L.A. alliance organizes to block right-wing attack

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to building a new economy based on good jobs, thriving communities and a healthy environment, may be the far right’s next target.

But the alliance intends to “get in front” of the attack, and is organizing a Fight the Right campaign, an organizer told a community meeting here.

One of the strategies in the right wing’s coordinated campaign to crush all opposition to their pro-big-business, anti-worker agenda has been to destroy progressive organizations and individuals by unleashing nasty media “exposes” of supposed wrongdoing. ACORN, Planned Parenthood, NPR, and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been previous victims in this new form of right-wing sliming, carried out by prankster “journalists” and fostered by right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart. University professors and labor educators have also been targeted.

Affected organizations, and individuals like the USDA’s Shirley Sherrod, have been damaged (and in the case of ACORN, destroyed) by loss of funding and firings. The attacks take the form of media campaigns devoted to publicly humiliating nonprofit and public sector leaders and workers with heavily edited “gotcha” videos or “damaging” emails.

The resulting trumped up media furor over progressives behaving badly scares away funders and logrolls GOP efforts in statehouses and Congress to chasten people’s organizations by defunding them directly.

Most shamed organizations quickly roll over and offer up terminated staff as a sacrifice. In the aftermath, the “evidence” that ignites the scandal is typically found to be basically fabricated, but the damage has already been done.

Efforts by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) to improve working conditions for immigrant workers and to introduce living wage ordinances have aroused attention from the right. In May, MB Public Affairs, a high-end conservative opposition research firm, initiated a massive public records search on LAANE. The search requires more than 60 elected and appointed officials to turn over all correspondence related to LAANE.

LAANE Executive Director Madeline Janis said in an email to supporters: “We don’t know who hired MB Public Affairs, but their former clients include Karl Rove, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carly Fiorina, the Yes on 8 campaign, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Altria (formerly Philip Morris), among others. One of the firm’s key personnel is Andrew Davis, a top advisor to Sarah Palin who also worked for the Bush-Cheney reelection and assisted in the Supreme Court’s confirmations of Samuel Alito and John Roberts.”

At a recent meeting of the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, LAANE administrator Maria Loya discussed the organization’s tactics in the face of imminent right-wing attack. Director of LAANE’s Responsible Hotels Project, an initiative to improve working conditions for hotel housekeepers, Loya said, “We’re not worried, we’re prepared, and we’re going to fight back.”

She said the document requests to public officials might indicate that the goal of the attack is to jeopardize the organization’s 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. She surmised it could be a fishing expedition to turn up emails with information that could be misconstrued to imply that LAANE abuses its public advocacy role by campaigning for specific candidates or promoting particular unions. MB Public Affairs’ client could use the controversy to undermine LAANE’s ability to help workers organize for better working conditions, she said.

Loya said the alliance intends to “get in front of whatever they’re planning,” to defuse the assault by taking away the surprise element. She said LAANE is starting a “Fight the Right” fund to pay for legal and PR expenses that will be incurred in the defense of the organization.

Another way LAANE is “getting in front” of the attack is by informing as many people as possible about the right-wing attack and encouraging them to inform others via letters to the editor, emails, Twitter, Facebook and blogging. Jaris, LAANE’s director, observed that “every attack, no matter how scurrilous, requires a strong defense, and part of that is letting our friends know that we may see the same kind of factual distortions and outright lies that have propelled similar attacks against other groups in the past.”

Photo: Hilton workers at a fundraiser organized in June by LAANE to support the “Hilton 5,” workers who were fired for calling attention to unsafe conditions. Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community