Boeing Flacks = Labor Group Puppet Masters?

24.10.07

Categorie: Accountability, Air |

imgp2765.JPGBack in August, Boeing paid to fly me and a dozen other journalist-bloggers to Everett, Washington, to see the plant that will build KC-767 tankers — assuming Boeing beats out European rival EADS in the $40-billion KC-X contest. But we weren’t the only passengers on the luxury BBJ that day. There were all sorts of mysterious Boeing employees and “consultants” lounging on the sofas, drinking cocktails and muching the catering, including some guy named Gil Meneses. What exactly Meneses was doing on that junket, he never really explained. Now Congress Daily (subscription only) has the answer. Meneses has been connected to a labor group that is calling for the Pentagon to keep airplane-manufacturing jobs in the U.S.:

A coalition of influential minority labor groups last week publicly denounced the proposal by Northrop Grumman Corp. and its partner, the European consortium [EADS] that owns Airbus, arguing that the team’s offering of the KC-30, based on the Airbus 330 airframe, would result in thousands of skilled jobs sent overseas.

The groups — including the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the A. Philip Randolph Institute — also raised ethical questions about Airbus’ parent company EADS, which is involved in a World Trade Organization challenge by rival Boeing Co. over its subsidies from European governments.

Aerospace industrial lobbying sure does seem a strange mission for labor unions, no? How exactly did the groups get on this warpath? According to Congress Daily, Washington consulting firm LMG steered the labor coalition to the issue:

LMG consultants Gil Meneses, who has worked as a spokesman for both the Democratic National Committee and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Joe Velasquez, a former deputy political director in the Clinton White House and longtime union organizer, alerted LULAC to the issue, [coalition director Brent A.] Wilkes said. “It’s a tight-knit community of Latino leaders in Washington,” he said. Ultimately, LMG took charge of the media campaign, sending out releases and orchestrating press interviews.

But a closer examination reveals that LMG — unbeknownst to these groups — is a paid consultant on the Boeing tanker program. Indeed, Meneses, who would not provide an on-the-record comment for this column, traveled with Boeing on an August media trip to Everett, Wash., aimed at promoting the company’s KC-767 offering. …

A Boeing spokesman initially would not comment on whether Boeing had collaborated with the groups, saying only that the company was open to discussions with any group interested in the tanker program. In a follow-up e-mail, he offered a clarification: “We (the Boeing KC-767 Tanker program) have not briefed the groups that spoke out last week … and have not coordinated with them on their position,” the spokesman wrote. “They definitely can and have spoken for themselves.” Later, after being pressed about LMG’s Boeing connections, the spokesman confirmed LMG serves as a paid consultant on the tanker program. The spokesman also confirmed Meneses was present on the August trip to Everett.

So who’s got the ethical problems now?

Related:
Junketeering, part one
Part two
Part three
Confessions of a junketeer

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10 Responses to “Boeing Flacks = Labor Group Puppet Masters?”

  1. FooMan says:

    Menses has been a fixture in Washington (both the real one in the north west and the other one) for a couple of decades. He is the front man for Boeing trying to keep jobs in the U.S.. And at the same time trying to keep Boeing in business. I have never quite figured out how he reconciles the two seemingly conflicting jobs with the union(s) and Boeing. He was around when Boeing declared huge losses in the 90′s and got concessions from their unions. Now in the new millenium he is around again ‘saving’ American jobs. As for the ‘number of unidentified people’ on the BBJ, would you fly a 15 million (guess at the price) with four people on it? I would bet that Boeing told anyone that needed to Everret that there were seats available. The corridors of Boeing in Washington are a labrynth (I know it is spelled wrong but I can’t get it right), and being able to identify someone from the east coast is mosre normal than not.

    P.S. Why don’t Boeing aircraft crash? Because they are made of rubber and bounce! Boing, Boeing, Boeing!

  2. Stephen Trimble says:

    What is the ethical problem at issue?

  3. David Axe says:

    Stephen,

    The ethical problem is this: Meneses apparently disguised the fact that his organization was on the Boeing payroll when he approached the labor groups to push this issue. And LMG later signed on to assist the labor groups with their campaign (which ostensibly advocates policy to benefit the public) while still being paid by Boeing. Not illegal, necessarily. But very very fishy. It’s a conflict of interest thing.

  4. Stephen Trimble says:

    Is it? What does “apparently disguised” mean? Did he do it or not? Even if he did it, are the labor groups complaining that they were acting against their self-interest?

    Speaking of ethical issues, did you contact Gil Meneses — who is ludicrously described as a long-term “Washington fixture” in another comment above — before you decided to publicly attack him? Or do you believe as a blogger you are immune from this ethical responsibility?

  5. David Axe says:

    No, I did not contact Gil. I’m just excerpting the Congress Daily piece. I didn’t do any original reporting for this piece. But pointing to and quoting others’ reporting is perfectly accepted practice in the blogging world. You’re aware of that, right? You do it on you own blog, no?

    And I don’t believe CD’s reporting qualifies as an “attack.” Gil is acting as a paid employee of both a labor group and a government contractor vying for public funds. That makes him a public figure. Reporting on his (obfuscated) relationship to industry does not entail an attack.

    Also, Stephen, I think you need to learn to be a little more skeptical about the defense industry.

  6. Stephen Trimble says:

    I own a blog, but I don’t believe it gives me license to attack people who I haven’t given a chance to defend themselves. You do this on a regular basis, and I find it ethically and personally appalling.

    I expected you to reply by insulting by professionalism.

    Do you really think I’m posting these comments this because I feel the need to defend Gil or Boeing?

    Can’t I be as skeptical of you and your reporting as I am of the defense industry?

  7. David Axe says:

    Stephen,

    I’m not questioning your professionalism. I’m questioning your ability to detect industry-government bullshit.

  8. Stephen Trimble says:

    What do you think is my profession?

  9. FooMan says:

    I personally referred to Mr. Menses as a fixture since I have lived in both Washingtons. Je appeared frequently in local paper and his role(s) with Boeing and organized labor are never in fact detailed. Just the results and his continued presence on junkets like this reveal more than the press could.

  10. Stephen Trimble says:

    FooMan,

    I’ve checked Lexis-Nexis and there are no stories about Boeing in the Washington (DC or state) press quoting a man named Gil Meneses until 2007.

    Can you provide any evidence that he is such a long-time fixture, or are you just making it up?

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