An activist group formed to combat the Obama administration's economic and health care agenda has agreed to change its name and forfeit its web address after it was sued by a non-partisan government watchdog whose name it ripped off.
The Chicago-based Better Government Association, founded in 1923 as a check on Al Capone's political influence, filed for a temporary restraining order in federal court Monday against a newly-formed and decidedly partisan Akron, Ohio group operating under the same name. A hearing scheduled for Thursday in Chicago was canceled at the last minute after attorneys for the new BGA agreed to a permanent injunction.
By Thursday evening, the Akron BGA's web site announced that the group had re-branded itself the U.S. Citizens Association and directs visitors to its new site.
"The actions of the New BGA are creating present, irreparable harm to the BGA, and will continue to do so unless and until the New BGA is enjoined," the original BGA's motion read. "The BGA simply cannot wait and let its valuable trademarks be eroded by the confusion that the New BGA is sowing, especially in the face of such sudden, stunning evidence of actual confusion."
In a press release touting a "massive ad campaign," the new BGA listed four central points of its mission:
1. To inform the public on the fallacies of the information being spread by the liberal socialist organizations and the facts on capitalism versus socialism; 2. To promote conservative capitalist candidates for public office at all levels; 3. To file lawsuits against unconstitutional laws and actions by government and counter-lawsuits to those lawsuits filed by the liberal socialist organizations; and 4. To form grassroots organizations to compete with ACORN.
The BGA's lawsuit sought to halt any planned advertising or other publicity efforts by the new organization as long as it operated under the BGA name. The Akron BGA already ran a full-page in USA Today claiming, "Barack Obama and the Democrats ... want to bankrupt the nation with socialized medicine and socialism energy taxes"
"Our reputation as a nonpartisan organization is critical to our mission," said Dave Lundy, president of the BGA board of directors, "and so it is extremely troubling that we have already received e-mails, phone calls and attempted donations from people who have confused us with the very partisan Akron group. That is why we have filed suit."
Lundy told the Huffington Post the group's lawyers tried to contact to the new BGA for days before the suit but got no response.
There is no listed number for the Akron-based group. Calls to the 1-800 number on its web site route to a call center run by a third-party, Infocision, that offers callers free membership in the BGA.
Call center supervisor Shuree Eldridge said she had no number for the BGA headquarters but listed the members of the board of directors.
When reached by phone Tuesday, board member Rev. Herschel Gammill of Cathedral of Life Ministries in Canton declined to comment and instead referred questions to Ed Rollins, the Republican strategist who was Mike Huckabee's national campaign chairman in 2008 presidential election. Rollins, Gamill said, is chairman of the new BGA's board.
A secretary for Rollins' Washington-based New Strategies group told the Huffington Post Rollins was recovering from surgery and unavailable to comment. She could not confirm whether he was affiliated with the new BGA.
Calls to the new BGA's executive director Lance Davis were not returned.
The 86-year-old BGA retained high-powered law firms Wildman Harrold Allen & Dixon LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP to bring suit.
"I think once they realized who they were going to be fighting against [they complied]" Lundy told the Huffington Post Thursday. "I'm not sure any lawyer in the country would spend time defending this."
Though pleased with the agreement, Lundy said he's not yet satisfied. One potential sticking point could be the Akron group's new url. Despite the new name, the address for the U.S. Citizens Association is webbga.com.
"There are agreements," Lundy said, "and then there's execution."