While everyone is looking at Tom Daschle’s tax problems (I am too, working on a story for tomorrow morning), a new issue has arisen concerning another Obama cabinet nomination, that of Rep. Hilda Solis to be Secretary of Labor.
Solis had a rough hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee when she declined to answer all sorts of seemingly noncontroversial questions about her positions on basic labor issues. (Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote a frustrated account of the hearing, asking, “How can senators consent if they have no clue what policies they might be consenting to?”) Now, some committee members want to know more about Solis’ relationship with a pro-labor group called American Rights at Work. On the group’s website, Solis is listed as a member of the board of directors, and she also served as Treasurer of the organization from 2004 to 2007. The question is whether Solis, who as a member of Congress is prohibited from lobbying Congress, fully disclosed her relationship with the group.
American Rights at Work is an important part of Big Labor’s push for the Employee Free Choice Act, known more accurately as card check. A recent account in the lefty journal In These Times says that, “Early this year, unions plan to present 1 million signatures in support of EFCA to Congress, and they are calling on allies from civil rights, environment, religious and other movements to broaden the campaign beyond labor. American Rights at Work, a labor-founded coalition, is playing a leading role in this effort.”
No one is accusing Solis of concealing her connection with the group; it was common knowledge in the labor world, and she listed it in the paperwork she submitted for her confirmation hearing. But she did not list it on the disclosure forms she was required to submit to the House of Representatives. It was an unpaid position, so there is no problem with income. But there are questions about whether Solis, as Treasurer, played a de facto role in the group’s lobbying activity; if you’re a member of Congress, you’re not supposed to simultaneously lobby Congress. (Solis has told the Senate that she did not take part in the group’s lobbying activities.) In any event, you’re required to list your affiliation on disclosure documents, which Solis did not do. (On January 29, she filed amended disclosure forms with the House, listing her association with the labor group.) Some Senate Republicans don’t view this as a major issue with the Solis nomination, but they do want to know more about her specific activities for American Rights at Work.