5:00 PM Eastern - Monday, January 12, 2009

Yet Another Corporate Front Group: "Save Our Secret Ballots"

Meet the new Right-to-Work-for-Less laws: state ballot initiatives to mandate "secret ballot" elections for union votes, trying to preempt the Employee Free Choice Act. On December 30, 2008, a new coalition calling itself the "Save Our Secret Ballot" (SOSB) coalition emerged onto the scene, announcing an under-the-radar state-level campaign to amend the state constitutions of Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada and Utah to require a secret-ballot election for union representation.

What we really have here is yet another misleadingly-named corporate front group, whose real goal is to prevent workers from having a voice in an economy that works for everybody, not just for the wealthy. In Nevada and Utah, the legislature would place the proposed amendment on the ballot, while the coalition has begun to gather signatures in Arizona, Arkansas, and Missouri. SOSB hopes to expand its efforts to put initiatives on the ballot to prevent workers from opting in to form unions through majority sign-up to additional states.

Save Our Secret Ballot (SOSB) is a coalition of right-wing think tanks whose ideas have led us into the current economic crisis, working with individuals with ties to the Jack Abramoff scandal and a recent high-profile financial scandal.

Proposed State Constitutional Amendment

The 47-word amendment reads:

"The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. Where state or federal law requires elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed."

The proposed language would require a secret ballot for any election required by state or federal law for:

(1) public office
(2) public initiatives or referenda
(3) employee representation

SOSB suggests that elections for homeowner associations and corporate boards may also be impacted by amendment language in some states.

Who is SOSB?

SOSB appears to be a project of the Goldwater Institute (which wrote the language) and the Heritage Foundation (whose representative chairs the SOSB national advisory board). The SOSB coalition itself has a national advisory board and a number of local supporters who have also been named in the press surrounding the public campaign kickoff.

The SOSB coalition refuses to disclose donors.

Advisory Board members

  • Former Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK), national advisory board chairman, Heritage Foundation. The Congressman received donations from Jack Abramoff (which were later returned), his office used an Abramoff company skybox, and his former chief of staff John Albaugh pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the House in connection to gifts from Abramoff clients. Istook ran for Oklahoma Governor in 2006, but lost in a 66-34 landslide to the Democratic nominee.
  • Clint Bolick, Goldwater Institute, author of initiative. Bolick previously worked on defending school voucher programs and opposing affirmative action.
  • Jonathan E. Johnson III, President, Overstock.com. Overstock.com was under SEC investigation in early 2008, and Johnson was accused on financial blogs of lying about the company's accounting practices and engaging in improper sales of stock.
  • Gilbert Baker, Arkansas State Senator. Baker stepped down as Senate Majority Leader to focus on his own re-election campaign. U.S. Senator Pryor raised funds for Baker's opponent.
  • Adam Hasner, Florida State House Majority Leader. Hasner has promoted alternative energy and sponsored a law requiring Florida's pension funds to divest from Iran.
  • John Loudon, Missouri State Senator
  • Mark Meierhenry, former South Dakota Attorney General
  • Brian M. Johnson, executive director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom, a project of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform
  • Paul Jacob, President, Citizens in Charge, a right-wing think tank.

Other SOSB Supporters

  • Tim Mooney, Scottsdale (AZ) political consultant. Mooney was previously involved in an effort to require schools to spend 65% of all funding on direct classroom expenses.
  • Audrey Mullen, SOSB spokesperson who previously worked for Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.
  • Sydney Hay, President, Arizona Mining Association. Hay registered the Arizona initiative. Hay recently failed in her bid to represent Arizona's first Congressional District.
  • Pat Lilly, former city manager, St. Joseph (MO). Lilly says the period between filing for a union election and the election itself was critical to "educating" workers when he himself defeated a union drive among city workers in the mid-1990s.
  • Bill Vickery, Arkansas political consultant, co-chair of Arkansas SOSB.
  • Carl Wimmer, Utah state representative. Wimmer apparently plans to sponsor the amendment in the Utah legislature.
  • Tibi Ellis, Nevada state chair of SOSB
  • Dave Rouchka, owner of Medallion Electric (Sedalia, MO), co-chair of Missouri SOSB
  • Glenn Hamer, President, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Jeff Roe, Kansas City political consultant

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