A business group run by former Democratic operatives with deep ties to the Obama White House is attempting to sway media coverage of the debate over a federal minimum wage increase.
Business Forward, a trade association that has been accused of selling access to top administration officials, encouraged its corporate members on Wednesday to contact cable news network CNN to weigh in on the minimum wage issue.
Business Forward founder and president Jim Doyle in an email Wednesday evening asked the group’s members to contact CNN reporters working on a project called "#YourEconomy," which solicits input on top economic issues from American businesses.
Doyle asked members to "share your story with CNN."
"At Business Forward, we try our best to give business leaders an opportunity to speak out during these important policy discussions," Doyle wrote. "CNN is looking for business owners like you to share their views on how a minimum wage increase would affect their businesses."
The email linked to a CNN page asking small business owners to "tell us how a minimum wage increase affects your business."
Congressional Democrats are gearing up to make income inequality their central message leading up to midterm elections in November.
Key legislative pillars of that effort will include efforts to extend long-term unemployment benefits and—come February, according to Yahoo! News—a vote on legislation to raise the federal minimum wage.
Business Forward also offered members the opportunity to speak with a member of their staff, Grant Herring, before reaching out to the cable network.
Herring told the Free Beacon that he would instruct any member that reached out to him on "what to expect from a reporter."
"We always try to find opportunities for the business community to share their stories," Herring said in an email. "We are not staking out a position on this issue, but want business leaders to have a voice in the policy debate."
While the group does not take official positions on legislation, it is staffed by numerous veteran Democrats, including Doyle, a former Bill Clinton and Al Gore campaign operative, and executive director Greg Schultz, who worked for both of Obama’s presidential campaigns.
Some say Business Forward is overtly supportive of the president’s agenda and has used its extensive connections to the White House to sell access to top administration officials to companies that donate large sums to the group.
"When you’re an ally of the president, you can often bring in as many people into the White House that you want," Jade West, vice president for government relations at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, told the Hill.
"Business Forward is a political organization founded to support the Obama administration," West added. "So the fact they can bring people in to see the president and his people is neither a surprise nor terribly impressive."
According to its website, Business Forward members include "Aetna, American Airlines, AT&T, CIT, Citi, Comcast, Dow, Duke Energy, Fidelity, Ford, Hilton Worldwide, Intuit, Lockheed Martin, McDonald's, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Time Warner, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Visa, and Walmart."
Each corporate member pays $25,000 or $50,000 in membership dues.