Spin Control On The Sidelines
By JOHN E. MULLIGAN and MIKE STANTON
Journal-Bulletin Staff Writers
RELATED STORIES: The Worlds of Arthur
WASHINGTON -- The House crime subcommittee
really did delve into some serious public-policy issues during
its hearings on labor corruption this week, but it also poured
lots of energy and hot words into partisan bickering and spin
Democrats and Republicans bitterly
debated the question of whether the proceeding was a "sideshow,"
a "witch hunt" or anything else besides a straight forward
examination of mob corruption in unions.
Outside the hearing room, the secretary-treasurer
of the AFL-CIO, Rich Trumka, stood ready to tell reporters --
repeatedly -- why he thought the hearings were "bogus":
a Republican attack on the union movement, driven by fear of labor's
$35-million advertising campaign against the GOP.
Or, as Trumka put it, a campaign "for
working men and women."
Almost every member of the subcommittee
-- of both parties -- managed to weave that phrase into a speech
during the two-day session.
A full platoon of political spin controllers
worked the press tables inside the hearing room and the corridors
outside with a stream of dueling press releases, glossy charts,
play-by-play interpretations of the testimony and murmured updates
to distant offices via cellular phone.
AFL-CIO operatives and some Laborers'
union members wore the emblem of the hard-fought spring campaign
on Capitol Hill: multicolored lapel pins declaring that "America Needs a Raise"
-- the minimum-raise hike working its way through Congress.
More quietly, the National Right-to-Work
Committee weighed in with a handsomely bound polemic entitled
"Union Violence: Organized Labor's Unique Privilege."
On the first of the two days of hearings,
Wednesday, the Laborers' union ran a half-page ad in the Washington
Post, ridiculing the hearings. Estimates by the subcommittee staff
put the price of the union's advertising campaign at well over
But the investigation got some invaluable
free press in the form of a lead editorial on the conservative
opinion page of The Wall Street Journal. The headline, "Who
Is Arthur Coia?" echoed -- possibly in poor taste -- the
title the newspaper used for its attacks on White House lawyer Vincent Foster
before he shot himself in a Virginia park.
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