Beating the Drum for the Middle Class? Not Really

By February 4, 2008Briefly Legal, Labor Unions

We’ve been following the Drum Major Institute for a while now, since the New York City think tank sponsors, a website that accuses tort reformers of dishonesty and greed. The 501(c)(3) group also promotes the Orwellian-named Employee Free Choice Act — the “card check” bill that would destroy secret ballots in workplace elections — so despite the New York Times’ gentle description of it as “a liberal research group,” it’s clear the DMI belongs to that brand of leftist activism that elevates “social justice” and big government over liberty and the free market.

Now take a look at DMI’s news release promoting its quick “analysis” last week of the President’s State of the Union speech, in which the group touts itself as “the nation’s leading middle class think tank.” That kind of humility just invites scrutiny, don’t you think?

The mission statement is clear enough; the potted history highlights the predecessor group’s civil rights activism. DMI was relaunched in 1999 by New York attorney William Wachtel — son of the original founder, Harry Wachtel — Martin Luther King III, and Ambassador Andrew Young. (Here’s a photo of Wachtel, King and John and Elizabeth Edwards.)

DMI’s Board of Directors is listed here. Wachtel is the founding partner of the New York law firm, Wachtel & Masyr, known mostly for its commercial real estate business. President Clinton’s counsel, Bernard Nussbaum is on the DMI board, and we note the presence of the awful anti-market demagogue Robert F. Kennedy as well. Otherwise, it’s your usual assortment of super-wealthy “progressives” and hangers-on. Not exactly the voice of the middle-class.

Then there’s the mystery of Melvyn Weiss. Not so long ago, DMI listed Weiss as a board member and contributor to the Drum Major Institute was Melvyn Weiss. You know, the Melvyn Weiss of the Milberg Weiss law firm, indicted for years of conspiring to generate false but lucrative class-action securities lawsuits. Mel Weiss, who turned huge settlements and jury awards into campaign contributions to promote policies aiding the plaintiff’s bar.

Funny thing is, as of February 3, Weiss’s bio at Milberg Weiss still claims: “Mr. Weiss is the Vice Chairman of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a think tank founded during the civil rights movement that today provides ideas to fuel the progressive agenda.” (Screen grab here.) But he’s not on the Drum Major Institute website’s board list anymore. Wonder why that is.

Well, board memberships do change. But allegiances and alliances have a way of hanging on.

Which is to say, nation’s leading middle class think tank? Oh, yeah, sure.

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