Aug 10, 2007

Rightwing extremist launches anti-union Facebook group

The Republicans all out assault on unions and the middle class with the deceptive name of so-called “right to work laws” has a new front with the establishment of a Facbook group created by an Oakland County rightwing extremist connected with racist and extreme causes and well-known to liberal bloggers is pushing a petition drive to place it on the ballot.

The site was created by Chet Zarko, who was the communications director for the California group headed by Ward Connerly that came to the state to push the racist Michigan Civil Rights Initiative on the November 2006 ballot that did away with affirmative action. The group illegally lied to people and misrepresented themselves to get signatures, and because this is Zarko’s MO, coupled with the other people who are involved with the Facebook group, we can expect the same tactics this time around.

Zarko said the purpose of “this board is to be able tell investors that there are hundreds of motivated folks out there ready to work for the right to work.” Investors seems like a good choice of words because the result of this union-busting proposition is to maximize profits for management at the cost of employees. This bill will force unions to give the protections and benefits they won with hard work and determination to those workers who do not contribute to the union via union dues, enjoy the benefits won by collective bargaining by union leaders and receive the same physical protections won by the hard work and sacrifice of union members.

This petition drive seems really premature. Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, Rep. Jack Hookendyk, R-Kalamazoo, and Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer, R-Bellaire, have introduced so-called “right to work bills, and Senate Majority “Leader” Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, has included passage of the bills among his list of hostage demands before he will release the hostage, state government. No ballot question committee has been formed that will allow them to actually raise the money Zarko apparently is already illegally soliciting. It would seem logical to let the legislation run its course before a petition drive is launched.

This is not the first anti-union endeavor Zarko has been involved in, and here in Howell we felt the first salvo. In May he submitted a massive Freedom of Information (FOIA) request to get emails from the Howell Public Schools teachers union, Howell Education Association. After getting the emails, he alleged the HEA leaders have "conducted a large amount of union business on public time, including trying to “retain MEA (Michigan Education Association) affiliated MESSA health-insurance, and using parent-teacher conferences to recruit parents (to) their side of a collective-bargaining debate.” He based his ridiculous claims on union leaders' e-mails that he received through the FOIA.

After school district officials admitted union leaders have a "recognized right" to use the district e-mail server for union business, Zarko clung to the ridiculous claim that they may have used a district copier to copy union material. Zarko also has ties to the anti-gay hate group known as the LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) that embarrassed the community and tried to ban books by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors from Howell High School classrooms.

Despite describing himself as a “metro-Detroit, Michigan-based, political and marketing research consultant, focusing on conservative and “moderate” candidates and other clients,” Zarko has steadfastly refused to say who is paying him and who is financing this witch-hunt against public school teachers and teacher’s unions.


Anonymous said...

Chet Zarko has never been the communications director for ACRC or ACRI - Ward Connerly's organizations. Chet Zarko was involved in the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Committee for a brief period.

Communications guru said...

This from his bio on his web site. Isn’t kind of ironic that this discriminatory act was called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, kind of in the same vein as “right to work,” clear skies initiative and the healthy forest initiative. However, it is accurate because Ward Connerly was behind the MCRI, and the way he descries it does not sound like a “brief period.”

“Following the Supreme Court decision, Zarko began assisting the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative's (MCRI) effort to end preferences in Michigan through a ballot proposal that would amend the state Constitution. Zarko built the MCRI transitional website in the summer of 2003 and co-developed the written content of the 2004 petition-drive site. In 2004, he became Director of Media Relations for MCRI, and also became Treasurer, responsible for the campaign finance compliance and accounting for over $1 million and roughly 1400 donations. He remains active as an MCRI Steering Committee member. Zarko's latest success in this area, in conjunction with MCRI Executive Director, Jennifer Gratz, was completion of the signature-gathering phase of the campaign on January 6 2005.”

Chet said...

CG, You're a funny guy.

First, I have no link to LOVE PAC. I disagree with them fundamentally on their central issue. I've never met or communicated with its leader. What "ties" do you have evidence of - or is this just your way of labeling and slandering people. Throw out utterly false charges and hope they stick.

I've neither raised a single dollar, spent a single dollar, or asked for single dollar (or any number or fraction of dollars). It's just a facebook group. If you want to continue with your claims of "illegally", please file a claim with the Secretary of State (please note that I will file a counter-complaint for your frivolous charge). Otherwise, please retract your libelous accusation.

MCRI did not lie - as evidenced by the new Michigan Civil Rights Commission report reversing its previous claims as to the definitions of what MCRI actually does. Regardless, "illegally" lying also is libelous and unsubstantiated, because no petition circulator was every convicted of criminal activity, although its also not true because it didn't happen.

Finally, Right to Work is not "anti-union." A review of the national RTW group's mission states that it accepts the right of unions to exist and operate and merely seeks to give other workers the right to choose whether or not be a part of the union. America's founding principle is freedom of choice in economic activities. Even liberals support "anti-trust" laws - I believe firmly in unions. Competitive unions. If unions are so weak that they can't survive with workers having a choice ... ? I have confident optimism that unions will actually be improved and more successful, along with businesses and the economy, in an environment that respects basic employee choice. Unions will survive right to work - and we will all be stronger. Unions will have to sell the value of their services to members - and won't be able to treat their own clients (members) in the deplorable ways evidenced by the Howell e-mail and hundreds of other stories.

You've committed libel at least three times in this post. Not bad for a "journalist." That's not counting the multiple factual errors you've made or repeated. I can't even begin to count the way you've mangled the Howell FOIA story - which, by the way, is still before a court. By the way, whether the union had a "right" to use publicly financed e-mail or not (something I don't think the school has admitted), doesn't change whether the public has a right to access that e-mail under FOIA.

Communications guru said...

Thanks, I know I’m funny, but this certainly is not.

We have been over this many times before, and you do have ties to the anti-gay hate group “love. On May 2, 2007 you contacted Howell school board and “love” member Wendy Day asking her to contact you on her blog. “Can you fax or scan and email me a copy of the piece. I'm a political consultant with knowledge on how to research such things, and also a freelance writer working on a Howell schools story.

chetly AT

Here’s a link,

I’m not going tip retract anything, and you set up the site to attract “investors.” There is no case with the SOS - at least than I am aware of yet - and you know it because you violated the spirit of the law not the letter of the law. In my mind it’s illegal. Again, I have nothing to retract, so if you want to sue me go right ahead.

When the Michigan Civil Rights Commission adopted a resolution against your racist initiative it had this to say, Commissioner Mark Bernstein added, “The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is a shameful attempt to confuse and manipulate unsuspecting Michigan voters.” Or how about this, “After a six-month investigation, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission on Monday, June 12, 2006, will release a report which finds that efforts to place the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) on the ballot appeared to be based upon a massive campaign of fraud and deceit.” Here’s a link,,1607,7-138-4952_4995-145077--,00.html.

You have to be kidding: the right to work for less law is not anti-union? For all the crap you have given me in the past and the whoppers you have tried to sell me this is the biggest. Federal law already says you do not have to be a union member, and the union will still represent you and pay legal fees if you are fired illegally. But what this does is try to cut off funding while a union still does its job. This is a clear move to bust the union, so stop the lying and he honest for a change.

I have not committed libel, and you know it. If you think I have, you go right ahead and sue me. If not, then stop making that ridiculous and reckless claim. I stand by everything I have written on your anti union attacks on the Howell teachers and their union.

Chet said...

In reverse order, sort of (the libel comes in not on your opinions, on your use of the word "illegally," a factual statement).

Right to work legislation does one thing and one thing only. It allows individuals working for union-only shops to choose whether they want to be a member, and prohibits retaliation against those that opt to not be. A strong and productive union provides clear value to its members and most individuals will stay in the union. Right to work makes unions provide value to their members. You're supposition is disproven by the fact that unions still exist across the country despite the existence of other RTW states.

Regardless, you and I can disagree on the effect of RTW honestly without you saying that your view is the only conceivable view in the universe that my opinion is "crap". Or at least I can disagree with you and believe you are honestly motivated. You obviously can't.

Your citation to the MCRC as defense on your statement that MCRI "illegally" defrauded someone. First, the MCRC is not a judicial authority. Second, the report you cite uses the phrase "fraud and deceit," a phrase repeated by the federal court as a matter of political incantation, but the federal court found that MCRI violated no law and it could not prevent it from being on the ballot. Hence, there was no "illegal" action, as you said, even under your best interpretation. Third, on March 7, 2007, Commission changed its position to agree with MCRI on its impact, thus admitting that the core of the "fraud" case was untrue, and indeed, that MCRI told the truth in 2006: (

Pointedly, from the 2007 report, the Commission now agrees with our fundamental "intent" and the "statements" we made before the passage of the proposal!!!!!!!!!

"We believe that the people of Michigan, and the proponents of
Proposal 2, as evidenced by their statements regarding the ballot proposal, did not intend to
outlaw all forms of affirmative action programs."

Wow. I could go on and on with the contradictions - in 2006 I wrote a 50 plus page report (PDF, on my site) tearing apart the internal contradictions of the 2006 report itself, and using transcripts of the hearings to show how the Commission fabricated the claim. And that doesn't count the contradiction from 2006 to 2007 that I just pointed to above. It turns out, according to your own authority, that we were telling the truth all along. But you knew that all along - you knew the fraud cover story was just a hit job to discredit us. But your final addition of the word "illegal" elevates it from opinion to untrue fact.

Back up further though, to the RTW "campaign finance allegation". You write:

because you violated the spirit of the law not the letter of the law. In my mind it’s illegal.

Under your own words here, you contradict yourself. First, its not violating the "letter of the law", second, its "illegal," and you back up on to the thinnest ice you can invent ... "in my mind".

I disagree with you on the spirit of the law too - certainly you supported the minimum wage petition last year, and I'll bet you blogged about. Where's your campaign finance report?

In this case, the spirit of the law is the same as the letter. The law says you have 10 days to form a committee after 1) you raise your first contribution advocating for or against passage of a ballot question 2) you make your first expenditure. The law explicitly allows for no reporting of "volunteer" activities where the volunteer doesn't spend money over a certain amount. The fact that I might suggest the facebook participation might be used in the future to persuade investors does not mean I've asked investors anything. I'll form a committee at the right time. For now, its just a facebook group and I'm clearly within both the letter AND SPIRIT, although your libelous statement was only that I violated the letter - you said "illegal." You can't run from that with the old "in my mind" trick, other wise there would be no libel tort whatsoever since it would all be "in the mind" of the writer.

I never said I would sue you - I'm calling you out as a "journalist" - which is a different reason for me to raise the issue or use the word libel. This goes to the core of your credibility. Your writing here proves you are not. Your refusal to have the courage to admit you overreached also says alot.

Finally, if an investigative writer sending a request to a school board member for an alleged electioneering document is a "tie", then you are tied to LOVE under the same standard (you're tied because you've probably attended a Board meeting, or somehow otherwise contacted Day or Fyke, although I don't even know that you've "tied" (in the normal English non-CGellian usage) Day and Fyke together). Everyone in the world is tied to Fyke, I suppose, through six-degrees of separation. I'll grant you this one may not have been "libel," since "tie" is such a loose word (although the legal standard would probably be "reasonable person's" interpretation and I doubt you'd convince a jury of your interpretation), so maybe you only had two libels instead of three. I apologize for the imprecision in my first post. The e-mail you cite, to a reasonable person not stretching and twisting every claim, would actually prove the opposite of your claim. The fact that I would contact her publicly on her blog proves 1) I did not know her prior to that day and 2) I was open and out-front in contacting her, and hiding nothing.

Communications guru said...

Again, I am not a lawyer, but I stand by everything I have written as true and factual. My only experience with libel was when the newspaper I worked for was sued over a story one reporter wrote and I followed up on. It was actually more over the headline, but in the end the best defense against libel is the truth. I have that on my side, so you do what ever you want.

Wrong, right to work for less (RTWFL) legislation does one thing and one thing only. It is a thinly disguised tactic to break unions by bleeding their assets when it must do its job by defending a non-union worker fired illegally but that person does not have to help pay for it through their union dues. Federal law already gives workers the right not to join a union, but they have to pay their fair share for the valuable service they are receiving. That’s only fair. Why is it that Republicans like you always refuse to contribute their fair share to something that will benefit everyone and perhaps might not benefit you?

Believe me, I could care less what you think of me or my opinion, and if you felt anything other than that my opinion was crap then I would be worried. Too bad you can’t disprove it. I honestly cannot understands why anyone can be anti-union after seeing what it has done for this country and the working class, so that’s why I think your motives are questionable. The absence of unions will only benefit a small portion of the population; I would venture to say less than 1 percent.

My description of the MCRI petition process – which is what I was talking about – as using "fraud and deceit” is 100 percent correct. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission most certainly did say you used fraud and deceit to get the signatures to place it on the ballot, and in the report you gave me a link to it reinforces that position by saying:

“Michigan State Board of Canvassers (“BOC”) for approval as mandated under Michigan Election Law. The BOC deadlocked on the issue, declining to approve the ballot initiative because of the evidence of fraud, and called for further investigation. Yet, the state Court of Appeals 11 and state Supreme Court by-passed the BOC and ordered that Proposal 2 be placed on the November 7, 2006 general election ballot, despite the evidence of MCRI’s fraudulent practices and despite MCRI’s failure to obtain BOC approval, as required by law. “

Like I said in the original post, I’m sure that same fraud and deceit will be used to collect signatures to get the RTWFL law on the ballot.

You don’t have to be a journalist to be sued for libel. This is an opinion piece backed up with facts, so your attempts to discredit me as a journalist does not matter here. I am a private citizen expressing my opinion, but it is an opinion backed up by facts. When I was a MSM reporter, I guarantee you will find no one who will not say I was truly fair and balanced and it was not just a slogan for me. I even challenge you to try and find someone.

I’m not tied to Love, Day or Fyke at all because, unlike you, I completely disagree with everything they say, do and stand for, and there is plenty of documentation that illustrates that. You, on the other hand, have documentation of contacting Day and giving her your private email. Then you come out with an attack piece on the Howell teachers and their union, the exact same positions those three share. I have no idea what transpired between you on that email address you provided, via the telephone or in person, but clearly you have ties, there is no denying that. I have never met Day, and my only contact with her has been on various blogs. I met Fyke once when I did a very flattering piece on the Teen age Republicans when she was the advisor. I never said you knew Ms. Day prior to contacting her on her blog, but you sure know her now, don’t you?

Again, there is no libel because everything I have said is true and accurate. If not, you can sue for libel. Otherwise the ridiculous charge carries no weight. I’m sure you will get some investors with plenty of money because they will get so much more profit if this anti-union measure is approved. That money will allow you to hire an attorney to try and silence one critic, but there are more out there that know what you are trying to do. We will not let you get away with the fraud and deceit you used to get the so-called “Civil Rights Initiative” on the ballot.

Chet said...

I doubt you "disagree with everything they say." No one is 100% right or a 100%. If you disagreed with everything they said, you'd be a reactionary.

You are a walking contradiction. You write:

I have no idea what transpired between you on that email address you provided, via the telephone or in person, but clearly you have ties,...

Obviously, if you have "no idea" then you don't know and it is possible Ms. Day said nothing. My memory is that her response was a very short message saying she didn't have the document. There has been no master planning with anyone (not even your perceived "who pays me") - I call my own shots. I've never met or communicated with Fyke.

As to the Commission, they continue to allege fraud (I'm sure that you and your cronies will also allege fraud in every ballot drive you don't like). But they "pick and choose" their evidence, as my own report showed (or they actually misquoted testimony, took it out of context, ignored exculpatory evidence, didn't allow cross-examination, etc.) --- they are "picking and choosing" in the March 7, 2007 report when they say "we believe MCRI leaders" that MCRI doesn't ban affirmative action becuase believing us is beneficial to their argument that few programs are affected. That is a fundamental contradiction with the fraud allegation because the fraud allegation was built on the idea that 1) MCRI banned affirmative action 2) MCRI withheld that fact from most signers by using the "deceptive" term "preferences". So the Commission admitted the underpinning was incorrect (and indeed, that MCRI opponents LIED before the election that MCRI would ban all affirmative action). The Commission need not admit it was wrong to make an admission that fundamentally contradicts the logic it used. Regardless, the Commission never determined that a crime or violation of law occurred. No one did. No prosecutor (and the Wayne County prosecutor would have had jurisdiction and is quite liberal) ever prosecutor an MCRI circulator for "fraud" -- and I believe they had laws (perjury on the circulator statement) to prosecute if a violation occurred. Why? Because BAMN chose not to press for that because BAMN invented the story and a real court, with real cross-examination, would have been bad for them. Even Dem prosecutors wouldn't take the case. And BAMN could have filed a civil action on those claims, but they knew they neither had the evidence or the numbers to prove fraud and disqualify MCRI. But it was great theatre before the Commission. It's libel for you because you alleged "illegal" activity - as a former reporter (turned hack) you know what that means. In the MSM, you'd have added "alleged" before the name of a person on trial for rape or murder, but you say illegal for a group exercising its First Amendment rights never convicted of anything? That's libel.

BTW, I know libel applies to everyone. I raised the issue not to sue you for libel or give you free BFM-style advertising, but to question your journalistic credibility. You say black is white and white is black and everything you've written is "true and accurate," but most things you've written can be neither because they are opinions, and the facts you have asserted are untrue and you've provided no evidence for them.

I notice you've said nothing about campaign finance law, your second libel - have you changed your mind on the accuracy or even "spirit" of your claim there? You've challenged me to sue you otherwise my libel point allegedly means nothing -- yet I've challenged you to file a campaign finance complaint (something that costs you nothing) against me for your claims that I broke campaign finance law? Where's your moral fiber and consistency on this one? Or are you just afraid maybe you are wrong.

Your rhetoric overall precedes you. I'll give you credit for being able to write some of the greatest bullshit on the planet.

Chet said...

Hey, while we're challenging each other, you know, my claim that you've committed libel is a factual claim. Saying a journalist committed libel is one of the worst attacks that one can make on the journalist. If indeed, you haven't committed libel, you could sue me for libeling you about libel! So if you haven't committed libel and your so sure of that, why don't you sue me?

Communications guru said...

You just proved you had ties with the anti-gay “love” hate group after denying it numerous times, and now I’m supposed to make the leap to believe it was just a short phone message. Pardon me if I remain skeptical.

The bipartisan Commission is a government body, and they concluded you used fraud and deceit to collect signatures. That’s good enough for me. Hell, just calling it the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is deceit right off the bat.

You raised the libel issue to intimidate, but I’m not intimidated simply because I know I did not commit libel. You can call my “journalistic credibility” into question all you want, but this is a private citizen's opinion based on the evidence I have provided.

Again, I have not committed libel in regard to campaign finance law. I know this; there is no ballot committee registered with the SOS office, and you are soliciting money. Whether you have accepted any money I have no idea, and I never will know. Filing a complaint with this SOS is useless and you know it.

If it’s bullshit then it would be easy for you to punch holes in it, but that’s not happened. Lots of personal attacks on your part, but little substance and lots of words that say nothing. It appears you are the one slinging the BS.

Communications guru said...

Now your last post was a perfect example of bullshit you have been talking about. “Saying a journalist committed libel is one of the worst attacks that one can make on the journalist.” Bull. Anyone can sue anyone else for anything. It means nothing. I have been sued for libel, and I’m proud of it. We were right, and we stood by that.

I’m not going to sue anyone, and I take your personal attacks and calling me names as a complement and a badge of honor.

Chet said...

Do you know who Nat Hentoff is?

He's a civil libertarian and nationally respected columnist who has written steadfastly against the Patriot Act, Bush, and a number of issues. Hentoff wrote columns opposing the University of Michigan admissions and race preference policies, from essentially the same angle as his ideological cohort Professor Carl Cohen (the U-M professor who actively campaigned for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, was a leader of the Michigan ACLU for many years, and filed the FOIA in 1996 that lead to Gratz and Grutter v. Bollinger). Both oppose preferences philosophically, from a classically liberal perspective. Cohen of course was also active in MCRI, as a Michigan resident

Is Carl Cohen or Nat Hentoff a racist automatically because they oppose preferential affirmative action?

Communications guru said...

No I don't know, but I know who is.

Chet said...

Who is?

And other than supporting Proposal 2, what's your evidence. Can you point to their public statements? Or just your dislike of the person for other reasons combined with Proposal 2?

Communications guru said...


Chet said...

And how do you know I'm racist? Evidence?

Communications guru said...

Your support of the deceptively named “civil rights initiative.”

Chet said...

So anyone who supported the Civil Rights Initiative is racist? You believe all 58% of the people of Michigan who voted for MCRI are racists?

As to "deceptively named", you must believe that the phrase "civil rights" only applies to certain categories of people, notably minorities and women (but only in certain circumstances when not trumped by minority status), and that all other individuals are not endowed with civil rights?

Bottom line - its not YOUR VISION of "civil rights," but it doesn't violate the definition of "civil rights", nor is it anything other than a difference of our perspectives and opinion on what the right solutions to various problems are. We disagree fundamentally on a policy choice - but that doesn't make either of a liar (one who misrepresents a FACT) or a racist (one who believes in the superiority or inferiority of races). Of course, you've proven yourself to be a liar and libeler because you have misrepresented facts.

And again, your conflation of taking a policy position (support MCRI) and "guilt by association" with nasty smears like "racist", is again a morally repugnant, polarizing to the nation, and fundamentally disgusting. Nonetheless, I respect your First Amendment right to make a fool of yourself (except where you make false factual claims), and to be fair, on a scale of moral repugnance, you're still several hundred notches below truly racist groups like the KKK, Nazis, and other groups (including some on the left, too) that are properly being pummeled into the ashbin of history.