Advocate For VW Union Known For Smear Tactics

Political operative previously forced to apologize for 'over-the-top' mudslinging campaign

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The man behind a pro-union attack campaign on Volkswagen is a "hardball player," according to the attorney who settled a libel suit against him for a previous smear campaign.

Albert Addis, a lawyer for Michigan Justice, sued Joe DiSano for defamation on behalf of a former Democratic political candidate following a hotly contested 2012 state representative race. Addis's client lost the contest in part because DiSano orchestrated a robocall accusing the candidate of "using the internet to lure young girls into nude modeling sessions at his home," where he took "dirty pictures in his basement." The lawyer took on the case to help an innocent man clear his name, saying DiSano's smear campaign "devastated his [client's] wife and his whole family."

"The robocall was completely untrue and unfounded allegations of sexual misconduct with underage women and children," Addis said. "You can go over the top and in this case we alleged that that's exactly what Mr. DiSano did."

DiSano, who did not return multiple requests for comment about the lawsuit or the Chattanooga campaign, has now taken his operations to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he is attempting to bolster a United Auto Workers organizing campaign at a local Volkswagen plant. He has created a website and ad operation titled the Center for VW Facts to highlight company scandals in the hopes of wooing workers who previously rejected unionization bids. Addis said local residents can expect similar hardball tactics from "a well known political player."

"He's a hardball player," Addis said. "I will say I don't think I have seen him cross the line since [the settlement] but he's a well-known political player."

Addis's client—whom the Washington Free Beacon is giving anonymity to so as not to rekindle associations with the false allegations—declined an interview about the campaign and lawsuit. The settlement agreement negotiated by Addis forced DiSano to publicly apologize for the accusations through a robocall circulated throughout the community, as well as newspaper advertisements admitting to the falsehoods. Addis said it was important to send a message to operatives that politics does not give them cover to circulate vicious rumors about the opposition. It was a hard message to convey to DiSano, who only agreed to the settlement after a judge rebuffed his initial First Amendment defense.

DiSano and his allies "realize what they did and they did it on purpose," Addis said. "The sad truth is he's never really cleared his name completely of it—it's out there forever. They lost a lot of friends who have not come back."

The UAW has denied any knowledge of the Center for VW Facts ahead of its launch and has said it does not coordinate with the group.

The unionization vote is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.