is collecting most of his pension.

The Political Pay-Off

Six union officials besides Richard Trumka were honored with speaking roles at the Democratic National Convention, ranging from AFL-CIO President Sweeney to Maria Elena Durazo, president of HERE Local 11. Thirty percent of the delegates were union members. Speaking to them Sweeney said, “This is our time. We must dominate this convention, and then we must dominate the elections.”

With the exception of Brian Ross’s report on Trumka, the media showed no interest in Big Labor’s influence on the Democratic Party. ABC, CBS and NBC displayed their bias by giving the Democratic Convention 19 percent more coverage than they gave the Republicans. Some critics saw this as virtually a soft-money contribution to the Gore-Lieberman campaign by the television networks.

Most of the Republican leadership opposes outlawing “soft money” contributions to the political parties in the name of campaign finance reform because they know that they cannot compete with the Democrats for contributions of this type from the media and the enormously valuable help the labor unions give Democratic candidates. It has been widely reported that President Sweeney has said that the AFL-CIO will be spending about $40 million to get Al Gore elected president, win back the House for Democrats, and influence legislation. Professor Leo Troy of Rutgers University, who has testified before Congress on this matter, says that this figure doesn’t include spending by labor union political action committees that sent $100 million directly to candidates or political parties in 1996.

These cash outlays are overshadowed by the “in-kind” contributions, including labor’s “one-party press” of union journals and magazines promoting Democratic candidates. These publications go to 16 million union members. Assuming only two people per household, that’s over 30 million people getting the union’s pro-Democratic Party political line on a regular basis. The in-kind contributions also include the union staffers and employees who engage in electioneering and get-out-the-vote drives. Referring to the 45,000 local union organizations across the country, Prof. Troy says, “These organizations are out there helping to elect Democrats. How much would it cost the Democratic Party to set up an organizational structure like that?” Barring soft money would not outlaw this.

When you add it all up, Troy says the value of Big Labor’s help in this election year could reach $400 million. The National Right to Work Committee says the figure could be even higher. They point out that the AFL-CIO has 68 affiliated unions. If just the top 25 affiliates spend a similar percentage of their revenue on politics as claimed by the AFL-CIO as a whole, spending could approach $1 billion. In any case, this support could dwarf the influence of big corporations, which do little in terms of grassroots organizing and communicating with employees about election issues. This is a story that has been largely ignored. “The media have their preferences, and one of their preferences is the Democratic Party. Anything that might in any way put a shadow on the activities of the Democratic Party via the unions is not given media attention,” Troy says.

The Truth Emerges

The Washington Post on August 26 ran a story on Big Labor’s involvement in some congressional races that mentioned in passing Prof. Troy’s estimate that union support for Democrats amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars. Focusing on several congressional races, the paper explained how the AFL-CIO has created “what amounts to a series of ever-expanding pyramids,” in which the 68 member unions select people in every state who then target union members in locals, and then union members on each work shift.

Looking at one race in Kentucky, union members were said to participate as “foot soldiers” for the state Democratic Party, going door-to-door, working phone banks, sending out mail, and bringing people to the polls. AFL-CIO political director Steve Rosenthal said the process translates into “literally thousands of activists.” Kentucky Democratic Party political director John Davis highlighted the advantage this gives Big Labor saying, “A Republican CEO is not going to walk door to door. A union machinist is. That’s what unions bring to this process.” What the Post didn’t make clear is that these efforts are unregulated by federal law and would not be affected by campaign finance reform.

In one of the rare stories about this advantage, Peter Cleary of Investor’s Business Daily noted that while business leads in soft money or PAC contributions, it lags far behind in the in-kind or grassroots efforts that can have a decisive political impact. Another critical factor is that while many corporations divide their contributions between both major parties, almost all of Big Labor’s support goes to the Democrats.

Even in the soft money category, however, the unions are rapidly expanding their giving. On July 18, the Washington Post reported that they were showering the Democratic Party with record amounts of soft money donations. The figure was then already up to $15 million in this campaign cycle. The most striking increase in union contributions was from the union that AFL-CIO President Sweeney used to run, SEIU, which had given nearly $3 million to the Democratic Party so far this election year. If a campaign finance bill outlawed such contributions, Big Labor would simply use the money on its own in-house efforts.

Union officials claim they consult their members about supporting candidates or taking positions on political issues, but Prof. Troy says there is no evidence they do so, and he says “the media never ask them about it, either.”

Estimates of the total annual labor union income range from six to $15 billion. In addition, Prof. Troy says the unions have assets worth more than $10 billion. Most of the money is forcibly extracted from union members, many of whom don’t realize that under the Supreme Court Beck decision they can resist underwriting the political agenda of Big labor. The court said that employees forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment under the National Labor Relations Act do not have to contribute to a union’s partisan political activities. Although 40 percent of union members are said to vote Republican, Sweeney boasted in 1992 that “We helped elect Bill Clinton” and gave the liberals majorities in both houses of Congress. Now Sweeney wants to do the same thing for Gore.

This would give labor unions access to, if not power over, the president and congressional leaders, enabling the AFL-CIO and mob-dominated unions to push such policies as affirmative action; gay rights; amnesty for illegal aliens; opposition to private Social Security accounts; more federal gun control; opposition to cutting the federal gas tax; massive cuts in spending on national defense; reforming and then strengthening agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO); opposition to big tax cuts; more foreign aid and financial bailouts for the Third World; a federal takeover of the health care system; opposition to school choice or vouchers; and stopping privatization ? the contracting out of public services to private companies.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or your own cards or letters to David Westin, President, ABC News; Andrew Heyward, President, CBS News; and Andrew Lack, President, NBC News.