Koch Bros. Group Accused of Defamation

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers organization, defamed a union leader by accusing him and other union members of puncturing tires, burning a Quaker meeting house, and threatening, bullying and beating nonunion businesses, a union leader claims in court.
     Frank Bankard, organizing director of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 542, sued Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania, and Jennifer Stefano aka Jennifer Turner, on Monday in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
     Bankard claims he attended a Feb. 24, 2013 town hall meeting, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, to discuss the Paycheck Protection Act. The act would prohibit unions from deducting dues from public employees’ paychecks.
     After the meeting, Americans for Prosperity uploaded two clips to YouTube, which show a few men appearing to loudly argue with someone off-screen. Bankard claims videos show his likeness.
     The complaints states: “Subsequent to the meeting, Jennifer Stefano and the Americans for Prosperity of Pennsylvania posted the above referenced video and under it stated that ‘unions in Philadelphia burn a Quaker Meeting House, unions were threating [sic], bulling [sic] and even beating open shop contractors,’ and other indications that unions and Mr. Bankard were law violators.”
     The YouTube videos, checked Thursday, had no captions.
     Bankard claims the captions stated: “We had to call the police to escort us out of the building. When I got to my car two of my tires were flat.”
     He attributes the comments to Stefano, the state director for Americans for Prosperity.
     “The fact is that Jennifer Stefano lied about that the tires were slashed and put them right over Frank Bankard’s picture, and that’s libel in PA,” Bankard’s attorney Louis Agre told Courthouse News.
     Neither the state nor national offices of Americans for Prosperity responded to requests for comment.
     Americans for Prosperity, founded by the brothers William and Donald Koch, has provided millions of dollars to Tea Party insurgents running for state and congressional positions. It spent $34 million in campaigns against Democratic candidates in the 2012 election cycle. In May, David Koch promised a $125 million campaign against Democrats and Republicans unaligned with the Tea Party, an unprecedented amount for a midterm election.
     Bankard seeks more than $50,000 in damages for defamation.

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