This isn’t exactly shocking, but it’s still amusing that a major beltway “ideological” group managed to get caught red-handed trying to prostitute itself:
The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s endorsement in a bitter legislative dispute, then flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay.
For the $2 million plus, ACU offered a range of services that included: “Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU’s Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU’s board of directors. (Note that Mr. Keene writes a weekly column that appears in The Hill.)”
The conservative group’s remarkable demand — black-and-white proof of the longtime Washington practice known as “pay for play” — was contained in a private letter to FedEx, which was provided to POLITICO.
The letter exposes the practice by some political interest groups of taking stands not for reasons of pure principle, as their members and supporters might assume, but also in part because a sponsor is paying big money.
In the three-page letter asking for money on June 30, the conservative group backed FedEx. After FedEx says it rejected the offer, Keene signed onto a two-page July 15 letter backing UPS. Keene did not return a message left on his cell phone.
The “legislative dispute” at issue is UPS’ attempt to increase FedEx’s labor costs through government fiat. UPS wants FedEx covered under the National Labor Relations Act, which would increase the influence of state-monopoly unions over the UPS competitor. The ACU promised FedEx some political manpower to fight off UPS’ rent-seeking, in exchange for a seven-figure “contribution”:
ACU asked FedEx to pay as much as $3.4 million for e-mail and other services for “an aggressive grass-roots campaign to stop the legislation in the Senate.”
“For the activist contact portion of the plan, we will contact over 150,000 people per state multiple times at a cost of $1.39 per name or $2,147,550 to implement the entire program,” the letter says. “If we incorporate the targeted, senator-personalized radio effort into the plan, you can figure an additional $125,000 on average, per state” for an estimated 10 states. The total would be $3,397,550.”
The letter shows one reason why activists get so much junk mail, both on paper and electronically: Some groups that send it charge handsomely for the service.
Under the grass-roots program ACU proposed, “Each person will be contacted a total of seven times totaling nearly 11 million contacts total in the 10 targeted states.” “Within 72 hours of an agreement on the whole plan, we can have the data sets delivered and the first round of e-mail ready for delivery,” the offer states. “Within seven days, the mail can be in the USPS system and the phone call delivered.”
So, in essence, ACU wanted $3.4 million so it could spam several million people. I’m shocked FedEx didn’t take the ACU up on this offer. The ACU responded by joining several other “conservatives” in writing a letter that lambasted FedEx chairman Fred Smith establishing his own website to oppose UPS’ rent-seeking:
The letter accuses FedEx of “falsely and disingenuously” labeling the rules change a “bailout” for UPS, since FedEx would become subject to the same arduous union structure.
The letter is also signed by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who is also on ACU’s board. FedEx is pushing its case with a website called www.BrownBailout.com.
The letter signed by the conservative leaders concludes: “To paraphrase the words of Ronald Reagan, ‘Mr. Smith, tear down this website.’”
I wonder what the going rate is for the Cato Institute is these days…