American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene is trying to reclaim his reputation after being accused of engaging in a “pay-to-play” scandal in a Politico news story last week.
The story, written by the Politico’s chief correspondent, Mike Allen, said Mr. Keene endorsed a pro-union position favored by the United Parcel Service in a dispute with the largely non-unionized FedEx after FedEx refused to pay Mr. Keene millions to mobilize his activists.
In the story, Mr. Allen included a June 30 letter from ACU Executive Vice President Dennis Whitfield to FedEx explaining the terms of their proposal in detail, promising flattering op-eds and repeated solicitations to their e-mail lists to contact their elected representatives. Mr. Allen also included a July 15 letter signed by Mr. Keene and leaders of other conservative groups demanding FedEx quit calling the action UPS sought “a bailout” and that UPS only wanted a fair playing field. The takeaway was that Mr. Keene changed his mind because FedEx didn’t pay out.
Mr. Keene said the Politico “got it wrong” in a conference call Tuesday, that Mr. Allen didn’t make a significant effort to contact him and that the two actions were taken “simultaneously but completely separately.”
Mr. Keene said FedEx asked ACU to create a “kitchen sink” proposal outlining how they could help oppose the National Labor Relations Board standards that UPS wanted. The second letter, according to Mr. Keene, was merely asking FedEx to stop calling “forced unionization” a “bailout” and was not an endorsement for UPS’ side. “I just thought it was a dumb way for them to characterize the issue,” Mr. Keene said.
The Politico’s report alarmed many conservatives when it came out, prompting discussions about ACU’s future.
John Hawkins of Rightwingnews.com was sympathetic, but doubtful as well. “I am still willing to be convinced, but I haven’t heard an explanation for why the ACU wanted to charge FedEx $2 million to publicly back a position they supported and yet David Keene signed onto a letter that seems to take the opposite position for free,” Mr. Hawkins said after the conference call.
When asked for comment about Mr. Keene’s pushback on his story, Politico’s Mr. Allen said he made multiple attempts to contact the ACU and Mr. Keene and held the story for a day waiting for a response. “When they still hadn’t responded, we went ahead and posted our article,” Mr. Allen said in an e-mail. “When they finally called later that morning, we updated right away with their comments.”
“The story is completely accurate,” Mr. Allen said.
The target of President Obama’s attacks on health care says the president is merely shopping for a decoy to distract from the fact Democrats can’t pass a plan even though they enjoy complete control of Congress.
Mr. Obama has blasted South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint for telling conservative activists on a conference call that if they beat the Democrats’ health plan, it could be Mr. Obama’s “Waterloo,” although the president has been careful not to say Mr. DeMint’s name. Democratic fundraising groups in Washington, on the other hand, are following Mr. Obama’s charge, but going one step further and calling Mr. DeMint out by name.
In a televised address Monday afternoon Mr. Obama repeated the “Waterloo” comment, crediting it to a “Republican senator,” suggesting Mr. DeMint was being petty.
The Democratic National Committee sent out a fundraising solicitation that day saying “GOP Sen. Jim DeMint told a special-interest attack group that if they’re ‘able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.’ ” On Tuesday the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, tasked with raising money for Democratic Senate candidates, followed suit by e-mailing a similar appeal using the DeMint “Waterloo” quotation. The DSCC mailer said Mr. DeMint and other Republicans want to “use the issue for political gain - and wound President Obama in the process.”
Mr. DeMint thinks the Democrats are just trying to find someone to blame for their stalled plans. “The biggest obstacles to President Obama’s $2 trillion government takeover of health care are Democrats, the American people and the facts,” he said in a statement provided by his office to The Washington Times. “And after the failed stimulus that wasted money as millions of jobs have been lost, many Democrats know their constituents won’t be fooled again.”
Hillary on movies
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ended a weighty speech at the University of Delhi about America’s diplomatic relations with India with some lighter thoughts on the two nations’ dueling entertainment industries.
“If Hollywood and Bollywood were how we all lived our lives, that would surprise me,” Mrs. Clinton said. “People watching a Bollywood movie in some other part of Asia think everyone in India is beautiful. And they have dramatic lives and happy endings.”
“And if you were to watch American TV and our movies, you’d think we don’t wear clothes, and we spend a lot of time fighting each other,” she quipped.
Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acar penter@ washington times.com.