Was Joe Soptic famous before he was famous?
Did a member of the Obama Administration bring Soptic to the attention of both the Obama campaign and the pro-Obama SuperPAC run by ex-Obama White House aide Bill Burton?
Which would formally tie the administration itself to the activities of the SuperPAC? A violation of federal election law?
Let's get to this by starting with Leo Gerard.
Leo Gerard. He would be a member of the Obama Administration's Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN).
What is that?
ACTPN is a formal part of the Office of the United States Trade Representative, tasked by the 1974 Trade Act with the responsibility to "provide the U.S. Trade Representative with policy advice." The U.S. Trade Representative is officially a member of the President's Cabinet, carrying the title of Ambassador. The current U.S. Trade Rep is Ambassador Ron Kirk. Kirk, a Democrat and Obama appointee, is the former Mayor of Dallas, Texas (the city's first African-American mayor) and previously was the appointed Texas Secretary of State for the late Governor Ann Richards.
The group can have as many as 45 members all appointed by the President and is supposed to be bipartisan, with representatives of both parties serving as members. (Among the GOP members is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.)
But serving on ACTPN as an Obama appointee is not Gerard's day job.
Gerard's day job would be his job as the International President of the United Steelworkers.
The self-same union from which steelworker union member Joe Soptic emerged in the now infamous Obama SuperPAC ad.
Let's follow the bread crumbs, shall we?
First, let's begin with the basics.
As all of America now knows, the Obama SuperPAC has run an ad with former steelworker Soptic essentially accusing Governor Romney of killing his wife. (Ad seen here.)
Also, as Sean Hannity has revealed, there appears to have been a close coordination between the Obama campaign and the Obama SuperPAC, a direct violation of federal election law. Obama spokesman Stephanie Cutter was caught out in a flat lie saying she "did not know the facts" surrounding the death of Joe Soptic's wife. Hannity produced an audio tape of Cutter on a conference call from back in May with Soptic and reporters in which Soptic discussed exactly that, thanking a listening and participating Cutter at the end of the call.
In short, Stephanie Cutter was caught by Hannity delivering a flat out lie to what she apparently assumed was a pliant if not friendly media. She looked the television cameras directly in the eye -- and lied.
But there is something else here.
The head of the Obama SuperPAC is one Bill Burton who is, of course, the former Obama White House Deputy Press Secretary.
On February 16, 2011, Burton, who had lost out to Jay Carney in a bid to replace Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary, announced he was leaving the White House. But on September 15, 2010, Burton was still in his job as the White House Deputy Press Secretary.
On September 15, Leo Gerard's appointment to the Trade Advisory group was announced by -- yes indeed -- the Office of the Press Secretary. Said the White House of Gerard in its release:
Leo W. Gerard, Appointee for Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
Leo W. Gerard is the International President of United Steelworkers. He is a member of the AFL-CIO's Executive Committee and chairs its Public Policy Committee. Mr. Gerard is co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance, and a board member of the Apollo Alliance, Campaign for America's Future, and Economic Policy Institute. In addition, he is a member of the executive committees of the IMF and ICEM global labor federations. In conjunction with Unite the Union, Mr. Gerard was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union.
Which is to say on September 15, 2010, the White House press office, where the deputy press secretary was one Bill Burton, was busy informing Americans of Mr. Gerard's appointment.
Let's start with a question about Joe Soptic.
Take a look at this clip from a video produced for the 2008 United Steelworkers convention that took place in Las Vegas.
While no names are mentioned, clearly one of the stars is union president Leo Gerard.
But take a closer look.
A series of issues is flashed on screen, one being "health care." Along with union members saying a buzzword here and there. At 1:20 there appears a man in a hardhat who looks remarkably like -- Joe Soptic. The now infamous union member who is everywhere accusing Mitt Romney of killing his wife. This man appears several more times in the video, specifically at 2:26, 2:44, 2:51, 3:10, 5:03, 6:37, and 6:50.
In other words, if in fact that is Joe Soptic appearing in that 2008 Steelworkers video with Leo Gerard, it is more than conceivable that Gerard knew as far back as 2008 exactly who Joe Soptic was.
So when PrioritiesUSA -- headed by ex-deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton -- was looking to smear Mitt Romney, somehow, mysteriously, Burton learns of Joe Soptic. Who seems to have appeared in a 2008 Steelworkers video with none other than -- Leo Gerard.
The same Leo Gerard who is both the president of the USW -- and a card-carrying presidential appointee of the Obama Administration to the Obama Administration's Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations.
Thus -- I turned to the United Steelworkers union and asked the question. Providing them with the YouTube link to their own video, I inquired as to whether that was in fact Joe Soptic in their 2008 video.
And what do you think was the response?
Silence. Silencio! Nobody home at the USW except the chickens.
And by the way, is there more to Leo Gerard than this?
Is there more to the story of Bain Capital and GST -- the plant at which Joe Soptic worked?
Let's compare two very interesting stories about GST.
Here's the first, a reprint from the United Steelworkers about something that mysteriously never seems to get mentioned by the media in all their worship of the Soptic attack on Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.
You see, there was a strike at GST -- in 1997. By the United Steelworkers. A strike in which Joe Soptic presumably participated. When it was settled, the USW put out the press release linked above, and it is printed here in its entirety:
KANSAS CITY, Mo., June 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Members of Local Union 13 of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) overwhelmingly approved a new 66-month contract with GST Steel Thursday (June 12), ending a strike that began on April 1. The vote was 488-81.
The agreement includes wage increases, bonuses, an increase in guaranteed pay to 40 hours a week from the current 32, worker involvement, major pension improvements, an organizing neutrality clause that prevents creation of runaway non-union subsidiaries, phase-out of a two-tier wage system, and continuation of current restrictions on the contracting out of work.
"This contract meets and in some cases exceeds our industry pattern, and serves the best interests of both our members and the company," said David Foster, Director of USWA District 11 and chief negotiator for the union.
"We are especially gratified that we have achieved the neutrality clause that guarantees card check recognition at any new facilities in which the company has a 40 percent interest," Foster added. "That will prevent the kind of duplicity that LTV Steel committed against its workers in building a non-union plant in Alabama."
GST also will guarantee, under certain conditions, card-check recognition at any plants in which it holds a 15-40 percent interest.
The agreement runs until Oct. 1, 2002. There will be a limited economic reopener on June 1, 2000, with binding arbitration if no settlement is achieved.
GST is the country's largest producer of grinding media.
SOURCE United Steelworkers of America
On May 14th of this year, as Governor Romney began to secure the GOP nomination and the Bain Capital/GST issue gained steam, our friends at National Review Online ran this item on the Romney/Bain/GST Steel issue by Katrina Trinko. Trinko's story about what we now know to be the first ad featuring Soptic -- which did not accuse Romney of killing his wife (that came later in the SuperPAC ad from Burton) was read by a one-time GST Steel worker, who wrote the following, which is posted by NRO as an update to Trinko's story:
I nearly choked on my Cheerios when I read that GST employees were blaming Bain for their downfall. I worked at GST Steel in Kansas City for four months in 1997 immediately after leaving the Navy.
Why only four months? Quickly after I started, I surprised to learn that several of my fellow USW Local 13-represented employees, mostly millwrights and electricians, we're making between $100-130k. This was mainly due union-mandated overtime which, at least on a few occasions, consisted of the employees bringing in sleeping bags and pillows and sleeping in the shop. It would be hard for any company to stay competitive while paying double-time union wages to get their beauty sleep, but that's not the half of it. The union employees obviously didn't think they had it easy enough, so they went on strike in March of '97. The plant shut down for a couple of weeks until it re-started under the operation of management and non-union workers. The strike lasted a couple more months. I had a family to support, so I couldn't afford to wait. I took another (non-union) job with another company. They shuttered the plant for good a few years later.
That's Bain's fault? Just classic.
Still later that day of May 14, Trinko had persisted, contacting the anonymous steel worker by phone. In a short post titled "Union Life at GST Steel," Trinko wrote:
I talked this afternoon with the reader who had worked at GST Steel in 1997 and e-mailed about the conditions there. This person, who wishes to remain anonymous, elaborated a little more on the working conditions at the plant, saying that thanks to the union structure, there was little incentive to be productive. For instance, while some workers were required to file a report daily regarding certain productivity issues, they waited until the end of the day (when it was too late to fix things) to file the report instead of earlier, because they saw no reason to bother doing it at the most effective time. And he said for some of the employees -- including those racking up $100,000 to $130,000 salaries -- large chunks of the day were just spent waiting for something to fix or do, with up to 80 percent of day spent not working.
And those are the hours they weren't sleeping and getting over time. During those overtime hours, when they brought sleeping bags, there was once a problem which required a couple of them to be woken up. Our reader thought the gig was up, once their sleeping had become known, but as it ended up, a supervisor was written up and that was it: The sleeping on the job continued as before.
What's more interesting still is that this NRO story was not answered by the USW, against whom the anonymous steel worker made the accusation.
No, instead, this accusation was answered -- lo and behold -- by the Obama/Biden campaign! Imagine that! The campaign for the very president who appointed USW president Leo Gerard to the Trade Advisory group felt compelled to answer a story about USW salaries at GST Steel! This would also be the campaign for the very president who had Bill Burton's office at the White House announcing Leo Gerard's appointment to his government post.
Let's go over to Fox's Greta Van Susteren on her GretaWire, also from May 14th of this year.
As always, Greta gets her facts straight and puts them out there. Bain took over GST in 1993. There was a "big labor strike" -- the one cited above -- in 1997. Says Greta:
In considering the ad, and whether Bain (and Romney) were greedy and selfish, I decided to go back and research the steel industry. Consider this: during the period of 2000-mid 2001, 17 steel firms went bankrupt (and GST was one of them.) Giant Bethlehem steel went under in 2001 and was the second largest steel producer.
The reason assigned at the time for the decline and bankruptcy of all the steel mills was cheap foreign labor and foreign countries dumping cheap steal in the US market (people bought foreign and not domestic because it was cheaper.) Steel manufacturers and unions at the time blamed US Government for a poor response to the international market issues.
So in other words, back in the day "steel manufacturers and unions" were blaming the U.S. government for "a poor response to the international market issues." The U.S. government in the 1990s, by the by, being run by Bill Clinton.
But was there another reason?
Specifically, the 10-week USW-induced strike at GST. In fact, the Kansas City Business Journal reported at the time that "GST Officials for GST Steel's parent company, GS Industries, estimate the strike cost them $22 million in lost business."
Say again, $22 million in business lost because of a steelworkers union-induced strike. $22 million that would have helped pay salaries and pensions and -- dare we say it -- health insurance for union members like Joe Soptic.
In this Reuters story here is this quote that Trinko also cites:
Charles Bradford, an analyst at Bradford Research, blames the union, in part, for the failure of GS Industries to survive in the new global marketplace.
"If you look at the steel companies that went under at the time, all of them were unionized," he said. "I'm not saying this was the only factor -- these firms faced other headwinds such as cheap labor and a strong dollar ... but the unions held them back."
Bradford's views jive almost perfectly with the view from that anonymous GST steelworker given to Trinko:
… some of the employees -- including those racking up $100,000 to $130,000 salaries -- large chunks of the day were just spent waiting for something to fix or do, with up to 80 percent of day spent not working.… And those are the hours they weren't sleeping and getting over time. During those overtime hours, when they brought sleeping bags…
In other words, while Greta Van Susteren correctly points out the problems the Clinton Administration was having with cheap foreign steel and dumping issues were part of the GST problem brought on not by Bain Capital and Mitt Romney or his successors (including an Obama bundler from Bain, Bain managing director Jonathan Lavine) -- but by the United Steelworkers union itself?
Or, simply put, did Joe Soptic's union do Joe Soptic out of a job? By taking an already precarious business and striking it, draining it of $22 million?
WHICH BRINGS US BACK to Leo Gerard, now the union president and in 1997, holding the job of the union's treasurer.
The Obama-Biden "Truth Team" (no kidding, they call themselves a "Truth Team") is indignant that NRO has come up with a GST worker who alleges union members at GST were making $100,000-$130,000.
But how well does old Leo Gerard make out these days in the class warfare department?
Why… shocker! Leo Gerard is…how does one say… a 1 percenter!
That's right. The Obama Department of Labor reports that in 2010 Leo Gerard -- he the recipient of the Democratic Socialists of America's 2007 Eugene Debs Award -- has a salary of $166, 117 plus another $27,333 in benefits and other compensation. Earning this union president -- presumably at the expense of union workers like Joe Soptic -- a tidy sum of $188, 450.
This being the same Leo Gerard identified here by our friend Aaron Klein of WABC as demanding:
"I think what we need is, we need more militancy… I think we've got to start a resistance movement. If Wall Street occupation doesn't get the message, I think we've got to start blocking bridges and doing that kind of stuff."
This being the same Leo Gerard who was once captured on film dragging concrete planters to obstruct the 1999 World Trade Organization conference in Seattle. Otherwise known as the trashing of the city during "The Battle of Seattle."
Yes -- that's right. An Obama appointee involved in activities that were filled with violence and massive physical damage to an American city. Shocking, I know.
One could go on -- and on and on.
What we have here is this:
• An Obama presidential appointee and union leader (Gerard of the US Trade Advisory) appears to have had a prior connection to the now controversial Joe Soptic (that 2008 video). The USW is not answering my questions about the Gerard-Soptic relationship or the video as of this writing.
• Obama SuperPAC honcho Bill Burton, already under fire for the Soptic video, was White House Deputy Press Secretary when the White House press office announced Gerard's appointment to ACTPN.
• Leading to the obvious question. Did Gerard lead both the Obama campaign and the Obama SuperPAC to Soptic while serving in an official capacity in the Obama Administration ? Thus being the "missing link" connector between the Obama Administration and the Obama SuperPAC. The man who connected Joe Soptic to Stephanie Cutter and Bill Burton?
• Questions are now raised (again) as to whether the United Steelworkers, of which Gerard was an officer as treasurer, had a hand in bringing down GST Steel by costing it some $22 million in a 10-week strike. Did they also milk GST with $100,000 salaries for favored union members at GST -- while some union members were literally sleeping on the job?
• And last but not least, there is the old news of Leo Gerard's behavior at the WTO -- and why he has any White House appointment at all.
As they say over there on Fox News: we report, you decide.