Fast-track foes plan stunts to undermine deal’s favorable coverage

By Tiffany Stecker | 04/17/2015 01:06 PM EDT

Opponents of the Senate’s Trade Promotion Authority bill are working at full throttle to discredit the legislation with the media and the public.

Article updated at 2:08 p.m. EDT.

Opponents of the Senate’s Trade Promotion Authority bill are working at full throttle to discredit the legislation with the media and the public.

Members of the Coalition to Stop Fast Track, an alliance of more than 60 companies and organizations dedicated to blocking the bill, are planning a number of stunts at hearings and other public gatherings to garner media attention — including the staging of a one-story house-sized inflatable Trojan horse on Capitol Hill, Greenwire has learned.


On a conference call this morning, representatives of the organizations discussed the need to place attention-grabbing visuals at hearings on the bill that would likely be covered by broadcast news, printing T-shirts with "Wyden Don’t Sell Out" — a reference to bill co-author and Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — and producing a viral video that would feature individuals potentially affected by the trade deal.

The bill, dubbed "fast-track," was unveiled yesterday after months of negotiations between Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Wyden. It would allow the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal between the United States and Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei to pass through Congress with a simple yea-or-nay vote, removing lawmakers’ authority to amend the deal.

Environmental and labor groups have stood strongly against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying it would boost the extraction of fossil fuels, limit oversight on food safety and threaten the marketability of American manufactured goods.

The announcement of the deal has generated more positive media coverage than critical, Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said on this morning’s conference call.

"We are now under a tsunami of shitty op-eds and statements," she said.

On the call, coalition members also suggested that groups organize events around the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will address a joint session of Congress on April 29.

"We want to be demonstrating to the Japanese press that Fast Track is in trouble," said Jason Stanford, a member of the Coalition to Stop Fast Track.

The coalition’s members have also suggested working with the office of Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) to publicize the message of how the deal might affect autoworkers.

"If [the backers of TPP] are going to be taking about selling beef to Japan, we can at least talk about [the auto industry]," said Stanford.

The controversy over the 2009 U.S. auto industry bailout could also be a selling point to dampen support for the bill, said one person on the call — if fast-track opponents can tie the TPP to the potential need for another bailout down the road.

The agriculture industry, with the exception of the National Farmers Union, which represents small and mid-sized farms, has stood strongly in favor of the bill for the foreign market opportunities it could offer. The National Farmers Union opposes the deal because it could widen the trade deficit between the United States and other countries.

The coalition members are also seeking to fight against the narrative that the Democratic Party is divided on the issue. President Obama has asked Congress to pass a "fast-track" bill to facilitate an Asia deal, but left-leaning Democrats have fought against it.

There are also efforts to counter the editorials in favor of a deal with ones against it. Possible outlets include Capitol Hill publications like The Hill and Roll Call, people on the call said this morning.

Stanford said in an email that the call was a brainstorming session that included much speculation and ideas that may not come to fruition.

"Whether any of these ideas make it past jump is an open question, but if they do, they would fit into an existing strategy that includes print and web ads, email blasts from several Coalition member organizations such as the Sierra Club, and the AFL-CIO’s day of action tomorrow that includes about 60 events nationwide," he said. "Beyond that, we’re not going to comment further on internal deliberations that were meant to generate ideas but not make even preliminary decisions."