The Wall Street Journal provided a platform for the Employment Policies Institute, a lobbying group with ties to the fast food industry, to push misleading claims about the effects of minimum wage increases -- but the Journal failed to disclose the group's connections.
On October 28, the Journal posted an op-ed from Michael Saltsman that dismissed low-wage workers' recent push for a minimum wage increase and claimed the "vast majority of people earning the minimum wage aren't working at large corporations with 1,000 or more employees." Saltsman used this claim to suggest that small businesses would be hurt if forced to "bear the brunt" of increases in the minimum wage -- a common right-wing media myth that has been repeatedly undermined by economic data. The Journal's disclaimer identified Saltsman simply as the "research director at the Employment Policies Institute."
But the Journal's disclaimer doesn't mention that Saltsman's employer is a front group for corporate lobbyist Richard Berman, who lobbies for, among others, the restaurant industry. In 2007, CBS noted that Berman "takes a certain pride, even joy, in the nickname 'Dr. Evil,' " and reported:
His real name is Rick Berman, a Washington lobbyist and arch-enemy of other lobbyists and do-gooders who would have government control--and even ban-a myriad of products they claim are killing us, products like caffeine, salt, fast food and the oil they fry it in. He's against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, animal rights activists, food watchdog groups and unions of every kind.
He has come up with a clever system of non-profit educational entities. Companies can make charitable donations to these groups, which have names like Center for Consumer Freedom and Center for Union Facts. They are neutral sounding but "educating," with a particular point of view, all perfectly legal.
Berman and his staff of young crusaders attack the nanny culture by combing through watchdog and government reports, seeking inconsistencies, overstatements, seizing on the one fact here or there that might discredit the research. And Berman says he's rarely disappointed.
"He's a one-man goon squad for any company that's willing to hire him," says Dr. Michael Jacobson, who heads the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a healthy food advocacy group. Jacobson has been the point man in the "food wars" for decades.
Who are the companies that support Berman?
"The food industry, the beverage industry, alcoholic beverage industry, the restaurant industry's a major supporter. He doesn't disclose the names of his funders," Jacobson says.
Saltsman's claims are just another example of the Employment Policies Institute's track record of using misleading studies to claim that minimum wage increases would hurt the economy without providing real evidence. From the Center for Media and Democracy:
In 1995, EPI lashed out at Princeton University professors David Card and Alan Krueger, after they published a survey of fast-food restaurants which found no loss in the number of jobs in New Jersey after implementing an increase in the state's minimum wage. Berman accused Card and Krueger of using bad data, citing contrary figures that his own institute had collected from some of the same restaurants. But whereas Card and Krueger had surveyed 410 restaurants, Berman's outfit only collected data from 71 restaurants and has refused to make its data publicly available so that other researchers can assess whether it "cherry-picked" restaurants to create a sample that would support its predetermined conclusions.
The Wall Street Journal has a responsibility to disclose the Employment Policies Institute's corporate lobbying ties when providing a platform for such commentary.