ProgressOhio, Brought to You by Big Labor
ProgressOhio is a union-funded leftist organization created in 2006 to promote higher taxes and bigger government in Ohio. Often cited by Ohio media as a credible left-leaning research group, ProgressOhio describes itself as “dedicated to issue advocacy,” rarely admits any bias besides “progressive,” and pushes the Big Labor position on nearly every issue.
ProgressOhio was created by Mark Huttner — a former Clinton administration lawyer and the founder of ProgressNow in Colorado — at a cost of nearly $500,000, half of it from outside Ohio. Huttner hired Ohio Democratic Party communications director Brian Rothenberg to serve as ProgressOhio’s executive director.
While briefly employed by ProgressOhio, liberal blogger Eric Vessels described the organization as “a marketing department for Progressive ideas. We’re a campaign that never stops challenging conservative propaganda in the media and we make sure progressive ideas are heard.”
ProgressOhio spent $329,645 in 2010, reporting a loss of $11,285 to the IRS. ProgressOhio ended 2010 with only $6,681 in assets as a result of the loss. Nearly a third of the year’s spending went towards one employee’s paycheck: Rothenberg was paid $107,730 in 2010, which means ProgressOhio entered 2011 without enough assets to cover a month of Rothenberg’s salary.
According to U.S. Department of Labor records, labor unions have given more than $250,000 directly to ProgressOhio since 2008. ProgressOhio works hand-in-hand with Ohio’s union bosses, demanding “stimulus” spending targeted at unions and savaging public figures who fail to toe the union line.
In November of 2011, ProgressOhio presented Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) with a “Progressive Hero Award” at an event paid for with public workers’ union dues. A sponsor list from the ceremony thanked American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 8, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (AFSCME Local 4), and the Ohio Education Association — all government employee unions funded by forced dues taken from public workers.
Union support for ProgressOhio doesn’t stop at direct funding and event coordination, though. ProgressOhio is also partnered with several heavily union-funded national groups.
ProgressOhio is an affiliate of USAction, a union front that listed AFSCME, Communications Workers of America, and the Service Employees International Union as its “National Affiliates” before scrubbing the affiliate list from its website. USAction has received more than $2.5 million from labor unions since 2006.
ProgressOhio is the Ohio partner of ProgressNow, a national organization whose board is comprised of National Education Association staff, environmentalists, and other left-wing activists. ProgressNow has received more than $930,000 from labor unions since 2008.
ProgressOhio is also a partner of Progressive Majority, a D.C. group devoted to promoting “economic justice,” socialized medicine, and other common leftist concerns. The Ohio Progressive Caucus — a group of Ohio General Assembly members devoted to pushing far-left policies — is a joint effort of ProgressOhio and Progressive Majority.
ProgressOhio is also part of the Progressive States Network, which has received more than $540,000 from labor unions since 2007.
ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg is paid six figures to represent the concerns of “working Ohioans,” providing a populist veneer over the union position on any given public policy. While ProgressOhio claims to work on behalf of Ohio’s middle class, ProgressOhio is part of a national network of Big Labor groups funded by union dues and managed by wealthy left-wing activists.