Stern's SEIU spending scandal widens

Related Tyrone Freeman stories: here
More Andy Stern stories: here

Big Cal. local in trusteeship, Michigan heavyweight steps down

A spending scandal at California's largest union local spread to a second state Monday as the head of a sister labor group in Michigan stepped aside because of a widening financial inquiry.

The Service Employees International Union said that Rickman Jackson, who formerly served as chief of staff at the California organization, has taken a leave of absence from its biggest Michigan local less than a week after the president of the Los Angeles chapter relinquished his post.

Both departures followed reports in The Times that the local and a related charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by the wife and mother-in-law of its president, Tyrone Freeman, and spent similar sums on a Four Seasons Resorts golf tournament, restaurants such as Morton's steakhouse, a Beverly Hills cigar lounge and a Hollywood talent agency.

The Times also disclosed that a housing corporation Freeman helped launch used the address of a Bell Gardens home that property records show is owned by Jackson. Freeman, Jackson and housing corporation representatives have declined to say whether Jackson was paid for any use of his residence.

SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette would not say Monday whether the union's inquiry into Jackson's activities was focused on his home and the housing corporation. The corporation, whose website says it was set up primarily to help union members obtain affordable housing, did not receive the tax-exempt status it sought and had lost its right to do business in California.

Freeman and Jackson were appointed by SEIU President Andy Stern, one of the country's most influential labor leaders. In a statement Monday, Stern said, "We will not tolerate any action by any leader that harms the interests of our membership."

Jackson could not be reached for comment Monday. In an earlier e-mail, he said he would have no comment on the union investigation. Freeman has denied any wrongdoing.

In its statement, the SEIU said it has enlisted former California Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp to assist in the Los Angeles investigation, and that former California Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grodin has agreed to preside over an internal hearing on the inquiry next month.

The statement also announced that Stern's administration would seek trusteeship of an Oakland local that has resisted the union's efforts to shift 65,000 of its 150,000 workers to the chapter that Freeman headed. The Los Angeles local was placed in trusteeship last week and all of its officers were removed.

In the statement, Stern's office accused the Oakland local of improperly setting up a nonprofit and a legal defense fund with members' dues, misappropriating an internal database and retaliating against workers who criticized its leadership. The statement said that the union found significant evidence that the Oakland chapter's leadership "engaged in a pattern of financial malpractice and fraud."

Ringuette said she knows of no allegations that officers of the Oakland local or their relatives personally profited from any of the purported actions. The Times reported some of Stern's charges against the local in June.

The president of the Oakland organization, Sal Rosselli, denied the allegations Monday. He said the trusteeship move was an attempt to deflect attention from the spending inquiry in Los Angeles and now Michigan, and to punish him for fighting the 2-year-old proposal to transfer his members to Freeman's local.

"It's an act of desperation by Stern," Rosselli said. "They're just recycling stuff he's already talked about."

Ringuette said that wasn't true. "We're talking about members' dues money," she said. "We take these matters very seriously."

Under a trusteeship, the union's national office would take control of the Oakland local's finances and administration, as it has at the Los Angeles union.

Jackson, whose Michigan local has 55,000 members, said in his e-mail that he had been based there since 2005. But the Los Angeles local paid his $133,000 annual salary through last year, when he also received about $45,000 in unspecified disbursements from the union here, Labor Department records show.

Ringuette said she did not know why Jackson had remained on the Los Angeles payroll.

The housing corporation associated with Jackson's address was founded in 2004 as a nonprofit but was not granted an Internal Revenue Service tax exemption and had been suspended at one time from doing business in California for failing to file tax returns, according to records and interviews.

After The Times raised questions about the housing corporation, representatives for the firm said its right to do business had been restored and they were pursuing its tax exemption.

The corporation also had claimed on its website to have a "strong relationship" with the prominent California Community Foundation, which told The Times it had no such relationship. The statement subsequently was removed.

On Monday, a couple of dozen members of the Los Angeles local staged a demonstration at the union's regional headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard. They called for an independent investigation of the Los Angeles union.

"Tyrone Freeman has taken our dues and done unjustifiable things with them," one of the protesters, Karen Linzy, said afterward. "We want that money put back."

U.S. Labor Department officials have said they are aware of the reports on the local's spending, but declined to say whether they have opened an investigation.

The department is examining allegations that the local made it nearly impossible for challengers to run against Freeman and his slate of officers in a union election earlier this year, according to people close to the investigation. The charges focus in part on whether challengers were given enough time to gather signatures to qualify for the ballot.


Barack & ACORN friends make off-key music

More ACORN stories: hereMore 'Citizens Services' stories: here
More Wade Rathke stories: hereMore Drummond Pike stories: here

Friends of BHO: Leftists Drummond Pike, Wade Rathke

The never-ending audacity of Sen. Barack Obama is a continuing reminder that a man is known by the company he keeps.

The latest matter involves Mr. Obama's presidential campaign paying more than $800,000 to an offshoot of the scandal-ridden, leftist Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) for services the campaign now says it mistakenly misrepresented in federal reports.

The ACORN subsidiary, Citizens Services Inc., did "get-out-the-vote" work instead of the polling, advance work and major event staging the Obama campaign had first stated in its Federal Election Commission finance report during the primary.

This is the same ACORN tainted by indictments alleging voter fraud in various parts of the United States. Given Obama's long, deep ties with the radical reverends, unapologetic bomb-throwers and unscrupulous ward-heelers in his home base of Chicago, he might not have seen anything wrong with being in bed with ACORN.

The public would be wise to heed the words of Jim Terry, spokesman for the libertarian-leaning Consumers Rights League in Washington, D.C. It looks as if ACORN is continuing to use its "convoluted Enron-style accounting" for Obama's political gain, Mr. Terry says.

The ACORN discrepancy is another reminder that Obama seems to be most comfortable with left-wing nuts.


SEIU members protest v. bigs Stern, Burger

Related Tyrone Freeman stories: here
More Andy Stern stories: hereMore Anna Burger stories: here

Caregivers' dues misused by corrupt officials

More than 100 nursing home workers and homecare workers who are members of SEIU Local 6434 gathered today at the Oakland and Los Angeles offices of their parent union, SEIU. They demanded an independent investigation into corruption by Local 6434 President Tyrone Freeman, as well as any role national SEIU officials may have had; the right to choose their own leaders instead of having them appointed by SEIU officials in Washington, D.C.; and a stop to SEIU's forced restructuring of local unions until member control is restored.

Freeman was appointed to run Local 6434 by SEIU President Andy Stern and Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, and supported with staff and money from Washington, DC. A Los Angeles Times investigation recently revealed he spent union members' dues on an exclusive cigar club, a golf tournament, and payouts to his family and friends.
"We are outraged at the abuse of our trust and misuse of our union dues by Andy Stern and Anna Burger's appointee," said Karen Linzy, a homecare worker who lives in Inglewood. "Our leaders should be accountable to healthcare workers in California, not to union officials in Washington, D.C."

Members of the local have been denied the right to choose their leadership since Stern and Burger installed Freeman in 1998 as president of Local 434B. In 2006, SEIU restructured local unions in California, putting Freeman in charge of the largest local union in the state. The U.S. Department of Labor has launched an investigation into rigged election rules that made it impossible for members to run for union office unless they were chosen by Freeman.

Prior to the Times investigation, Stern and Burger had been moving forward with another restructuring plan to move 75,000 more members into Freeman's local without a fair vote.

Weeks after the misuse of funds at Local 6434 was revealed, Stern and Burger replaced Freeman with John Ronches, an assistant to Burger from Washington, D.C. who has no experience with long-term care workers. SEIU has insisted they will investigate the matter themselves using internal union procedures.

"For a union to be the voice of its members, members must have a voice in our union," Linzy said. "There should be no more forced reorganization of our local unions until an independent investigation is complete and control of Local 6434 is returned to its members. Appointing yet another Washington insider accountable only to Stern and Burger is more of the same."


Barack OKs federal bailout for organized labor

More EFCA stories: here

Can't win? Change the rules.

Unions and Congressional Democrats believe a Barack Obama presidency could mean that after years of futility, the political stars might finally align to pass controversial labor organizing legislation.

The legislation, known as the Employee Free Choice Act, or card check act, requires employers to recognize a union if the National Labor Relations Board finds a majority of employees have signed cards designating the union as their bargaining representative. It also mandates arbitration if contract negotiations stall and imposes penalties on employers that illegally coerce workers not to join unions.

Under the current law, employers, not workers, decide whether to accept signed cards that allow employees to form unions.

Since the 1970s, pro-labor Democrats have sought to pass the legislation but have faced opposition from either Congressional Republicans or a GOP administration. The measure cleared the House this year but has stalled in the Senate, where Democrats lacked the votes to overcome a GOP filibuster.

“The best way to see that employees receive their fair share of America’s prosperity is to give them a stronger voice in the workplace,” Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said during floor debate earlier this year. “Year after year, Congress has refused to act against these union-busting tactics that are now all too familiar in the workplace. It’s time to listen to the voice of America’s working men and women, and give them what they want and deserve — a fair voice in the workplace and a fair chance at the American dream.”

Obama got his start in politics organizing community groups on Chicago’s Southside and has indicated he would press the issue if elected. In the Senate, Obama has a reliably pro-labor record and has backed Democratic efforts to pass the union card check legislation.

“Workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers,” Obama’s campaign position paper states. “Although an estimated 60 million Americans would join a union if given the opportunity, companies too often deny workers the opportunity to organize and improve their lives.”

The Democratic Party platform also states, “We will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions and fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.” About 12 percent of the workforce belongs to labor unions.

Chris Chafe, executive director of the union coalition Change to Win, said the measure is needed because employers routinely intimidate employees who are trying to unionize, including retaliating against those who are leading that effort. Chafe called it “un-American” to pressure employees and said NLRB takes too long to act on complaints of anti-union treatment.

This legislation is the “most important and immediate” priority for labor, said Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO’s legislative director. Without such protections, employees lose their rights to collective bargaining, leading to job loss and loss of wages and benefits, he added.

Business groups say one of their top goals next year is to to defeat the legislation.

This bill is “one of the most important pieces of legislation we see,” said Keith Smith, director of employment and labor policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, which opposes the bill. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokesman added that this bill and other labor issues make this “one of the most important elections for the business community.”

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) opposes card check as an unnecessary burden on small businesses. The legislation would eliminate the secret ballots that workers need to avoid intimidation, his campaign’s position papers states. McCain consistently voted against the legislation when it came up in the Senate.

Heath Weems, NAM’s director of education and workforce policy, said the legislation undercuts workers by taking away the privacy related to a secret ballot and opens workers up to more pressure and intimidation. Industry groups also maintain that while union leadership supports card check, the members do not.

Union groups counter that the legislation does not get rid of the secret ballot, Chafe said. Instead, the bill removes the requirement that there be an agreement between the union and the employer before certifying that a majority of employees want to unionize.

Beyond getting Obama into the White House, labor officials are also focused on Democrats gaining seats in the Senate so they can eliminate the threat of a Republican filibuster on labor bills.

Chafe said this could be a “watershed election” that puts Democrats in a position to move the labor agenda forward. Unions would push other labor bills if Obama is elected, including several anti-discrimination bills, paid leave legislation and more stringent Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, particularly involving ergonomics.

“We don’t need tweaks around the edges,” Chafe said of labor’s broad legislative agenda.

A Senate GOP aide said that if Democrats are able to capture 60 Senate seats, or close to that, “big labor will just run the table” on all of its priorities.

Unions want a “total overhaul” of the labor law system, and passage of card check will only embolden them, NAM’s Smith said.


EFCA doesn't pass straight-face test

More EFCA stories: here

Bad labor law is a path to economic ruin

I recently said that America "would become France" if a certain bill now in Congress -- which would virtually guarantee that every company becomes unionized -- ever became law. Deceptively named the Employee Free Choice Act, this bill would in most cases take away an employee's right to a secret ballot in a union election and give unions the option to have federal arbitrators set the wages, benefits, hours and all other terms and conditions of employment.

Countries other than France have suffered the consequences of bad labor laws. When I was CEO of Handy Dan, the precursor to Home Depot, I traveled to England in the 1970s to take a look at a chain of stores we were considering for acquisition. When I arrived in London, the airport workers, bus drivers and garbage collectors were all on strike. The major shareholder of the company asked me to interview three employees. He informed me afterward that he wanted me to hire them at Handy Dan "because the U.K. was finished." He explained that his tax rate was 75% and there were no incentives to grow.

When I asked what he and his company were doing about it, he told me that the media would attack the company if it got involved politically. I jumped all over him and the company's CEO for letting this happen without a fight. Needless to say, Handy Dan did not buy these stores. Fortunately for Britain and thanks to the courage of Margaret Thatcher, both tax rates and the power of labor unions were reduced in later years.

My advice today about the Employee Free Choice Act is the same as I gave in England: You better fight to stop this undemocratic bill. I'm not the only one who thinks the proposed law violates long-established principles of democracy. In these pages, George McGovern, a former Democratic senator and a champion of organized labor, called this bill what it really is -- "a disturbing and undemocratic overreach not in the interest of either management or labor."

To my astonishment, most CEOs in America are unaware of this planned hostile takeover of their human resources. I am retired, so this is not business for me. It's strictly personal. I care deeply about the competitiveness of American companies and our system of free enterprise.

I know that labor-union contributions are the lifeblood of many in the House and Senate. But I just cannot understand how so many in Congress are willing to sell out America for political dollars. When the bill came up for a key vote in 2007, all Senate Democrats voted yes and only two Democrats in the House had the courage to vote no. While the bill passed the House, it failed in the Senate because the Democrats were unable to get the required 60 votes to stop a Republican filibuster.

If the Democrats have a good November, the measure could become law early next year. Bill co-sponsor Barack Obama has said: "We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. We may have to wait for the next president to sign it, but we will get this thing done."

Those who support the bill claim that it will "protect workers." This doesn't pass the straight-face test. Mr. McGovern saw through the false rhetoric of the bill's sponsors, saying that the measure "runs counter to ideals that were once at the core of the labor movement. Instead of providing a voice for the unheard, [it] risks silencing those who would speak."

It's time to stand up and fight. America's competitiveness, jobs and right to a secret ballot are at stake. CEOs, employees who want to keep their jobs in America -- and those retirees like me who would not be where we are today but for our system of free enterprise -- must stop this anti-democratic legislation.

- Bernie Marcus is the founder and first CEO of Home Depot.


Unions fight to keep Colorado a labor-state

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Worker-choice would crimp union dues cash flow

A clash between Colorado labor and business is headed for the ballot box, leaving the fate of both camps in the hands of voters who already have plenty of decisions to make at the polls.

Up for grabs on Election Day are as many as 19 statewide amendments, several of which have unions and business leaders in fits because of their potential to dramatically change the playing field for either side.

"All of this will cause a disruption in the Colorado economy that we would feel for the next five years," said Tom Clark, head of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce's economic development arm. "That's how long it would take for the voting public to realize the damage and support a campaign to overturn all these amendments."

A slice of the business community that does not include Clark's group wants to push through a so-called "right-to-work" amendment that would ban mandatory union dues for workers who don't want to contribute to the cost of collective bargaining and other activities.

Union participation in Colorado has hovered below the national average - 8.7 percent of workers statewide are represented by a collective contract. But recent organizing successes and a favorable political climate have energized the labor movement and prompted a backlash among conservatives.

"We're not anti-union, we're anti-forced union," said Kelley Harp, a spokesman for A Better Colorado, the group pushing the "right-to-work" amendment on behalf of executives such as brewery descendant Jonathan Coors.

But former National Labor Relations Board general counsel Leonard Page called it "ideological hypocrisy" for businesses to want the government to meddle with union contracts negotiated between employers and employees.

"If 90 percent of the population isn't in a union, why are they weighing in on this anyway?" asked Page, who worked as a longtime attorney for the United Auto Workers before serving at the NLRB during the Clinton administration.

Labor interests began fighting back earlier this year with a barrage of countermeasures that businesses say would substantially raise their costs and put organizations and their executives at risk of a large number of lawsuits.

"The initiatives put forth by the unions are simply a means of trying to blackmail the voters into not being able to have an up-or-down vote on 'right-to-work,' " said Mike Severns, president of the Mountain States Employers Council. "They would be very bad business."

Still Severns added: "My hope would be that some resolution could come about that's best for business overall."

Attempts to get both sides to agree to back off have failed so far. But the effort could be revived again after the Democratic National Convention rolls out of town and the Oct. 2 deadline for pulling initiatives off the ballot gets closer.

In the end, voters could decide to stick with the status quo rather than figure out whether they can support any or all of the proposed amendments.

"The more initiatives, the more people are going to choose to vote 'no' on everything," said Mike Kanner, who teaches decision theory at the University of Colorado. "There's going to be burnout on initiatives."

But rival factions will take few chances as they raise millions of dollars to pay for their campaigns to either push or defeat amendments. Two campaign groups - one stacked with service-sector employers and another organized by the Denver Metro Chamber - combined their efforts last week in an attempt to trounce the labor-backed proposals.

The most worrisome measure for that group and others: A United Food and Commercial Workers measure that would require Colorado employers with 20 or more workers to foot 80 percent of the bill for health care coverage.

"The health insurance initiative alone will cost an average of $9,000 per employee, and people aren't going to buy $50 hamburgers and chicken sandwiches to pay for it," said Pete Meersman, chief executive officer of the Colorado Restaurant Association.

The group, known as Coloradans for Responsible Reform, will stay neutral on a "right-to-work" amendment because part of the coalition has argued that current Colorado labor law has worked well for decades because it already requires an additional election to establish an agreement requiring all workers to pay union dues.

As many as three other labor-backed proposals take aim at businesses. The UFCW has also proposed an initiative that would allow injured employees to sue companies for damages beyond what they receive through the current workers compensation system.

A "just cause" measure, which made the ballot Friday, would require companies to give a written reason for firing full-time workers.

The group that proposed it calls itself Protect Colorado's Future. It's also campaigning for an initiative that would make executives criminally liable for knowing about fraudulent activity at their companies but failing to report it.

Taken together, many of the proposals would have the effect of providing all workers in the state some of the same protections and benefits unions negotiate on behalf of their members.

"Health insurance . . . and lessening the absolute power of employers over workers - that's what unions try to bargain for people," said Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that gets most of its funding from large foundations and a smaller amount from corporations and unions.

But Eisenbrey said all those measures still wouldn't offset the impact of a "right-to-work" amendment, which would hit unions financially because some workers would be willing to take the benefits without paying for them.

"It's purpose is to weaken unions, and it's totally hostile to labor because it makes it harder for unions to represent people," Eisenbrey said.

"Unions lift everyone's wages, and an attempt to weaken them should be resisted for that reason alone."

Ed Knox, president of the Denver-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 68 said: "Unions are always involved in the rising of the tide and fighting for wages and benefits for all. If they have fewer people paying and are less successful in doing that, all workers suffer."

But Jay Hesterman, a unionized employee at Qwest, said he supports the measure because he dislikes paying union dues to the Communications Workers of America.

Hesterman has arranged in the past to take advantage of his right to "opt out" of paying the portion of fees that goes to political activities, but he stopped doing it because he disagrees with the language of the letter he had to sign each year.

He acknowledged that he reaps benefits from being covered by a union contract but wonders whether he would get more if he could negotiate his own terms.

"I know that I outperform most of my fellow workers," said Hesterman, who works as an outside technician for the telecommunications giant.

Pros, cons of 5 measures

Prohibition on Mandatory Labor Union Dues

Known as the "right-to- work" amendment, this proposed constitutional change would do away with the current practice of allowing workers to vote on whether they want an "all-union" agreement that requires employees to pay dues to cover the cost of being represented by a union that negotiates wages and other benefits.

* Proponents argue: Gives employees a choice of whether to financially support union activities. States with similar laws are viewed as more business friendly and could help Colorado attract new jobs and investment.

* Opponents argue: Employees could avoid paying union dues and still be covered by collective bargaining for pay, health care and safety. Weakens unions' ability to represent workers if their financial resources shrink.

Employer Responsibility for Health Insurance

Would require every private employer with 20 or more employees to provide health insurance, limiting the amount employees would pay to 20 percent or 30 percent for dependent coverage. Nonprofits would not be required to do so unless they have 1,000 or more employees. Employers could opt to pay for insurance through a new state authority.

* Proponents argue: Business would benefit from high productivity and fewer days lost to illness. A majority of companies offer health coverage but those who don't have an unfair competitive advantage and create a financial burden for others. The uninsured raise the cost of care for everyone.

* Opponents argue: Makes it more expensive to do business in Colorado, which could discourage employees from moving here and result in costs being passed on to consumers. Businesses could decrease pay and other benefits to compensate for high health costs. The measure doesn't address the rising costs of health insurance and the lack of affordability for some employers and employees.

Just Cause for Employee Discharge

Would ban firing full-time employees without a specific reason and allow workers to sue if they believe they've been improperly dismissed.

* Proponents argue: Workers could still be fired for incompetence or failing to do their jobs, or if companies face economic pressures. Could attract more job seekers to Colorado or boost consumer confidence for those who feel they have job security.

* Opponents argue: Puts businesses at competitive disadvantage with other states because it prevents them from eliminating unneeded workers or automating operations. Could discourage hiring full-time workers and encourage hiring independent contractors. Laws already protect employees from firings resulting from discrimination.

Criminal Accountability for Business Executives

Known as the "corporate fraud" initiative, it would make an executive criminally liable for fraudulent activity they know about but fail to report within their businesses.

* Proponents argue: Fills a gap that allows top executives to avoid responsibility for their companies' failure to follow state law. Provides a defense from prosecution for business executives who report wrongdoing before charges have been filed.

* Opponents argue: Companies could reconsider locating in Colorado. Could drive insurance costs up and hurt recruitment of CEOs and others such as nonprofit board members. Business executives could escape prosecution by reporting fraud.

Additional Remedies for Injured Employees

Would require every employer with 10 or more employees to provide a safe workplace and allow injured employees to seek additional damages in court beyond workers compensation benefits.

* Proponents argue: Current system limits choice of doctors, treatments and may provide wages far below usual earnings. Encourages employers to increase focus on workplace safety.

* Opponents argue: Unnecessary as current approach balances needs of employers and employees, and employers already have incentives to provide safe work environments to comply with regulations, lower insurance premiums and increase employee productivity.


Michelle Malkin's ACORN Watch, pt II

More ACORN stories: here
More 'Citizens Services' stories: here

Obama hid $800,000 payment to ACORN through 'Citizen Services, Inc.'

There’s much more to the story of Obama’s amended campaign finance reports than what Obama and the Obamedia will tell you. I will fill you in on what’s missing in a moment. What we have here, essentially, is Obama using a non-profit group called Citizens Services Inc. as a front to funnel payments to ACORN for campaign advance work. Obama officials say it’s no big deal. Nothing to see here. Move along. But where there’s left-wing laundering smoke, there’s fire. CSI has been the subject of a little-noticed complaint to the FEC by a Democrat who smelled something rotten going on between CSI, ACORN, and a left-wing 527, Communities Voting Together.

But first, the headline:

Obama to amend report on $800,000 in spending

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has details:
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign paid more than $800,000 to an offshoot of the liberal Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now for services the Democrat’s campaign says it mistakenly misrepresented in federal reports.

An Obama spokesman said Federal Election Commission reports would be amended to show Citizens Services Inc. — a subsidiary of ACORN — worked in “get-out-the-vote” projects, instead of activities such as polling, advance work and staging major events as stated in FEC finance reports filed during the primary.

FEC spokeswoman Mary Brandenberger said it is not unusual for campaigns to amend reports, even regarding large sums of money.

But, said Blair Latoff, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee: “Barack Obama’s failure to accurately report his campaign’s financial records is an incredibly suspicious situation that appears to be an attempt to hide his campaign’s interaction with a left-wing organization previously convicted of voter fraud. For a candidate who claims to be practicing ‘new’ politics, his FEC reports look an awful lot like the ‘old-style’ Chicago politics of yesterday.”
The suspicions are well-placed, as I’ve been detailing ever since starting ACORN Watch.
Jim Terry, spokesman for a group that tracks ACORN, said Citizens Services Inc.’s involvement in the Obama campaign raises bigger questions.

“All of this just seems like an awful lot of money and time spent on political campaigning for an organization that purports to exist to help low-income consumers,” said Terry, chief public advocate for Consumers Rights League, a Washington, D.C., advocacy outfit with a libertarian outlook.

“ACORN has a long and sordid history of employing convoluted Enron-style accounting to illegally use taxpayer funds for their own political gain,” Terry claimed. “Now it looks like ACORN is using the same type of convoluted accounting scheme for Obama’s political gain.”
Are your alarm bells ringing yet?
The Ohio primary was March 4. According to FEC records, the Obama campaign paid Citizens Services Inc. $832,598.29, from Feb. 25 to May 17.

A Trib analysis of campaign finance reports showed Obama paid CSI for services that stood out as unusual. For example, CSI received payments of $63,000 and $75,000 for advance work. Excluding the large payments to CSI, the average amount the Obama campaign spent with other organizations was $558.82 per check on more than 1,200 entries classified as advance work.

Citizens Services Inc. is headquartered at the same address as ACORN’s national headquarters in New Orleans. Citizens Services was established in December 2004 to “assist persons and organizations who advance the interests of low- and moderate-income people,” according to paperwork filed in Louisiana. In a 2006 ACORN publication, Citizen Services Inc. is described as “ACORN’s campaign services entity.”
Separate? Bull:
Regarding CSI’s nonprofit status, Robinson said: “We are organized specifically not to make money, but we make money. There are no profits. We have a staff of 60 people around the country, and that eats up our entire profit. We’re not a for-profit corporation, but we are not a group like a United Way.”

CSI is a “separate organization entirely” from ACORN, he said.

“ACORN is a client of ours,” Robinson said. “ACORN has a lot of different partner organizations. We are a partner, but we are separate.”

Robinson is listed on several Web sites as national deputy political director for campaigns and elections at ACORN. He is also listed as political director at the nonprofit Communities Voting Together and as a consultant at Project Vote. He did not return phone calls or an e-mail request for a follow-up interview.

Money flows back and forth between ACORN, Citizens Services Inc., Project Vote and Communities Voting Together. ACORN posts job ads for Citizens Services and Project Vote. Communities Voting Together contributed $60,000 to Citizens Services Inc., for example, in November 2005, according to a posting on CampaignMoney.com. Project Vote has hired ACORN and CSI as its highest paid contractors, paying ACORN $4,649,037 in 2006 and CSI $779,016 in 2006, according to Terry of the Consumers Rights League.
And now, let’s dig deeper.

FEC reports show that from February-May 2008, Obama paid $832,598.29 to CSI.

The payments were for:

$310,441.20 25-FEB-08 STAGING, SOUND, LIGHTING
$160,689.40 27-FEB-08 STAGING, SOUND, LIGHTING
$98,451.20 29-FEB-08 TRAVEL/LODGING
$18,417.00 28-MAR-08 POLLING
$63,000.00 29-APR-08 ADVANCE WORK
$105.84 02-MAY-08 LICENSE FEES
$105.84 02-MAY-08 LICENSE FEES
$75,000.00 17-MAY-08 ADVANCE WORK
$13,176.20 17-MAY-08 PER DIEM

Interesting services and payments for a nonprofit that supposedly does simple canvassing work on behalf of low-income people. And now, the Obama campaign is going to wave its magic wand and change those services to get-out-the-vote work? What the…?

For your information: The New Orleans building that houses CSI also houses multiple chapters of ACORN and the SEIU– as well as the 527 group Communities Voting Together.

And for your information: A tipster points to shady business by CSI -detected by Maryland Democrat Al Wynn, of all people. His team, which filed an FEC complaint over the matter, linked several suspicious outfits used by his primary opponent to one address: 1024 Elysian Fields in New Orleans. That’s the address of CSI and ACORN.

In a letter to the FEC, Lori Sherwood, the congressman’s campaign manager, wrote, “Based on my examination of various records and documents I believe the Donna Edwards for Congress Committee has received substantial assistance by way of unreported, in-kind contributions from organizations who profess to have operated independently of the Edwards Campaign.”

In a lengthy complaint, Sherwood claimed that as executive director of the social justice organization the Arca Foundation, Edwards was “responsible for administering and overseeing grants that are awarded and distributed” by the group – grants that go to some of her campaign’s biggest supporters.

“By way of example and not limitation, the Arca Foundation contributed $100,000.00 in grants to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) from 2004-2006,” Sherwood said.

“That after having been intimately involved in the award of an Arca grant to the LCV, Donna Edwards was appointed to the Board of Directors of the League of Conservation Voters,” she continued. “After receipt of grant money from Ms. Edward’s group and her appointment to the LCV Board, LCV endorsed Donna Edwards for Congress in 2006 and 2008.”

Sherwood goes on to allege that the “LCV and its principals contributed over $15,000.00 to the Edwards campaign through its board members, employees, and the LCV PAC.”

Tip of the iceberg:

Sherwood said the 527 group Communities Voting Together(CTV), which is located at 1024 Elysian Fields in New Orleans, was also the address for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 100, and theaddress of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN),along with the Elysian Fields Corporation.

“Wade Rathke, President of Elysian Fields Corporation is also the chief organizer for SEIU Local 100, founder of ACORN, and a member of the Board of Directors of Tides Center and Tides Foundation,” Sherwood said while alleging that Tides, a social justice network, “received $245,000 ingrant money” from the Arca Foundation from 2002-2006.

She continued, saying, “Donna Pharr is the Custodian of Record for Communities Voting Together, the Assistant Treasurer for ACORN, andDeputy Treasurer for the American Institute for Social Justice and Voting forAmerica, Inc. Both of these organizations received a combined total of $230,000 in grants from Arca between 2003 and 2006.”

Sherwood also said members of the CTV “printed and distributed thousands of handouts attacking Congressman Wynn,” while they also attempted “to hire canvassers to assist the Edwards campaign.”

She continued, saying, “Donna Pharr is the Custodian of Record for Communities Voting Together, the Assistant Treasurer for ACORN, and Deputy Treasurer for the American Institute for Social Justice and Voting for America, Inc. Both of these organizations received a combined total of $230,000 in grants from Arca between 2003 and 2006.”

Sherwood also said members of the CTV “printed and distributed thousands of handouts attacking Congressman Wynn,” while they also attempted “to hire canvassers to assist the Edwards campaign.”

In addition, Sherwood said she also learned of a relationship between the Edwards [campaign] and another not for profit, Citizens Services, Inc., a Louisiana corporation also claiming the address 1024 Elysian Fields in New Orleans.

“I learned that Citizens Services, Inc. qualified to do business in Maryland as a foreign corporation and gave a registered agent address of 11 East Chase St., in Baltimore,” Sherwood said.

“In checking to verify the address, I learned that there is no record of Citizen Services, Inc. actually having an office in Baltimore,” she added. “According to recent records from the Maryland State Department of Taxation and Assessments Citizens Services, Inc.’s ability to do business in Maryland was forfeited less than 2 months after the 2006 primary.”

Sherwood alleged that the Edwards campaign paid Citizens Services a total of $76,866.80 in three separate payments in a door to door get out the vote effort.

There is at least one other example of suspiciously large payments to Citizens Services, Inc. that call into question what kind of work this non-partisan, non-profit is doing.

See here, where liberal group Ohio Citizen Action notes a $907,808 payment to Citizens Services for canvassing and $590,526.10 for “campaign consulting.” That’s some gold-plated get-out-the-vote and consulting services right there.

The scheme has all the appearances of another left-wing slush fund for Democrat satellites exploiting their non-profit status and skirting campaign finance laws.

The more things Change…


Stanley Kurtz has much more on Senator Stealth’s ACORN ties.

- Michelle Malkin


Bus drivers cross picket lines

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Strike captains unable to shut down employer

Bus drivers for the Portage Area (OH) Regional Transit Authority went on strike Monday morning after negotiations failed Sunday afternoon. Despite the strike, PARTA says all buses are running with no problems.

Spokesman Frank Hairston says about 15 drivers crossed the picket lines and the rest of the buses involved are being operated by other staffers. The Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 37 represents 55 to 65 drivers.

Hairston says no new talks are scheduled and the union has refused to any new discussions. He says the only sticking point is ‘fair share’ – the union wants all in the bargaining unit including non-union members to be required to pay union dues which are 2% of their pay.

PARTA serves 7,700 riders daily, of which about 5,700 are Kent State students, faculty and staff.


Socialist Party USA backs off Barack

But Communist Party USA sticks with union-backed candidate

Almost immediately upon release of the above titled column, I was contacted by leadership members of the Socialist Party USA, Matt Erard – National Ballot Access Director, SP 2008 Presidential Campaign and David Schaich - Socialist Party Campaign Clearinghouse Coordinator, concerning this statement in my column…

“The Communist Party USA, Socialist Party USA and Democratic Socialists of America support Obama’s campaign.”

Both Mr. Erard and Mr. Schaich denied that there was any connection between their party and the Obama campaign. In the interest of truth, I contacted David Schaich and requested the official position of the Socialist Party USA regarding the Obama campaign.

While the Communist Party USA and Democratic Socialists of America have officially “endorsed” and support the Obama campaign, it appears that the Socialist Party USA has instead endorsed their own candidates, Brian Moore of Florida for president and Stewart Alexander of California for vice-president.

In response to my request for specific party positions, Mr. Schaich wrote;
“I have not heard of a single Socialist Party member who supports the Obama campaign, and such support would be in violation of the Socialist Party Constitution, which states (Article VI, Section 2) that Socialist Party members may support candidates of other political parties only in
the absence of a Socialist Party candidate. Since the Socialist Party has a Presidential ticket, any members who support other presidential campaigns are doing so without our sanction and in violation of our constitution.

The Socialist Party is completely independent of the Democratic Party, and does not support it or its candidates, including Barack Obama.

Complete independence from the Democratic Party is a central element of the Socialist Party’s identity and principles (socialistparty-usa.org/principles.html). You may be aware that
in the 1960s and 1970s, a significant portion of the Socialist Party advocated operating within the Democratic Party. In 1972-1973, those groups formed two separate organizations to pursue that program –

Social Democrats USA, which is now defunct, and Democratic Socialists of America, which operates to some extent as a socialist caucus within the Democratic Party. Those who remained in the Socialist Party were opposed to that strategy, and dedicated to restoring the Socialist Party to full independence from the Democratic Party.”

Since it is clear that socialists and communists indeed support the Obama campaign and more importantly, the ideas represented by that campaign, I remain firmly committed to the intent of my statement above.

However, on the basis of the information provided by David Schaich - Socialist Party Campaign Clearinghouse Coordinator, I am retracting the statement which might be interpreted to mean that the Socialist Party USA “endorses” or officially “supports” the Obama campaign.

It was never my intent to mis-state the facts. Even though it is a fact that socialists and communists support Obama for president because he represents much of their agenda, I am willing to accept “as fact” the statement from Mr. Schaich which clearly indicates that his party neither “endorses” nor in any way “supports” the Obama campaign.

It is not possible to know how many members of the Socialist Party USA might in the end, support the Obama campaign. A simple comparison of the platform positions of socialists, communists, today’s DNC and the Obama campaign, will demonstrate beyond any doubt that these groups indeed pursue the same agenda, even when not directly working together.

However, Mr. Schaich made another private point which is quite valid…

“As I’m sure you are aware, a number of individual Republicans support Obama—republicansforobama.org, gop.barackobama.com—but it would be ridiculous to say that the Republican Party supports the Obama campaign.”

Please post this update and retraction along with the original column.

Thank You!



Unionists occupy labor-state government

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

New Jersey envied by other labor-states' political operatives

The Eagleton Institute of Politics hosted the 12th Annual Labor Candidates School of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO earlier this month. Twenty-two rank-and-file union members running for local office participated in interactive exercises and heard from leading experts on fundraising, election law, research, message development, public speaking, media relations, voter contact, volunteer recruitment, targeting and get-out-the-vote efforts.

The Labor Candidates School is the cornerstone of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s successful COPE program. After the New Jersey State AFL-CIO Labor Candidates program began in 1997, union members won 499 elections to public office. This year’s graduates will include the 500th union member elected to public office through the labor candidates program.

Says New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech:
The 499 rank-and-file union members elected to public office since 1997 through the New Jersey State AFL-CIO Labor Candidates Program make improvements in the lives of working families every day, by ensuring that municipal properties are built and maintained by union labor through Project Labor Agreements and passing into law key legislation like Paid Family Leave and a first-in-the-nation check-check neutrality guarantee for public employees.
Further, says Wowkanech:
Our labor candidates program is the catalyst, which drives our progressive labor agenda here in New Jersey. We look forward to celebrating our 500th labor candidate’s election to office in New Jersey, who will have graduated from our Labor Candidates School.

EFCA predicted to cause job losses

Related story: "Union organizers offend small business expert"

Forcing disinterested workers into unions would not help the middle class

Small businesses could be adversely affected by the card-check system that would allow unions to organize more easily if the Employee Free Choice Act is passed into law, says Jim Brown, NFIB/Tennessee. "I recently asked one small-business owner with 24 employees what he would do if a union obtained the necessary 12 card-check signatures," Brown said. The business owner responded: "Shut down shortly thereafter."


Local employers opposes card-check law

More EFCA stories: here

Workers' voting rights of no interest to unions

The Greater Lafayette (LA) Chamber of Commerce today joined a national campaign launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act now pending in Congress. The local chamber says it hopes to "galvanize small business owners, workers, community leaders and citizens to preserve the rights and freedoms of Americans in the workplace."

Federal law currently requires a majority of employees working for a company to vote for union representation by casting secret ballots in a National Labor Relations Board conducted election, unless a company agrees to accept a "card check" establishing that a majority of its employees have signed union cards. The Employee Free Choice Act would allow unions that have somehow convinced a majority of employees in an appropriate unit to sign union cards requesting certification by the NLRB without the benefit of a campaign or secret ballot election. Those opposing the legislation say employers and many employees in a particular workforce could be forced into recognizing and bargaining with a union without any notice. The smaller the workforce, the easier it would be for a union to get a majority signed up.

"Regardless of what organized labor and those politicians who support the EFCA say, this legislation would be a drastic move away from a system that has been accepted as a fair and democratic process for decadces," says Lafayette attorney Greg Guidry, a labor law specialist who serves as vice chairman of the Lafayette chamber's public policy division. "This legislation is not going away," Guidry continues. "Businesses should do their best to garner opposition; otherwise, the EFCA will get enacted, and our largely non-union, flexible business culture in America and Louisiana could change."


Unions put dues-flow ahead of voting rights

More EFCA stories: here

Can't win? Change the rules.

For over 100 years, the United States has celebrated Labor Day as a national holiday meant to honor the social and economic achievements of American workers. American workers have strengthened our country through their dedication and ingenuity, and it is important that Congress continue to allow workers the freedom to innovate and build the nation’s economy. One way is by ensuring that workers have a fair system for determining whether to join a labor union.

As columnist Thomas Sowell recently wrote in the Washington Times, “The problem for labor unions is that private-sector workers increasingly vote against being represented by unions,” which is why, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over a tenth of private-sector workers are members of labor unions today.

A quarter century ago, 20 percent of workers belonged to a union. Declining union membership is obviously a concern to union officials and organizers; but rather than evolve to meet the changing needs of today’s workers, union officials are looking to return to their glory days by changing the way workers decide whether to accept union representation.

Currently, workers decide to unionize by secret ballot, a practice that allows them to register their opinions anonymously, without fear of intimidation and reprisals (through firings and even physical threats) if their opinions aren’t in agreement with the union or their employer. But, labor unions and some members of Congress want to end the secret-ballot process and replace it with a practice known as “card check.”

Under current law, if more than 50 percent of workers indicate that they want to unionize, their employer can decide to recognize the union, or request a secret-ballot vote under the supervision of the National Labor Relations Board. Under “card check,” union organizers convince workers to sign cards indicating they wish to join a union, but there is no validation through the secret-ballot part of the process. This, of course, denies workers to freely and anonymously use the democratic process to determine unionization.

Supporters of card check have cloaked their proposal in a name that conveys the very opposite intention – the Employee Free Choice Act. By robbing workers of the right to vote by secret ballot, however, the legislation would have the opposite effect: it would eliminate free choice of workers on whether to unionize. And there are plenty of documented cases of union representatives bullying, pressuring and even threatening workers to sign the cards.

Card-check legislation runs counter to the best of our country’s traditions. Throughout its history, Americans have fought to protect and expand voting rights. The Constitution has been amended to give more citizens the opportunity to vote. Congress has passed laws to strengthen the voting rights of Americans. Labor unions, however, don’t want to play by the same rules as everyone else and don’t want workers to use private ballots to choose whether or not to join a union.

Last year, the House of Representatives passed card-check legislation, but the Senate did not. Congressional supporters will undoubtedly raise the issue again in the future as Congress welcomes new members. That’s something to keep in mind as you go to the polls this November to cast your secret ballot. How do the candidates stand on this important issue?

- U.S. Senator Jon Kyl is the Assistant Republican Leader and serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees.


Union big to run supervisor's office after all

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Government union exerts labor-state political control

Rumors flew rampant during San Bernadino (CA) County supervisor-elect Neil Derry's campaign that he would hire former sheriff's deputies union leader Jim Erwin as his chief of staff. Derry denied it, saying he hadn't made up his mind. Those remarks now appear coy and disingenuous.

Today, county supervisors will vote on whether to appoint Erwin as Derry's "transition manager/chief of staff." Odds are he'll get the nod. Supervisors typically endorse each other's staff choices, out of respect for peers' autonomy.

Derry admitted Monday that he discussed the chief-of-staff position with Erwin during the campaign.

But he said he didn't officially offer him the job until about two weeks after the election. (He didn't have a job to offer officially until he won the election.)

Derry got generous support from Erwin's former union, the San Bernardino County Safety Employees' Benefit Association. It spent close to $400,000 helping him get elected.

But both Derry and Erwin deny the union's financial support was a quid pro quo to get Erwin the job.

Erwin said he didn't influence the union's support for Derry.

Union President Bill Abernathie said the union was looking for a candidate who could unseat Dennis Hansberger, with whom it hadn't seen with eye-to-eye for years.

As a San Bernardino councilman, Derry was seen as a "known commodity" with a "strong public safety image," Abernathie said. Derry didn't make specific promises, but Abernathie expects Erwin's post as chief of staff will mean an "open-door policy," he said.

Derry said he chose Erwin because he needed someone familiar with the county's "inside politics," who could "run interference" for him and free him to work on policy matters.

But Erwin comes with a lot of baggage in county government, both negative and positive.

His love interest, Elizabeth Sanchez, lost her job as the county's labor negotiator when their romance became public shortly after the union got a new contract. An investigation found the relationship didn't influence negotiations (ha!).

In addition, as union president in the late 1990s, Erwin steered $2.3 million in investments into a volatile bank stock that lost much of its value by 2002, leading the union to suspend his control of its finances.

The investment loss became controversial when Treasurer Dick Larsen tried to hire Erwin as county investment officer in 2005. Larsen quickly withdrew the appointment.

More recently, Erwin assumed kind of a hero's role.

He became a whistle-blower as assistant assessor, telling DA investigators that a public relations consultant hired by Assessor Bill Postmus was openly conducting political business in county offices.

(Also on also today's agenda is a proposal to hire Wanda Nowicki as Derry's administrative analyst. An executive secretary in Postmus' office, she also played a whistle-blower role, telling investigators that Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman ordered her to alter documents subpoenaed by the grand jury. Aleman resigned after being charged with six felonies.)

Board Chairman Paul Biane placed the appointments on the agenda, an irony since it was he who tried to remove Hansberger's chief of staff, Jim Foster, in 2004. Biane didn't return a call seeking comment.


Unionist pleads not guilty to embezzlement rap

Did Dept. of Labor investigators get it wrong?

A Highland Park woman who worked for the International Longshoremen & Warehouse Union Local 26 as a bookkeeper pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of embezzling union funds. Rosa Della Porta, 44, was arrested by federal agents on August 12; her trial is tentatively set for October 7. As office manager and bookkeeper of ILWU Local 26, Della Porta's responsibilities included receiving union dues and making bank deposits.

Della Porta received cash from various union sources, deposited less cash than the union received, then kept the balance, said U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Thom Mrozek. Investigators believe Della Porta embezzled about $108,000 in cash from ILWU Local 26 from January 2003 through June 2006.

If convicted, she faces up to five years in federal prison.


AFL-CIO unit for Barack

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