TERRE HAUTE —
Terre Haute attorney James Bopp Jr. has helped spearhead a political lobbying fund to pay for televisions ads advocating passage of a contentious right-to-work bill in the Indiana General Assembly.
It’s called the Indiana Opportunity Fund, which Bopp filed paperwork for in December.
The AFL-CIO has also run television ads, and based on information from media buyers, Indiana Opportunity Fund has spent more than $316,500 this month on a media campaign. Indiana State AFL-CIO spokesman Jeff Harris alleges the spending was done so without disclosing its funding backers.
Bopp said Monday the fund is a 501(c)(4) organization and under Internal Revenue Service rules, donations are not publicly disclosed.
“This is lobbying. It is not subject to campaign finance rules,” Bopp said. “This is perfectly proper, because by law, contributions to a lobby group are confidential. As the Supreme Court said in the late 1940s, disclosure of the members and supporters of a private organization will undermine its ability to raise funds and be effective advocates, particularly if it’s controversial.”
Harris said the AFL-CIO thinks “it is a way that large out-of-state corporations and special interest groups can dump in unlimited amounts of money and no one will know about it. The governor has always talked about transparency, with his Aiming Higher Inc. group. This is a pretty big departure from that. He has been asked who has contributed and has flatly refused.”
The AFL-CIO operates under the advocacy group, “A Working Person Like You,” which has also been airing commercials in Indianapolis and elsewhere. It has spend about $200,000 this month, Harris said.
“This is a pretty major public policy debate. We have disclosed all of our donors to our commercials and we feel it is only right that people know who is trying to influence this public policy decision and why,” Harris said.
“It is a grassroots lobbying campaign to urge Hoosiers to support right-to-work legislation,” Bopp contends of Indiana Opportunity Fund. “All they have to do is look at the commercial and they see the governor supporting right-to-work. He lives in Indiana,” Bopp said. “He is the messenger.”
Bopp contends the AFL-CIO has also not fully disclosed its donors.
“They don’t reveal their contributors. All they report is various labor unions contributing to the funds. Well, labor unions don’t have a money tree. They get the money from somebody and they are not saying who they get the money from,” Bopp said.
Bopp is a member of the National Republican Committee, has done legal work for the National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, and served as general counsel for the Mitch for Governor Committee, starting in 2003.
The Indiana State AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) is a federation of 800 unions statewide, which belong to 50 international unions. The state AFL-CIO represents more than 300,000 Hoosiers.
Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.