Everything you need to know about President Obama's commitment to fiscal responsibility and cost containment can be summed up in two words: Andy Stern. The profligate, corruption-coddling head of the powerful Service Employees International Union was named to the White House debt commission last week. If Obama thinks Stern holds the cure for our government spending woes, you can be certain his latest health care prescription will be fiscal hemlock.
Obama extolled Stern and his other federal debt panel appointees as "distinguished individuals" who'll bring a "sense of integrity" to the job. Tell that to rank-and-file SEIU members across the country who have watched their hard-earned dues go down the tubes under Stern's thugocracy. While fat-cat union bosses toss hundreds of millions of dues into Democratic coffers, low-wage SEIU members' pension funds are eroding and the organization's debt is piling up. And federal prosecutors are reviewing requests that the union be investigated for potential illegal lobbying activities at the White House.
More damning: As head of the 2.2 million-member labor union, Stern directly installed a cadre of labor management stooges embroiled in financial scandals across the country.
SEIU crony Tyrone Freeman, like Obama, began his career as an urban community organizer. In 1994, Stern plucked Freeman from Georgia and set his loyalist up as head of Local 6434, the sprawling home-care workers' chapter in southern California that represents an estimated 160,000 workers who make about $9 an hour caring for the elderly and disabled. Stern then named him a national vice president. It was part of Stern's grander plan to consolidate power by merging locals into statewide chapters.
An extensive investigation by the Los Angeles Times exposed how Stern's protege siphoned off hundreds of thousands of dollars in dues money for his personal enrichment and pleasure. Moreover, the paper alleged, Stern helped cover up the scandal. Freeman lived large — piping $600,000 in union contracts to his wife's video production and entertainment ventures. The local also paid his mother-in-law $8,000 a month to babysit his daughter and other union employees' children; footed a $13,000 bill for membership at a Beverly Hills cigar club; and forked over $8,000 in union dues to cover expenses for Freeman's Hawaiian wedding.
Stern's handpicked flunky also created a nonprofit training shop called the "Homecare Workers Training Center" — ostensibly to provide educational opportunities for nurses.
In practice, the nonprofit served as a conduit to subsidize a childcare business operated by Freeman's mother-in-law. Freeman's local also paid another $106,000 to Hollywood talent agency William Morris for "advice and counsel."
SEIU's top officials were warned of Freeman's plundering six years before the paper blew the whistle. After dragging its feet and being forced to act to quell public embarrassment over the Times investigations, SEIU finally threw Freeman under the bus. He rebounded with a new career as a Los Angeles sports agent.
Rickman Jackson, another Stern administration protege and former chief of staff to Freeman, headed Michigan's largest SEIU chapter before being "reassigned" for three years to a staff organizing job after the revelation of financial shenanigans tied back to Local 6434. While collecting a six-figure annual salary in Michigan, Jackson was drawing a second salary in California and accepted $33,500 in housing payments on a residence listed as the business address of Freeman's bogus nonprofit housing corporation.
Another Stern administration protege, Annelle Grajeda, rose to power after Stern installed her as president of the 80,000-member Local 721 in Los Angeles. She ascended to positions on the union's state council and international executive board. Like Freeman and Jackson, Grajeda had been voted onto Stern's official administration at the SEIU convention in 2008.
Whistleblowers detailed how Grajeda's ex-boyfriend, SEIU official Alejandro Stephens, collected multiple salaries and consultant fees from the union while also pocketing a salary as a Los Angeles County health services employee. Grajeda arranged for her ex-lover to get an eight-month leave of absence from the job. He was fired after he refused to return to work.
Grajeda quit her California posts after catching public flak and found a new job — as special assistant to SEIU secretary-treasurer (and Obama stimulus panel appointee) Anna Burger in Washington, D.C. Grajeda now oversees efforts to "partner with the Obama administration" to secure more public funds for SEIU projects involving infrastructure and core public services, including care for the elderly, health care, education and social services.
More recently, San Diego SEIU Local 221 came under fire last month for squandering dues on a cozy $107,000 severance package and consultancy deal for Stern's former appointee Sharon Frances-Moore.
Freeman, Jackson, Grajeda and Moore were all groomed by Stern and personally appointed by him to the posts they exploited. Like Obama, Stern has managed to pass the buck while pretending it stopped at his desk. These fiscal responsibility fraudsters now back a massive expansion of government's role in health care that they promise will rein in costs and root out fraud. Insert laugh track here.