Is nonprofit D.C. group just a restaurant coalition?

Chicago's the Windy City, and it was there that state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (right), D-Phila., blew in this week to meet with David Axelrod, the political strategist and adviser to President Obama, clearly to discuss a potential run for mayor in 2015.
Chicago's the Windy City, and it was there that state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (right), D-Phila., blew in this week to meet with David Axelrod, the political strategist and adviser to President Obama, clearly to discuss a potential run for mayor in 2015.
Posted: March 08, 2013

A NONPROFIT GROUP in Washington thinks that we should know the players in the City Council fight to provide paid sick leave for more people employed here.

We couldn't agree more.

That's why we were curious about the reluctance of the nonprofit ROC Exposed to tell us more about itself.

The group takes its name from its stated mission, exposing Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a pro-labor organization that pushes for paid sick days for restaurant workers.

ROC Exposed, in an email to reporters just before a Council hearing Tuesday on paid sick leave, said that the issue was being pushed by a "labor union front group."

ROC Exposed called itself a coalition of "restaurants and consumers."

After a little digging, we think it is more accurate to call ROC Exposed an anti-labor front group.

Irony? Hypocrisy? You decide.

Alison Harden, a spokeswoman for ROC Exposed, refused to identify the nonprofit's members "for fear of reprisal," specifically protests and other action from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

Harden, a veteran of Republican presidential politics, worked for a couple of lobbying firms in Washington before launching her own communications and public-affairs firm last year. Harden said that her new firm is not associated with ROC Exposed.

She wasn't giving us much to go on. But what about that email?

Every email is embedded with code that identifies the Internet protocol address from which it came.

The Internet protocol address in Harden's email is registered to Berman and Co., a Washington firm known for starting and operating nonprofits to oppose organized-labor efforts.

In politics, this is called "astroturfing" - using front groups to look like "grass-roots" efforts.

Harden said she was stumped when we asked why her email came from Berman and Co. She promised to check it out.

That's the last we heard from Harden, despite following up with calls and emails.

Sarah Longwell, a Berman and Co. spokeswoman, didn't respond to our calls. Longwell also helps operate a different nonprofit for Berman, known for opposing paid sick leave.

City Councilman Bill Greenlee introduced the legislation to require most employers in the city to provide paid sick leave. He had similar legislation passed by Council in 2011, but then vetoed by Mayor Nutter.

Greenlee said that ROC Exposed never reached out to discuss his legislation. He didn't see their point in focusing on Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, one of many groups pushing paid sick leave.

We cudda sold tickets

As court battles shape up, McCaffery v. the city's Board of Ethics was looking to be a doozy.

Now it looks like a dud.

The trial for Dan McCaffery's three-year-old libel-and-slander lawsuit against the board was supposed to start this week. Instead, we sense a settlement coming.

McCaffery told us last year that he was "taking on what I perceive to be a politically motivated and corrupt Board of Ethics."

His beef: The board asked a Common Pleas judge, just before the 2009 Democratic primary election for district attorney, to sanction him for taking more than legally allowed in campaign contributions in a single year from a political-action committee with ties to his law firm.

McCaffery, who finished second in the five-man primary behind Seth Williams, claimed that the board called an "unprecedented press conference" to announce its request for court sanctions as a way to sabotage his campaign.

A 2011 filing by the board accused McCaffery of a "sheer fabrication" with that claim. The request for sanctions was announced at a regular public meeting, the board explained.

Shane Creamer, the board's executive director, declined to comment Thursday on the prospects of a settlement. McCaffery's attorney didn't respond to our requests for comment.

Corbett talks Castor

Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor said that he had a good laugh when he saw comments made about him by Gov. Corbett this week to a Pittsburgh television station.

Corbett was asked by Jon Delano, the top-notch political editor at KDKA-TV, about Castor publicly mulling a primary challenge.

Corbett knocked Castor for losing the Republican majority on the Montgomery County Commission and, when asked about their close primary race for state attorney general in 2004, replied: "He's always wanted my job."

Castor laughed off what he called Corbett's "cheap shots."

"The really funny part was, it was on PittsburghTV, where no one - until then, anyway - knew me," Castor wrote in an email.


Email: brennac@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5973

Blog: philly.com/phillyclout

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