President Obama's radical union-backed nominee to the National Labor Relations Board lied to a Senate confirmation panel earlier this week about his ties to the embattled leftist advocacy group ACORN.
The nominee is Craig Becker, who, at least until recently, was longtime associate general counsel to SEIU. Becker is considered radical in part because he believes that "employers should have no role in the unionization process," according to Brian Johnson, executive director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom.
During a hearing Tuesday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked Becker this question: "Do you perform work for and provide advice to ACORN or ACORN-affiliated groups while employed by your current employers or on a volunteer basis?"
Becker responded, "Senator McCain, I have never done so."
But that answer -- that Becker "never" provided advice "to ACORN or ACORN-affiliated groups" -- is demonstrably false. Evidence abounds that he gave advice to SEIU Local 880, which, as I will show below, was part and parcel of ACORN before it merged with another SEIU bargaining unit.
As the Wall Street Journal noted, Becker acknowledged previously that he had "worked with and provided advice" to Local 880.
And in a blog post last April, ACORN founder Wade Rathke couldn't help bragging about Becker's NLRB nomination, calling it "a big win no matter how you shake and bake it."
Rathke, who is also founder and chief organizer of SEIU Local 100 in New Orleans, reminisced about the good old days. "I can still remember Keith Kelleher negotiating the subsidy for SEIU Local 880 in Chicago and always making sure that there was the money for the organizers, but that SEIU was also still willing to allow access to Craig."
Local 880 no longer exists. According to "terminal" LM-2 disclosure report (file number 515-963) filed by 880 official Keith Kelleher with the Department of Labor on April 30, the local wound up its affairs on March 31 of last year. It merged with SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana (also known as SEIU HCII).
On the form, Local 880 gave its address as 209 W. Jackson Ave., Suite 200, Chicago, Ill., which just so happens to be in the same building as the national headquarters of ACORN Housing.
Back in the day, SEIU Local 880 was such an important member of the ACORN family of affiliated groups that ACORN listed the local on the "allied organizations" page of its website. The local was included in a list with a select group of major ACORN affiliates such as ACORN Housing and President Obama's former employer, Project Vote.
Then last spring ACORN abruptly scrubbed the "allied organizations" page and removed all references to the two ACORN-controlled SEIU units, Local 880 and Rathke's Local 100.
This attempt to rewrite history did not go unnoticed. Kevin Mooney, then a reporter for the Washington Examiner, wrote about the event at the time and I posted a snapshot online of what the web page looked like before it was altered.
Ever since hidden camera videos surfaced in the fall showing ACORN employees acting badly, SEIU has been trying to publicly distance itself from ACORN.
But it is far from clear if SEIU really has severed its ties to ACORN.
An SEIU spokeswoman explained in October that even though Local 880 and Local 100 affiliated with SEIU in the mid-1980s, the union's international executive board moved in September to revoke Local 100's charter because the bargaining unit was "not financially viable" and "simply couldn't meet requirements to be a stand alone union."
The local had until Sept. 30 to appeal the disaffiliation decision but didn't do so, she said.
Yet there's no evidence of this decoupling of the local from the mother ship on SEIU's national website. The site's Louisiana page lists Local 100 as an SEIU affiliate and links to the local's website.
The Local 100 website continues to describe the local as affiliated with SEIU and to identify Rathke as the bargaining unit's chief organizer. Rathke continues to identify himself on his website as "Chief Organizer of Local 100, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)."
Confused? You're supposed to be by this game of institutional musical chairs.
This kind of deliberately created organizational confusion is standard operating procedure for ACORN.
It helps because when affiliates get into trouble, ACORN can always try the plausible deniability defense. It's always a rogue employee or a subsidiary acting without permission from the top, ACORN claims. Trying to get the goods on ACORN and affiliates turns into a game of political whack-a-mole. Titles change, people move around, money is transferred, and outsiders often give up investigating ACORN out of sheer frustration.
In a backhanded compliment to Rathke, who designed ACORN's byzantine network of affiliates tightly controlled from the top through interlocking directorates and regular intra-network financial transfers, now SEIU appears to be employing the same approach.
Who knows if we should believe Anna Burger, SEIU's international secretary-treasurer, who told a congressional hearing months ago that her union "cut all ties to ACORN" after paying the group a total of $1,835,000 in 2008 and 2009.
An SEIU spokeswoman added, "We have suspended all contracts and active work with ACORN" pending the results of a supposedly independent inquiry by longtime ACORN ally and former Massachusetts attorney general Scott Harshbarger.
The report from Harshbarger, a former president of liberal group Common Cause, exonerated current ACORN leadership and only gently scolded the organization over the undercover child prostitution video saga.
SEIU boss Andrew Stern, a radical Saul Alinsky disciple who sits on ACORN's "Independent Advisory Council," was less than forthright when asked last week if SEIU was planning to renew its relationship with ACORN.
"From what I understand ACORN is reconstituting itself differently so it would be hard to know, and many of their local affiliates are reforming themselves as independent entities separate from the national organization," said Stern.
"I think it's unclear. Will there be a national organization? What kind of national organization? What that national organization will do. So it's hard to figure out until they figure out as a result of the Harshbarger report who they're going to be."
Perhaps Stern will give Becker his old job back. It should remind him of how closely tied he's been to ACORN, in case he ever again gets a chance to give Sen. McCain an honest answer.
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