Karen Ackerman, the political director of the AFL-CIO, just held a conference call/victory lap touting their success in a number of primaries last night, particularly PA-12 for Mark Critz and AR-Sen, where Blanche Lincoln was held to 45% and a runoff. Labor came out strongly in support of Bill Halter and against Lincoln during the campaign, citing her stances against working Arkansans on health care and the Employee Free Choice Act. They spoke to 90,000 people in Arkansas through canvassing and phonebanking, sent almost 2 million pieces of mail for Halter, and spent close to $3 million dollars. And they plan to do so again for the next three weeks. “We look forward to the runoff, we’re in it to win it,” Ackerman said. “We are ready and able to spend whatever we need to spend on behalf of Halter.”
I asked Ackerman about the latest twist in the financial regulatory reform, where Lincoln’s “tough” derivatives bill got targeted for watering down on the night of her election. Would this become an issue now in the campaign for the AFL-CIO, in messaging to their constituents in Arkansas?
“Her timing is fascinating,” Ackerman replied. “She came to her position on this in the midst of a primary fight.” Ackerman suggested that union voters are smart enough to see through Lincoln’s transparent games on derivatives, and this is especially true considering how it’s set to all fall apart within the next day or so. Voters are “looking at her record over time,” Ackerman maintained. “Her record over time was no on EFCA, she waffled on health care, was not for public option, and then she voted with right-wing Republicans against (NLRB nominee Craig) Becker… if you look at her record over the last year, there’s no question why union voters would reject her.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka echoed this in his post-election statement, saying that “Halter gave voters a clear choice between someone who fights for the working families of Arkansas or a DC insider like Lincoln who is in the pocket of Wall Street and big business.” Clearly the Wall Street issue will loom large over the next three weeks. Ackerman did not mention whether the AFL-CIO would specifically target the derivatives kabuki, but I’m looking for a follow-up answer to that.
UPDATE: Two things:
1) AFL spokesman Eddie Vale clarifies: “This is 100% going to be a huge issue because it is yet another example she has no intention of fighting for families in Arkansas. Her bill was just an election ploy, and it is glaringly telling that the amendment to gut it was introduced ELECTION NIGHT.”
2) As I said, the best thing for Wall Street reform would be a runoff. Because now, Dodd spokesman Kirstin Brost is saying he won’t bring up the derivatives amendment he filed. Saving Lincoln’s bacon, again. The banks might actually lose this one!