Governor Mitch Daniels (R-Indiana) and the state's Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma (R-88), are spearheading an effort to pass the controversial, corporate-backed "Right to Work" (RTW) bill, which has sparked huge protests by Hoosiers. The bill's opponents have called it the "Right to Work (for Peanuts)" bill, the "'Right to be Fired' Without Cause" bill, and other names.
Proponents claim that numerous corporations have refused to open operations in the state because private-sector unions can collect dues from all workers protected under negotiated contracts with the employer. Critics have said such broad assertions are undocumented and that such claims also sidestep documented evidence that, without private sector unions, workers tend to get paid less and have fewer rights.
The renewed push to pass the RTW legislation comes amid renewed controversy over who is financially backing the push for this change in over 60 years of law in Indiana. The push is also leading Hoosiers and others to take a closer look at the leaders of this effort to change the law.
Daniels, Inside ALEC
Unlike Governor Scott Walker, who faced massive protests in response to his efforts to change worker rights in Wisconsin last year, Daniels is not an alum of the "American Legislative Exchange Council." ALEC promotes numerous ways to limit the rights of unions and workers through so-called "model" legislation. As the Center for Media and Democracy has exposed ALEC gives companies and politicians "equal" say in model bills voted on behind closed doors in task forces at ALEC conventions.
Daniels was, however, the cover guy featured in ALEC's magazine, "Inside ALEC," in April 2011. He also by-lined the feature article in that issue about his budget efforts, which echoed many ALEC agenda items. Several of Daniels' efforts last year also provoked widespread protests, like those sparked in the Wisconsin labor uprising.
Daniels, Inside the Shadowy "Indiana Opportunity Fund"
Daniels, whose term ends this year, is also featured in ads airing across the state claiming RTW is needed to help jobs. He has come under fire for his active involvement in what is obviously an extensively-planned PR campaign with a newly created "non-profit" group named the "Indiana Opportunity Fund" (IOF). The AFL-CIO has condemned Daniels for refusing to come clean about who is bankrolling the expensive PR operation of the shadowy IOF.
IOF launched a fancy, multi-media campaign that helps sell his agenda and that was timed with the announcement of the RTW bill in the legislative session that opened last week. IOF's state paperwork is connected to James Bopp, a controversial Indiana lawyer known for pushing the boundaries of laws governing spending money in elections and disclosure. Bopp was instrumental in the infamous case known as Citizens United, which struck down regulations on spending by interest groups that influence elections. Bopp has been active in other states, like Wisconsin, opposing post-Citizens United rules to require disclosure of big donors to non-profit groups running "independent" ads in and around elections. (The Center for Media and Democracy has filed a brief in favor of such disclosure and has opposed the Citizens United ruling.)
The Indiana ads of IOF are linked to a website given the name "More Indiana Jobs," that references both the IOF and something called the "Indiana Right to Work Fund." There is no public information provided about which people actually run the website, or which individuals, corporations, or groups are funding the glossy campaign. Bopp and Daniels have refused, so far, to reveal which people or corporations are bankrolling the ads that claims to educate citizens on the RTW issue, which is moving in the state house this week under Rep. Bosma's leadership.
Bosma, an ALEC Insider
In a move reminiscent of the early 2011 actions of Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald, Wisconsin legislative leaders and active members of ALEC, Indiana Rep. Bosma, who is also a leader in ALEC, is making legislation long sought by corporations and some politicians to weaken unions one of his opening salvos this year.
Indiana's top Republican leader in the House is the son of Senator Charles Bosma, a major force in the Republican machine in Marion County until his death in 1983. His dad was deeply involved in starkly partisan redistricting battles in the state and, among other things, infamously claimed that granting women equal rights under the Constitution would "deal a severe blow to the time-honored relationship between husbands and wives." The Senator's only son, Brian, won a seat in the state house in 1986, and became Speaker of the House last year.
Bosma has been involved in numerous organizations over the years, including ALEC, a national organization of state legislators that is largely funded by corporations. Among other things, Bosma has been involved in ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture and Civil Justice task forces, in which corporations and politicians vote behind closed doors to approve their ideal legislative proposals which are then introduced in state houses across the country without any mention of the corporations pre-voting on them.
The Center for Media and Democracy has analyzed Indiana's "right to work" legislation and noted that its three main penalties echo ALEC's ideal RTW bill, an agenda ALEC has pursued for over 30 years, in conjunction with allied entities. Bosma has voted on hundreds of bills over the past 25 years, including in favor of school vouchers and charter schools, both of which are also long-standing items on the ALEC agenda.
Big Money Funded Rep. Bosma's Election
In Bosma's most recent re-election, in 2010, his campaign was financed by over 6,000 donations from individuals and corporations, including some relatively big donations.
His biggest donor by a mile was Indiana hotel billionaire Dean White. White is one of the top 300 richest people in America, with assets worth over one billion dollars. According to Followthemoney.org, White gave Bosma's campaign a whopping $300,000 in the 2010 election cycle. This amounted to a third of the total political donations Bosma received in that cycle, which was $893,253.
Rep. Bosma's top five donors in 2010 were White, Zink Properties, Health Concepts, Walmart, and the Indiana Motor Truck Association. The next largest donor after White gave Bosma's campaign about one tenth that amount, or $36,000. (His top ten political donors in the 2010 election are listed in the accompanying chart.)
Some Bosma Donors Are Linked to Efforts to Limit Worker Rights
At least two of Speaker Bosma's biggest campaign donors in the last election are linked to efforts to limit worker rights.
For example, Dean White's private family foundation gave $1 million in 2010 to the right-wing group FreedomWorks Foundation. FreedomWorks supports national "right to work" legislation that parallels the Indiana proposal and that would undermine unions, and strengthen global and other corporations at workers' expense. FreedomWorks is one of the spin-offs of billionaire David Koch's Citizens for a Sound Economy through an organizational split that also created Americans for Prosperity, which David Koch chairs and funds. Both of these organizations actively supply "Tea Party" gatherings with events, talking points, and other aid. White's foundation's donation to FreedomWorks does not appear to be designated for any particular policy issue.
In 2010, White's foundation also gave $1 million to the Employment Policies Institute (EPI). EPI is considered by many to be a corporate front group, and it does not publicly disclose its donors. This non-profit organization is led by controversial D.C. insider Richard Berman, and according to its most recent public filings, EPI paid Richard Berman's firm $1.8 million in 2009 for "management services." EPI uses an array of tools to promote the corporate and right-wing agenda to policymakers and the press; it also opposes worker protections such as the minimum wage, among other union-backed legislation related to economic issues.
There is no indication that the White foundation's donation is designated for any particular part of Berman's non-profit operation at EPI. White's business practices regarding unions and the building trade as part of his hotel business have not been fully explored.
Another major Bosma campaign funder, Wal-Mart, has a long history of opposition to efforts of private sector workers to unionize, in the U.S. and abroad. Wal-Mart claims it is not "anti-union" but "pro-associate," referencing the job title of its low-waged workers. Numerous investigative reports have documented measures Walmart has taken to deter private sector unions in its retail operations, including the closure of stores. Wal-Mart is on ALEC's corporate board; the company's Vice President of Public Affairs, Maggie Sans, is the Secretary of the "Private Enterprise Board" of ALEC, which has 24 corporations listed as members.
Wal-mart is also active in ALEC and has been the corporate co-chair of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections task force, which approved controversial "model" voter ID legislation that suppresses the right to vote as well as efforts to increase prison time for petty theft, among other issues.
There is no public record indicating that White or Walmart's representatives have weighed in with Rep. Bosma on the "right to work" bill that was unveiled this past week.
Thousands of Indiana workers are rallying against the proposed legislation being pushed by Bosma, Daniels, and others.
Lisa Graves is the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which publishes PRWatch.org, SourceWatch.org, and BanksterUSA.org. Our latest investigation is ALECexposed.org. She formerly served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, as Chief Nominations Counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and as the Deputy Chief of the Article III Judges Division of the U.S. Courts. CMD does not accept grants from for-profit corporations or government agencies.