This Time It’s Tasini v. Clinton

jtasaniI.jpgA cache of about a dozen progressives met on the 43rd floor of a Hell’s Kitchen apartment building last night to hear a campaign pitch from freelance hero Jonathan Tasini. Tasini, former president of the National Writer’s Union, is challenging incumbent Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton in the upcoming primary.

The meet-and-greet was hosted by Edgar Award-winning author Thomas Adcock, who is also a reporter at the unionized The New York Law Journal. But few of the guests assembled by Adcock and his wife, actress Kim Sykes, knew Tasini for the landmark Supreme Court ruling in his favor. (In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court found that media companies had electronically reproduced freelancers’ works without compensating them.)

“Let them steal or try to stop them from stealing” was the impetus behind the class-action lawsuit, Tasini said. The suit, with Tasini as the representative plaintiff and such media honchos as Time Inc., Newsday, and The New York Times as defendants, resulted in an $18 million settlement fund for writers and new contracts that, in most cases, now require the writer to cede electronic rights to the publisher.

“Compared to going after the biggest media companies in the world, this is a smaller thing,” Tasini said, somewhat facetiously, of his Senate campaign. With stylish rectangular frames, a purple/blue chromatic tie and a charcoal suit, Tasini gestured to the small audience with stump-speech familiarity. His campaign for Senate is about ideas and “the movement,” — a long way, Tasini believes, from his previous campaign against “corporations with resources.” As president of the union, he had access to thousands of supporters who backed his legal battle. In this campaign, it is a “bigger challenge to reach out to people.”

Tasini faces a geo-politically divided state and an incumbent with “90 percent name recognition and celebrity.” But he must first get on the ballot, which requires 15,000 signatures. Of those signatures, at least 15 of 29 congressional districts must be represented by 100 signatories. And all of those names can (and likely will) be challenged by the Clinton campaign.

Can Tasini capture the freelance vote? Too early to tell. But in the meantime, you can bet he’ll blog about it.

Tasini for New York