California labor blacklist names half of ex-firm Mack|Crounse

*This article has been corrected since first published.

Direct mail consultant Kevin Mack avoided California labor's blacklist but his former partner Jim Crounse is now considered persona non grata by influential Golden State unions.

The actions that led to Crounse landing on the California Labor Federation's (CLF) do-not-hire list are part of what caused a break up of one of the most influential Democratic direct mail firms earlier this year.  

At the time of the March split, Crounse wrote in an email to friends and clients: “I have great respect for Kevin and he is a good friend. However, we’ve come to the realization that our client bases are very different, and in today's world of firewalls, independent expenditures, and super PACs, this is the best step for our clients, staff and ourselves.”

Meanwhile, Mack launched a new firm. “This is in the best interest of my clients, staff and myself,” Mack said at the time.

What the CLF, which is made up of 1,200 AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions, determined is that without Mack's knowledge, Crounse used a shell company that produced mailers hitting now-former state Reps. Michael Allen (D) and Betsy Butler (D) for their ties to labor during their 2012 reelection races. 

Allen and Butler were both union-backed candidates, but CLF spokesman Steve Smith said it wasn't just that Crounse and the others supported the opposing candidates.

The CLF was concerned the six black-listed consultants were "taking money from labor with one hand and turning around and attacking us with the other," Smith tells C&E. "That's a problem. That highlights the values of an individual consultant. That's why the list exists." 

In Butler's case, the mailers accused her of being beholden to "special-interest patrons."

In addition to Crounse, the firms of general consultant Steve Glazer, pollsters Jim Moore and Dave Metz, mail consultant Jim Stearns, and opposition researcher Sean Sullivan also made the list.

"All six of those who are on the do-not-hire list worked on those races and had something to do with those pieces being produced," says Smith. "It's important for folks to know that this activity occurred and provide some guidance in terms of who shares our values." 

Still, it's possible for the six consultants to get off the list. "It's not a lifetime sentence by any means," says Smith. "Our executive counsel meets four times a year and at any point in time they can take this up again and vote to remove people.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Crounse "had set up a shell company that produced the mailers." In fact, the firm's Blue Works subsidiary, which produced the mailers in question, was set up in 2005 and has been used to produce mailers for several of the firm's clients. 

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