Fake employee rights group attacks Al Franken in smear ad UPDATED

Categories: Al Franken

If you open up the Star Tribune to page A10 today, you'll see a garish full-page smear against Al Franken (the same ad is on the back of the Pioneer Press's A-section as well today).

Above a huge picture of Al Franken looking shifty eyed with discolored teeth--clearly the ugliest picture they could find of the man--reads the headline:

Is Al Franken Confused?

The short answer: No, but this ad is trying to confuse you.

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The ad points out that Al Franken supports the right of workers to have open union elections rather than secret ballots. It quotes the Wall Street Journal talking about how it would strip U.S. workers of "the right to decide in private whether to unionize."
Is Al's plan fair? Is he confused? Maybe he's just wrong.

The ad gives the impression that Franken is against union campaigns, or at least privacy. In fact, Al Franken is in favor of the more open, easy form of unionizing, called "card check" meaning all you have to do is sign a union card rather than hold a secret ballot.

So whose behind the deceptive advertising? The website listed in the piece is employeefreedom.org, where you'll find this "About Us":

The Employee Freedom Action Committee (EFAC) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization fighting for fair elections in the workplace. The committee is composed of thousands of American workers, employers and others that believe that everyone deserves a right to a private, fair election when it comes to joining a labor union.

But I find this description in Willamette Week to be far more accurate:

Washington, D.C.-based Employee Freedom is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which means it does not need to disclose its funding sources. The group is headquartered in the office of D.C. lobbyist Richard Berman, who has a history of setting up AstroTurf groups for the tobacco and booze industries, as well as anti-union employers.

It kinda bugs me that newspapers print political ads they know to be false, even though they would never permit willfully deceiving readers in non-ad copy. But it's a slippery slope--what's next, forcing reporters to verify whether Coke is truly more refreshing than Pepsi?--and the Strib isn't in a position to turn away ad dollars.

UPDATE: There's an excellent piece on this in the Strib this morning:

The DFL Party filed a formal complaint this week against the sponsors of two ads that slam U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken for supporting federal legislation making union organizing easier.

The television and print ads, sponsored by the independent groups Coalition for a Democratic Workplace and Minnesotans for Employee Freedom, allege that the Employee Free Choice Act, which Franken supports, would eliminate secret ballots in workplace elections over whether to approve union representation.

The DFL, in a complaint under Minnesota election laws to the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings, said that claim is false and that in fact the bill would guarantee the right to secret ballots.

"In Minnesota, we don't tolerate intentionally false statements in paid political advertising," said DFL chairman Brian Melendez in a statement.

The Employee Freedom Action Committee released a statement calling the DFL complaint "frivolous."

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