Anti-Union Berman Group Hires Lobbyist to Push Bill Aimed at Undermining Unions
When Rick Berman’s anti-union front group, the Center for Union Facts (CUF), needed to hire a lobbyist, Mr. Berman didn’t look in-house to his for-profit PR firm — despite the fact that he is known as a “life-time lobbyist.” Instead, Jenna Morgan Hamilton of The Hamilton Group, LLC, registered last month as CUF’s lobbyist. Ms. Hamilton, the former lead lobbyist on labor issues for the National Association of Home Builders, will lobby both the House and the Senate on the Employee Rights Act, legislation put together by Mr. Berman to undermine organized labor.
Years ago, CUF likely would have had Mr. Berman or one of his employees do the lobbying. Indeed, Mr. Berman once bragged about his consulting firm, Berman and Company, telling a reporter, “We are the biggest lobbyists in America for the hospitality industry.” At the end of 2007, however, Berman and Company terminated its lobbying registrations, seemingly stepping away from that aspect of the influence industry. It is unknown why, exactly, the company deregistered from lobbying then, though the timing coincides with the implementation of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, which increased the reporting requirements for lobbyists.
Now, Mr. Berman runs away from the lobbyist label as fast as he can. A website set up to defend Berman and Company’s reputation reads, “Neither Rick Berman nor anyone on his staff are registered lobbyists. In the past, Rick or other staff members have been registered lobbyists for restaurants or other clients, but it has been years since this was the case.” Berman and Company appears to have even forced Time to correct a story because he was “misidentified as a lobbyist.”
Beyond highlighting the efforts Mr. Berman has made to avoid being branded with the “Scarlet L,” the new lobbying registration on behalf of CUF also spotlights how indistinguishable the differences between Mr. Berman’s for-profit company is from the nonprofits he runs. Apparently, even the people hired by Mr. Berman get confused. As Politico’s Influence newsletter noted, Ms. Hamilton’s registration describes CUF as a “think tank and public affairs firm,” clearly referring to Berman and Company’s PR work.
To be fair to Ms. Hamilton, it’s easy to get confused, especially since Mr. Berman himself blurs the different entities together. For instance, in November 2013, Mr. Berman pitched the Employee Rights Act at the Charleston Meeting, an invitation-only gathering of conservatives. In his speech, Mr. Berman said the legislation “would basically change the federal labor law in this country to take away the unions’ power to organize as efficiently as they do.” He also promoted the idea that his for-profit and nonprofit are interchangeable, encouraging listeners interested in learning more about the legislation to visit either CUF’s or Berman and Company’s website [emphasis added]:
So, I’m hopeful that if you do nothing else, if you want to go to a website, employeerightsact.com. The new legislation, the new version of that legislation is going to be introduced in a matter of days. And you’ll have an opportunity to see what these provisions are.
If you want to know more about it, you can come to our website, which is the one I’ve just spoken about or to our company website, which is bermanco, B-E-R-M-A-N-C-O dot com.
Mr. Berman reiterated the interchangeable nature of Berman and Company and its “client” CUF at the end of his talk. Prompted to pitch his website again, Mr. Berman said, “there are three websites. I told you, bermanco.com. You can go to unionfacts.com, or you can go to employeerightsact.com.” Watch the speech for yourself here:
Despite pitching specific legislation throughout the speech, Mr. Berman closed by claiming that CUF tries to avoid politics and lobbying. Asked if “at your website, do you have a petition already set up, so if you go on it goes automatically to your Congress and senators,” Mr. Berman replied, “No. We, we are running a c3 website and I try to stay away from the politics as much as possible, so we’re not lobbying through that website.” Of course, now, CUF is actually lobbying on the Employee Rights Act.