By Tom Tillison
While I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, I was thrilled to awake today and find a My Word column written by BusinessForce Executive Director Robert Agrusa published in the Orlando Sentinel.
The piece directs critical rays of sunshine on local non-profit groups that serve as union proxies and also puts the newspaper on the spot for not doing more to make readers aware of the hidden agendas at play with these groups. A positive development given that the Sentinel all but ignores my offerings on the issue.
(An ironic occurrence considering columnist Scott Maxwell’s recent alignment with these groups in opposing petition initiative reform, under the guise of giving the people a voice.)
This triumvirate of social justice warriors — Organize Now, Central Florida Jobs with Justice and Mi Familia Vota — work hand-in-hand in Orange County to advance a hard-left “progressive” agenda that would prove to be destructive to the local economy.
Along with a few select friends, I have been punching the clock for several years to alert the community of the menacing storm clouds, and we have endured plenty of ridicule in the process — with more than one Sentinel scribe contributing to the effort.
To see the local business community FINALLY speak publicly on this threat validates our efforts and gives us hope that the future may not be as ominous as we sometimes fear in our darkest moments.
“I’m glad the light is being turned on to expose the shadows in Orange County,” said Orange County grassroots advocate Linda O’Keefe. “In my 7 year effort to expose money trails, front groups and tactics of intimidation going on in Orange County, I have had my efforts likened to the KGB on national radio, been shouted down in front of Wal-Mart, and intimidated by a Sentinel reporter (who now works for Alan Grayson) and by a current candidate for Congress and wife of an elected official.”
“The most frustrating part is that the Orlando Sentinel continues to give these shadowy operators cover,” O’Keefe continued. “I’m glad others are joining me in the effort to bring transparency and accountability to Orange County.”
The three non-profits share many commonalities, chief among them are direct links to U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and his longtime aide Susannah Randolph — wife of Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph. And yes, this is the congressional candidate O’Keefe makes reference to.
My sources have told me that Randolph regularly directed the flow of money to these groups and to the gay rights group Equality Florida. Some may recall that Equality Florida received a $50,000 grant from the N.Y.-based Rockefeller Family Fund in August 2012 in support of the local paid sick leave effort.
All three groups derive much of their funding from unions such as Service Employees International Union and Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO. They are very involved in the “Fight for $15” minimum wage increase effort, and were instrumental in the effort to unionize Wal-Mart. Fortunately OUR Walmart has begun to unravel due to internal dissension, but who can forget Grayson being escorted out of a local Wal-Mart by law enforcement for handing out turkey sandwiches and literature explaining the right to organize to employees working on Thanksgiving.
Oddly, such dramatic political theater didn’t strike much interest in the media. Then again, neither did Randolph standing in front of a local business chanting “shut ’em down.”
Organize Now is the crown jewel of the three. Run by Randolph protege Stephanie Porta, the organization has enjoyed bountiful financial resources over the years, but has recently found itself cash starved.
(A good thing considering they filed a state-wide petition to put paid sick leave on the 2016 ballot as an amendment to the state constitution. As of this writing, after an initial $500 contribution from Organize Now to the PAC set up to drive this effort — Family Always Come First, Inc. — nary a penny has flowed their way.)
My sources tell me that the recent split between Grayson and Randolph is responsible for the money spigot being reduced to a drip. A split precipitated by Randolph’s run to replace Grayson in congressional district 9.
With the ringmaster vying for a seat in Congress, we’ve come a long way since Mr. Smith went to Washington… all of which speaks to the aforementioned storm clouds over our beloved community.