On the campaign trail in 2008, Michelle Obama denigrated corporate America, but on the campaign trail in 2012, she’s more than happy to take its union-busing cash and enjoy the lifestyle of the .001%.
Michelle Obama has long been known to have expensive tastes, so her sixteenth vacation of the Obama presidency oughtn’t come as a surprise. She bought a three hundred Coach bag when she was a teenager with her babysitting money. Her dress at the 2008 convention cost $1250. She dined at Table 52, a high-end restaurant on her infamous “Date Night” to New York City. She sported a $2,000 dress for her last vacation in Hawaii. She owns a pair of $540 designer sneakers, which she wore,humorously enough, to a food bank.
But this week is but another example of how out of touch she is. Michelle Obama and her daughters are spending the long weekend at the “huge private home” of long-time Democratic donors, Paula and Jim Crown. The Crowns, who hail from Chicago, have given the Democratic Party plenty of money over the years, according to FEC filings. Indeed, Michelle Obama hosted a fundraiser at the Crown home last year, too, where more than 150 Democratic donors donated between $1,000 and $10,000 to the Obama re-election campaign.
The Crowns own the Aspen Skiing Company, known locally as The Skico, which has been involved in a labor dispute with Lee Mulcahy, a former ski instructor who was fired he says for criticizing the disparity between what the Skico pays its instructors ($69 a day) and the cost of a day long lesson ($625). Mulcahy, who took his complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, pointed out that he was merely asking for a living wage, something he argues the Crowns already support through their philanthropy to organizations that back a living wage. (Shia Kapos, “Aspen’s have-nots hurl challenge at Crowns,” Crain’s Chicago Business, January 24, 2011)
In May 2010, Mulcahy wrote a letter to a local newspaper questioning Skico’s corporate mentality of “the customer is always right, no matter when they are wrong” and gave the example of a private shuttle that wouldn’t offer a ride to skiers at public bus stops on a snow day because he was concerned his well-to-do customers would complain. Though Mulcahy stressed he was lucky to work for Skico repeatedly, he found himself fired. According to the Chicago Tribune, Mulcahy maintains it was in retaliation for voicing his opinion and for sending emails to fellow instructors about living wages and discussing unionization. He filed with the National Labor Relations Board. (Alejandra Cancino, “Speaking out in Aspen snowballs into lawsuit,” Chicago Tribune, December 12, 2010). Alas, Mulcahy ultimately lost his NRLB fight last June, but not before the NRLB required Skico to end its policy barring communication between instructors on personal email accounts about wages, benefits, work conditions and unions. (Scott Condon, “Aspen Skiing Co., Mulcahy end bitter feud–for now, The Aspen Times, July 1, 2011.)
So what has this got to do with Michelle Obama?
It’s part of a pattern of do-as I say, not-as-I-do liberalism. In 2005 and 2006, Michelle Obama received $45,000 and $51,200 and more than $144,000 in stock from TreeHouse Foods, Inc., a food-processing company that manufacturers some of the very food that Obama now campaigns against in her “Let’s Move” anti-obesity crusade.
What’s more, as her husband was currently inveighing against Treehouse’s biggest customer–Wal-Mart–in the U.S. Senate and while running for president, this raised charges of hypocrisy, which Michelle refused to entertain. In fact, she was deeply offended that the press asked questions about her business dealings. “My income is pretty low compared to my peers,” she says, meaning other Harvard Law grads. “You wouldn’t ask that question if, like some people in politics, we had trust funds and were rich.” (“Off message: Sen. Obama Sees Hypocrisy in His Wife’s Post At A Firm That Does Business With Wal-Mart,” Crain’s Chicago Business, December 11, 2006).
But the Obamas are rich, fabulously so. And so are their friends the Crowns who routinely makes the list of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans. Couldn’t these Obama backers give less money to Obama and more to their employees?
Now, of course companies ought to be free to hire and fire as they see fit. No one but the Obamas dispute this tenant of the free market.
But why is it okay to vacation at one of the most exclusive, anti-union resorts in the country, but not okay for Boeing and other companies to relocate to right-to-work states without facing the wrath of Obama’s National Labor Relations Board? Why is it okay to take cash and gifts from anti-union companies?