Hilda Solis: the White House or the Big House?
By Carter Clews
Perhaps it's not fair to call Hilda Solis is a union lackey. A “lackey,” by definition, is someone who gets the job done, though not very well, and for very little money. Hilda Solis, in fact, gets paid very handsomely for very effectively carrying the unions' water. She has for years.
And if she can squeeze by a complaisant U.S. Senate to take the reins at the Department of Labor, she intends to do so for years to come. Though the truth is, if the august Members of the U.S. Senate have even an ounce of integrity, that squeeze play may be a little tough to pull off.
The problem is that since being nominated for Labor Secretary, Hilda has become something of a poster girl for political pay-offs – and outright corruption. The union bosses gave Barack Obama hundreds of millions of dollars. So he, in turn, is handing them the Department of Labor.
Lock, stock, and barrel. To do with as they please. And as they please includes putting their own leading lobbyist in the top position.
Wait, did I say “lobbyist”? Why, wasn't Ms. Solis a member of Congress before getting the Obama tap to take over Labor? And isn't lobbying Congress from within against the law? Well, yes … yes … and yes. And thereby hangs a tale.
You see, while a member of Congress, Hilda Solis was also a member of the board of directors of a group calling itself “Americans Rights at Work.” It's a union front, a wholly owned subsidiary of the AFL-CIO. And, its highly touted “Vision”, as ARW puts it on its website, is “a nation where the freedom of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively with employers is guaranteed and promoted.”
One can almost hear the drum rolls and trumpet trills. And in the distance echo the sweet refrains of that old 1916 union standard “Dump the Bosses Off Your Back” (to the tune, no less, of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” – check it out; you can't make this stuff up). Wobblies of the world unite.
Of course, the fact is, “the freedom of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively” has been guaranteed as the law of the land for nearly 75 years. It's called the National Labor Relations Act. So, kudos to the Americans Rights at Work cabal for a job well done – 68 years before it even came into existence.
That brings us to the part about “… and promoted” As well as to one Hilda Solis, union lobbyist extraordinaire – federal rules and regulations notwithstanding.
According to page 352 of the Ethics Manual of the House of Representatives, House Members may not "take an active role in lobbying Congress on behalf of a private organization since that would conflict with a Member's general obligation to the public." Not a lot of wiggle room in that, is there? Though Ms. Solis, once caught, claimed that, well, she wasn't really “active” at ARW. She just kind of hung out with the guys on the board (when she wasn't lobbying on their behalf in Congress, that is).
The truth, of course, is that Hilda did far more than just hang out. In fact, she did far more than just serve on the board, conflict of interest though that alone may be. Hilda, you see, was the treasurer of Americans Rights at Work. And, as such, she took a very “active role” in determining how, when, where, and why AWR would lobby Congress. Here's how the Weekly Standard disposed of Ms. Solis' passivity tripe:
“Treasurers and general counsels have special fiduciary duties that differentiate them from mere directors. The treasurer of a nonprofit organization is responsible for actively supervising and approving the financial obligations and spending of the organization. In fact, the amended by-laws of ARW filed with its 2006 form 990 tax return specify that the treasurer must "ensure that there is [a] full and accurate account of the receipts and disbursements of the corporation" and must render to the President and the Board of Directors "an accounting of all transactions." This means that Solis was specifically charged with reporting all of the funds spent by ARW to lobby Congress. That is not the passive role of other Board members.
“According to the Center for Responsive Politics and a review of the lobbying disclosure forms filed with Congress, ARW spent $110,000 in 2007 and $120,000 in 2008 on lobbying expenses. And what were the ‘[s]pecific lobbying issues" listed on the forms? They included the "Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800/S. 1041)' and the ‘Public Safety /Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007 (H.R. 980).'”
Sounds rather incriminating, doesn't it. But, it gets even worse. The fact is, not only did Ms. Solis approve ARW lobbying expenditures on both of these bills (which alone puts her in direct violation of the House rules). She also co-sponsored both bills. And as member of the Congressional Labor and Working Families Coalition, she put herself in the perfect position to lobby her colleagues for the passage both on the House floor and in the oak-paneled backrooms where the real work of Congress is so often done.
But wait, as Billy May would say, there's even more. And for this, Ms. Solis belongs not in the White House, but the Big House.
You see, Hilda Solis lied to her own colleagues in the House about her active involvement in directing the lobbying efforts of Americans Rights at Work.
As ALG News reported last week, federal law requires that Members of Congress fully reveal any and all outside affiliations on their financial disclosure forms. And those who have violated that law – like Rep. George Hansen and Sen. Ted Stevens – have been duly convicted as outright felons. Hilda Solis did not reveal her up close and personal relationship with ARW in 2004 when she first joined the lobbying group. Nor did she do so in any year since.
In fact, it was not until January 29 of this year – after she knew she would be vetted by the Senate Labor Committee – that she finally came clean. Then, and only then, did she belatedly send a letter to the Clerk of the House hastily attempting to amend her financial statements to include her lengthy involvement with ARW. She claimed then that she had "incorrectly answered" the question on membership in outside organizations; that she should have, in fact, answered “Yes.” In short, Hilda Solis admitted she lied about being a union super-lackey.
Now, we know why Hilda Solis has repeatedly refused to answer direct questions for Members of the Senate. We also know why she has been the least accessible to the press of any of Barack Obama's appointments to the cabinet (now better known as “The Federal Penancetentiary). And we know precisely why this woman deserves to be ridden out of Washington on a rail.
All we don't know is whether the august members of the U.S. Senate are going to let her carry the union's water at the Department of Labor. If so, the Johnstown Flood could soon look like a wading pool.
Carter Clews is the Executive Editor of ALG News Bureau.