The Note: Hanging on the Telephone

"With their membership falling, union leaders are finding it harder to influence companies or politics from the factory floor. Their new approach is to use their control over large employee pension plans to insert themselves directly into the boardroom. The result is what one observer has termed 'the new politics of capital,' in which liberal activists attempt to turn entire corporations into lobbyists for their social and political goals, their campaigns all neatly disguised as 'shareholder activism.'"

And they give the Laborers Terry O'Sullivan props . . . of sorts . . . for his proposal to consolidate labor's pension instruments into one powerhouse.

The attorney representing the three people thrown out of President Bush's Social Security town hall meeting in Denver on March 21 is sending a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, alleging their First Amendment writes were violated. The White House maintains that a "local Republican volunteer" pulled the group. LINK

The lawyer, Dan Recht, will also ask Gonzales to investigate whether the White House violated their civil rights and used taxpayer dollars for a political event.

The cost for campaign events are shared by the GOP and the White House according to a formula worked out by the FEC. Private events specifically labeled in advance are closed. Recht argues that "public events" are public in that anyone who lawfully obtains a ticket, passes security successfully, and doesn't disrupt the event has a right to participate.

A number of conservative/free-market groups joined with the Free Enterprise Fund's Steve Moore in writing to Republican leaders on the Hill today telling them they would not, not, not accept personal retirement accounts if the price were higher taxes, defined by raising the payroll tax cap.

The idea for a concerned effort came months ago when the White House first signaled it might be open to raising the amount of money subject to the Social Security tax but few of these folks wanted to get on board at the time because they didn't want to offend their patrons in Karl Rove's office or on the Hill.

But now, with support for accounts flailing and a sense that the White House is looking to compromise, they are publicly drawing the line in the sand about payroll tax cap hikes.

Few of these groups have that much actual grass-roots pull, though Morton Blackwell and others are very influential in the grass tops world of conservative politics.

From the letter: "Raising payroll taxes as part of Social Security reform, including lifting the cap on the maximum taxable income, would cost jobs and would reverse some of the gains in the hard-fought cuts in marginal income tax rates."

"We also doubt that a higher payroll tax will actually solve the financial crisis of Social Security. In 1983 Congress raised the payroll tax in an attempt to restore full solvency of Social Security and yet we face the very same predicament today that Congress faced back then. "

"As such, we urge you to make it known that you will oppose any Social Security "reform" plan -- even if the plan includes personal accounts -- that would raise payroll taxes, or introduce other new taxes. "

Big casino budget politics: Medicare:

Another victory for the AARP: " A federal district judge on Wednesday blocked a Bush administration rule that would have allowed employers to reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they reach age 65 and become eligible for Medicare." LINK

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