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Union official disputes Clendenin fundraising claims

Posted Jan 18, 2013 by William March

Updated Jan 18, 2013 at 03:41 PM

A former president of the national air traffic controllers union has disputed contentions by Alan Clendenin, candidate for state Democratic Party chairman, about his fundraising and other political activity for the union.

John Carr of Tampa, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association from 2000-06, now retired and living in Tampa, sent a news release disputing claims made about Clendenin by fellow controller and former union official Randy Weiland of Georgia.

But Clendenin called Carr’s letter “a direct result of pressure from someone who controls the livelihoods of (air traffic controllers) ... a powerful person who happens to sit on the appropriations committee”—a clear reference to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, an ardent backer of Clendenin’s opponent in the chairman’s race, Allison Tant of Tallahassee. Clendenin backers have accused Wasserman Schultz of pressuring Democrats to vote for Tant.

Tant’s credentials as a successful Democratic fundraiser have been a major issue in the campaignm, and Clendenin hopes to establish that he, too, is capable of raising political money.

In a letter sent out as a news release from Clendenin’s campaign last week, Weiland said Clendenin, while serviing as chairman of the union’s legislative affairs committee, “grew the NATCA PAC into one of the most successful PACs in the federal union sector.” He said Clendenin enabled the union “to forge a body of informed motivated and highly functional citizen lobbyists ... a grassroots army,” and “command respect on the Hill.”

“It was solely through Alan’s campaign of building legislative activism and raising funds that allowed the legislative activism of the union to grow from a mere afterthought to a fighting vibrant force on the Hill,” Weiland wrote.

In an accompanying news release, Clendenin said he “grew (the PAC’s) fundraising numbers by nearly 900%” and “created a comprehensive program and plan which increased fundraising from less than 200 thousand dollars to millions of dollars per election cycle.”

That’s not true, said Carr, who said he “has no dog in the fight over the Democratic chairmanship” and doesn’t even know who’s running against Clendenin.

He said Clendenin did “a fine job, but nowhere near the claims in that letter” during his tenure of several years as chairman of the committee.

Carr said the small union, with about 15,000 members nationwide, is run largely by committees of volunteers, including Clendenin’s legislative affairs committee. He said the committee post is important because as federal employees, controllers can affect their pay and working conditions only through lobbying Congress.

During his tenure as president, Carr said, he made the union PAC a priority, and fundraising increased from about $1 million per election cycle to about $4 million. “There has been no one in the history of the union who has increased contributions 900 percent,” he said.

Carr said before Clendenin became chairman of the committee, the union already had an annual program in which members would come to Washington for several days of training followed by visits to congressional offices to lobby for union issues.

“The reason I wrote the letter is that I take great pride in what I did. I just want to set the record straight and correct the claims of someone who has decided to insert my union into the debate,” he said.

Weiland’s letter and Clendenin’s news release are here; Carr’s response is here.