Opponents of minimum wage increase in NYS tap a notorious tobacco lobbyist

Opponents of the proposed minimum wage increase in New York State have tapped a notorious tobacco and fast food lobbyist to help them make their case. One of Berman’s industry front groups, the Employment Policies Institute, published an op-ed in the Buffalo News last week that argued that an increase in the minimum wage would lead to job losses. I have an op-ed in today’s Buffalo News that puts that op-ed in proper context:

Rick Berman
Tobacco and fast food lobbyist Rick Berman.

Smoking is good for your health. And raising the minimum wage will lead to job losses.

The corporate backers of tobacco and fast-food lobbyist Rick Berman would like you to believe both of these claims. Berman runs a notorious network of nonprofit front groups that peddle industry spin on behalf of corporate giants like Philip Morris. Berman’s groups are currently the target of an IRS complaint arguing that they illegally advance the private interests of their corporate clients in violation of tax laws.

One Berman front group, the Employment Policies Institute (EmPI), recently took to the pages of The Buffalo News to argue the second point, that raising the minimum wage in New York State will result in job losses. In a recent Another Voice, EmPI’s Michael Saltsman highlighted a study authored by two UC Irvine researchers that supposedly proved this point.

The column stressed the “scholarly” nature of the study and the authors’ academic affiliation, but failed to note that it was funded by EmPI itself. (Understandably, readers may have mistaken the single, booming voice of big business for an informed conversation among a diverse array of experts.)

You can read the rest here.

Berman himself doesn’t make close to a minimum wage: in a circular arrangement of questionable legality, his nonprofits paid his consulting firm $15 million between 2008 and 2010. The way in which he profits from this setup will be a key issue in any IRS investigation.

If you’re interested in learning more about Berman, check out his LittleSis page, his Sourcewatch page, or this scathing note his son, musician David Berman, wrote to his fans about his father’s work.

(Cross-posted from the LittleSis blog.)

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