THE BLOG
03/12/2015 12:09 pm ET Updated May 12, 2015

A Pro-TPP Campaign Built on Four Pinocchios

A newly launched public-relations campaign in support of trade-promotion authority, aka "fast track," and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) calls itself the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs. At its foundation is a set of misleading (at best) claims that begin with a four-Pinocchio whopper.

It is unclear who is in the coalition or why they call themselves "progressive" when progressives are opposed to the TPP and fast track, and they are flat-out wrong that the trade agreement is going to produce "American jobs."

American Jobs? 'Four Pinocchios'

The Progressive Coalition for American Jobs sent out a press release earlier this week promising that the TPP will "support hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the United States." This is the same promise that Clinton used to sell the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and we know how that turned out (hint: lost jobs, lost wages, lost factories, lost industries, devastated regions of the country, increased trade deficits and a few CEOs and Wall Street types made vastly richer; see also "Obama"s Trans-Pacific Partnership Promises Echo Clinton's On NAFTA").

The Washington Post's Fact Checker looked at this "hundreds of thousands of new jobs" claim on Jan. 30, in "The Obama administration's illusionary job gains from the Trans-Pacific Partnership." The conclusion:

Our advice remains: be wary whenever a politician claims a policy will yield bountiful jobs. In this case, the correct number is zero (in the long run), not 650,000, according to the very study used to calculate this number. Administration officials earn Four Pinocchios for their fishy math.

Strike one for the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs. Take out the words "for American Jobs." It's the Progressive Coalition for Four Pinocchios.

Progressive?

The so-called Progressive Coalition for American Jobs is not progressive. Progressives (and most Democrats) oppose the rigged fast-track process that, in essence, preapproves a secret, unseen trade deal, and progressives oppose the secrecy and corporate domination of the TPP's negotiating process. (Progressives are also likely to oppose the TPP itself, based on the disastrous results of prior "NAFTA-style" agreements, but who knows? It's secret.)

On Monday U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona) and Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, both progressive champions, penned an op-ed in The Guardian titled "We won't just rubber-stamp the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Workers deserve better." The anti-fast-track op-ed begins with a complaint about the way the deal is being kept secret:

The United States is currently negotiating with eleven other nations to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) -- one of the biggest trade deals in history -- which will set the standard for international trade deals for decades to come. America faces a clear choice: will we continue the job-killing policies of recent deals, or will we create a new model for trade that puts working families first?

We in Congress don't precisely know, because the rules governing negotiations mean we don't have access to full draft texts and staff cannot be present when we see individual sections. We also cannot provide negotiating objectives for the US Trade Representative. The administration's request for "fast track" authority is a request for Congress to rubber-stamp a text that more than 500 corporate representatives were able to see and influence.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), another progressive champion, recently penned a Washington Post op-ed on the TPP, "The Trans-Pacific Partnership clause everyone should oppose." Warren asked, "Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?" In an earlier op-ed, "It"s time to work on America's agenda," Warren wrote, "Americans are deeply suspicious of trade deals negotiated in secret, with chief executives invited into the room while the workers whose jobs are on the line are locked outside." At Netroots Nation Warren said:

Now, stop and ask yourself, "Why are trade deals secret?" I've actually heard supporters say they have to have secrecy because if people knew what was going on, they would be opposed. It's true; it's what I've heard from their supporters. Well, my view is that if people would be opposed, then we shouldn't have those trade deals.

Strike two for the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs. Progressives don't like corporate-dominated secrecy. So take the word "Progressive" out of the name. So now it's just the Coalition for Four Pinocchios.

Coalition?

The campaign's name implies that it represents a "coalition." But it doesn't name any organizations in the coalition. (Is it a coalition of Wall Street, the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable?) But there is a huge coalition against fast track. Look at the list of progressives organization in the Stop Fast Track coalition, and then there's the coalition of faith groups opposing fast track, the TradeJustice coalition, this food-safety coalition opposing fast track, this New Media Rights coalition opposing fast track, this coalition of liberty groups opposing fast track, this coalition of agriculture and business groups opposing fast track, and the civil-society coalition, the No Fast Track coalition, the Washington Fair Trade coalition, the National Family Farm Coalition, and others.

I reached out to 270 Strategies, the organization behind this fast track/TPP campaign, through several channels to ask who is in the coalition and who is funding the campaign, and to see if they have access to the secret treaty to enable them to make the various claims that they say are based on what is in the TPP. I also let them know that I would add to this post any statement that they wanted me to include. After initially reaching someone, I received no further response after more than 24 hours of repeated inquiries via phone and to multiple contact addresses.

I wanted to know:

  1. Who is in the coalition?
  2. Who is funding the campaign?
  3. Has anyone at 270 Strategies read the TPP agreement?

So if there is a coalition, the membership list remains a secret -- like the text of the TPP. And the answers to the other questions remain unknown. But the claim that it is a coalition doesn't get a "strike three" until I hear back from 270 Strategies, and I will report their response if and when I do.

Other Claims

The "coalition" website links to a fact sheet that makes a number of claims about the TPP. A few of these claims are that the TPP will do things like:

  • "Respect workers' freedom to form unions and protect their right to collective bargaining."
  • "Set and comply with acceptable conditions of work -- including a minimum wage, maximum hours of work, and a safe workplace."
  • "Require countries to commit to protect our oceans and wildlife."

Here's the thing: Again, the TPP is secret. It will be great if these claims turn out to be true -- but there is no way to know. Members of Congress can't even see it in its entirety, and to see parts of it, they have to go to a special office, alone, without any staff to translate the complicated, international legalese of the wording, and they can't take notes.

So what are these claims based on? If they are based on what really is in the TPP, then why can't the public -- and Congress -- see the text of the TPP so that we don't have to take the Coalition for Four Pinocchios' word for it? And if the TPP is so great and "progressive," then why the push for a fast-track rush to keep the public from having time to react?

The Fast-Track Rush Keeps the Public Out of It

The fast-track process being pushed by the "coalition" will require Congress to vote on the TPP only 90 days after they see it. It severely restricts the amount of discussion and debate in Congress. It prohibits Congress from making any changes to fix it if problems turn up in that limited time.

Even worse, 90 days is not enough time for the public to read, understand, analyze the potential ramifications of the TPP and react. It certainly is not enough time to organize opposition if opposition is warranted.

This is intentional. Fast track is designed to keep the public (democracy) away from the process of approving the agreement.

The TPP is the largest trade agreement in history. It has massive implications and consequences for American working people, for our economy, for our democracy, for our country's sovereignty and our government's relationship to corporations. Yet this "Progressive" "Coalition" for Four Pinocchios is pushing for a process that is intended to keep the public from knowing what is being slipped past them. The plan is apparently to shout down labor and progressive warnings with money, helped along by a virtual media blackout on information about this agreement that will literally change everything about the relationship between governments and giant, multinational corporations.

One Last Thing

The pro-fast-track/TPP campaign is being run by 270 Strategies, which last year worked for Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna, who was trying to unseat progressive incumbent Mike Honda in California. At that time Khanna sent out mailers calling Honda an "Old School Liberal" and criticizing Honda for supporting repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Is this what we're in for as the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs ramps up?

This post originally appeared on Campaign for America's Future (CAF) on their Blog for OurFuture. I am a fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary, and/or here for the Progress Breakfast.
Click here to find me on Twitter, and here to find CAF on Twitter.