Culture of corruption postscript: The Hilda Solis files
Put on your super-shocked faces, everyone: Former Obama administration official Hilda Solis, who is now running for yet another government position in Los Angeles, is embroiled in yet another union corruptocracy scandal. The Hope and Change hits just keep on coming.
Solis served as President No More Business As Usual’s first secretary of labor. Remember waaaay back then, when “most transparent administration in history” had not yet become an automatic punchline? Well before Solis’ confirmation, it was already clear she was a poster child for left-wing sleazeball politics:
–Solis’ husband’s businesses failed to pay thousands of dollars in tax liens, which were 16 years old, until she was nominated.
–While she was in Congress, Solis served as director and treasurer of a union-promoting lobbying group, American Rights at Work, which was pushing her Big Labor “card check” legislation to eliminate the secret ballot, undermine worker choice and obliterate privacy protections.
–Solis failed to disclose those interest-conflicted positions to the House on her financial disclosure forms. In effect, she was lobbying herself — while the group she worked for raked in at least $1 million in contributions from labor unions and spent thousands of dollars on television spots described by the group in its report to the FEC as “electioneering communications.” The scheme circumvented vaunted McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms barring so-called soft money donations from unions and corporations alike. Despite apparent violations of both basic disclosure and campaign finance rules, Solis skated.
–Upon winning confirmation, Solis quickly went to work doling out plum political appointments at the Labor Department and fat pay raises to a half-dozen of her former Capitol Hill staffers. Americans for Limited Government found that “the appointees had significant pay increases averaging 50 percent upon changing jobs; one employee’s salary nearly doubled.” Cha-cha-cha-ching!
After stepping down from her Obama cabinet position last year, Solis is back in the political spotlight. With massive union backing of some $500,000, she’s running for the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Question: Why did she step down from her cushy White House post? Inquiring local reporters in Los Angeles wanted to know.
Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that her resignation coincided with an FBI inquiry into her role at an Obama reelection campaign fundraiser in 2012. When the paper asked the Solis campaign whether she had informed Obama of the FBI probe, a spokesman responded tersely: “It is inappropriate for a cabinet official to (discuss) private communications with the president.”
Oh, now we care about what’s appropriate? LOL.
It also turns out that for the entire last year she served as President Obama’s labor secretary, Solis had retained a high-priced Washington, D.C., law firm “to address legal issues” involving the fundraiser and possible violations of the federal Hatch Act — which prevents cabinet members from directly grubbing for campaign cash. Solis had incurred a debt of between $50,000 and $100,000 for the legal bills. Her campaign says it’s almost “all” paid off, but won’t specify by how much.
On Monday, the latest eruption of corruptocracy shook the Solis machine. Hews Media Group-Community News obtained a lawsuit filed in California’s Central U.S. District Court claiming that Solis “was provided thousands of dollars worth of free private jet travel without declaring the trips on the federal government required forms, paid for by the powerful International Union of Operating Engineers based in Pasadena during the same period she was undergoing confirmation hearings to become part of Obama’s cabinet.” IUOE Local 12 owns a Cessna Citation XL jet, which ferried Solis back and forth between the coasts. IUOE First Vice President William Waggoner, a defendant in the suit, reportedly bragged to fellow union officials that he was providing her transportation.
Put on your super-duper shocked faces: Solis, the serial disclosure dodger, failed to report the in-kind donation to the Federal Election Commission as required by law.
Birds of a dirty feather flock together. Solis’ pal Waggoner and his fellow IUOE brass have been accused by rank-and-file union members of systemic embezzlement, kickbacks, shakedowns, nepotism and intimidation. According to federal class-action litigation, the IUOE’s former national leader made death threats against dissenting members; officials allegedly took kickbacks from employers who shortchanged pension and training funds. The L.A. Times detailed more charges, including that “one former local official siphoned off union money for entertainment and his girlfriend’s breast enhancement; and another flew to auto races and family get-togethers on an $8.6-million jet ostensibly purchased for union business.”
Courthouse News reported on another lawsuit against IUOE officials exposing how Waggoner’s alleged “nepotism and a bad investment vehicle led to the evaporation of $50 million in IUOE pension funds.” Union members are accusing Waggoner of pressuring local branches “to invest their pension funds in Amalgamated Bank’s product line, which were sold by Waggoner’s wife, Patricia, one of the bank’s vice presidents.”
Jet-setting union crony Solis has the gall to brag about her record fighting income inequality and defending Big Labor rights. Maybe she should focus less on closing the wage gap and more on closing her truth and ethics gap.
Michelle Malkin is the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” (Regnery 2010).