For more than five years, local businessman Tal Cloud has been stirring things up through Common Sense Information, an independent committee that has attacked or advocated on a number of local political issues or candidates for political office.
And just about every time, the target of Common Sense Information has complained and threatened to try and shut down the committee for not following political rules.
Cloud’s reaction has always been one of bravado. Essentially saying go for it.
“We’ve never said anything wrong,” Cloud says.
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Common Sense Information’s latest target is the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board, which is in a prolonged battle with Gerawan Farming, as well as DariGold, over union representation of farmworkers by the United Farm Workers.
In this latest effort, CSI is joining with the Center For Worker Freedom, a similar non-profit, educational organization that, according to its website, is “dedicated to warning the public about the causes and consequences of unionization.” It is tied to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.
As in past battles, Cloud is pulling no punches with his pitch on behalf of the agricultural operations, which includes writing opinion pieces for publications as well as radio ads, billboards and social media. The ads aren’t just local, but across the state.
One recent Common Sense Information radio ad refers to the ALRB as a “puppet regulator” of the United Farm Workers union.
It was the same take-no-prisoners approach back in 2010, when CSI ran radio ads attacking then-state Sen. Jeff Denham, who was making his first congressional run. That was its debut.
Since then, CSI has also attacked Yes on G, the failed push to privatize trash collection in the city of Fresno, a Fresno Unified trustee candidate and the Friant Water Users Authority in a push to get it behind water legislation introduced by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford.
But while Cloud may chip in some money for CSI — and he says he makes no money on it — the majority of the cash to fund its efforts come from donors. A key pitch from Cloud is something that irks many political watchers about such independent political organizations — donor anonymity.
“100% of your donation will go toward Radio Ads, PR Campaign and Buses (for protesters) and … there is no Donor Disclosure,” Cloud wrote in a recent email pitch to donors. “Ask yourself is 5k or 10K (is) worth the investment to educate Governor Brown and the Latino Caucus about the unethical dealings with ALRB and UFW over the last few years. That should sound like a deal??????”
So far, Cloud says this latest effort has raised and spent more than $100,000.
Cloud thinks it’s making a difference, though there’s no clear indication the ALRB or the UFW are fazed by Cloud’s ads.
Denham certainly was. He retained a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who specializes in federal election law to try and stop the ads.
Same for the Yes on G campaign, which said CSI violated state law by campaigning against Measure G in its commercials.
To date, however, Cloud’s organization has yet to be stopped.