The anti-labor president(ial candidate)
Mitt Romney’s labor advisor, Peter Schaumber the former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is being accused of receiving insider information from a current NLRB, Terence Flynn. Flynn served as chief counsel to Schaumber during his stint as chairman.
A recent report from the NLRB Inspector General (pdf) highlights a number of clear violations of the ethics code of the NLRB and, according to a piece in Salon, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, believes the concerns raised in the IG report “are very serious and involve potential criminal implications”.
From Salon’s piece:
On Sept. 2, the National Review posted on its website an Op-Ed blasting a new rule requiring companies to inform employees of their union rights. The article condemned the rule as “an unwarranted usurpation” and “regulatory sorcery” that “diminishes” the National Labor Relations Board…According to the[IG's] report, it appears the article was edited by current NLRB member Terence Flynn, who served as chief counsel to Schaumber when he sat on the board. The Op-Ed “appears to be a further revised version” of a file found on Flynn’s government-issued computer, complete with tracked-changes edits marked as Flynn’s. And the IG says Flynn wasn’t just providing Schaumber with freelance editing: he is also accused of violating ethics rules by leaking to Schaumber and other conservatives internal info from the agency they were out to obstruct. [...]
The IG says Flynn violated ethics rules by sending Schaumber several kinds of NLRB info, including: internal legal advice memos; an email showing which NLRB members and attorneys had been assigned to certain cases; a heads-up that one NLRB member was researching the NLRB’s authority in a particular situation; info on a former chairman’s deliberations on a case; advance notice on when a new rule would be posted; an email from the Board’s executive secretary mentioning a precedent the NLRB might change; and an email revealing that the NLRB was considering filing a motion to consolidate two cases.
If the report is accurate, then Schaumber may have been in the hunt for more than just material for Op-Ed pieces. The inspector general also found that Flynn, or someone using his government computer, edited documents called “Schaumber business plan” and “SchaumberSuppBusPlan.” In these documents, Schaumber described opening a practice “by leveraging my Agency connections and focusing the attention of senior management on the likely priorities of the Obama Board and strategies to respond to them” and his ability to “serve as a liaison for the firm on matters requiring high level intervention” at the NLRB and elsewhere.
The report is fascinating to read. Here are some excerpts:
Given Mr. Flynn’s position as a Chief Counsel and his years of service, he knew, or should have known, that he had a duty to maintain the confidence of the information that he received in the performance of his official duties.
We also find that the improper disclosure of information to former Members Kirsanow and Schaumber amounted to a conversion of the information for the private benefit of former Member Kirsanow and his client, the National Association of Manufacturers, and former Member Schaumber’s labor relations consulting and/or legal practice. The improper disclosures of information to former Member Schaumber were particularly detrimental to the Board’s deliberative process in that they involved positions of Board Members and staff prior to the public announcement of Board decisions and disclosure of the type of information that could have a chilling effect on the operation of the Board and may prejudice the due process rights of the parties in pending and future cases.
Mr. Flynn was clearly not authorized to use the NLRB’s email system to disclose nonpublic information, and his conduct also violated the NLRB’s written policy of acceptable use of its information technology resources.
Schaumber is currently a labor advisor for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Richard Trumpka, president of the AFL-CIO, is understandably irate:
The report of the Inspector General of the National Labor Relations Board into allegations of improper conduct by NLRB member Terence Flynn confirms a pattern of ethical violations that are nothing less than shocking. The report details numerous instances of then-chief counsel Flynn funneling confidential information about the labor board’s activities and deliberations, including attorney-client privileged information, to two former NLRB members who have been actively engaged in a relentless campaign to undermine and discredit the NLRB through legal and rhetorical challenges to the agency’s activities. One of the former NLRB members who received confidential information – former Chairman Peter Schaumber – is co-chair of the labor policy advisory group for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. The report makes clear that Schaumber used his inside connections through his former chief counsel Flynn to get internal, confidential information that he then utilized in ongoing public attacks on the actions of the NLRB.
These unethical practices are unprecedented and indefensible. NLRB member Flynn should resign immediately. The Department of Justice should quickly investigate and bring criminal charges if violations are found.
Working people deserve to know that public officials who take an oath to honor the public trust will do so – and that is especially true for officials charged with protecting workers’ rights.
These findings also will be a test for candidate Romney. A key advisor has been found to have used his inside connections in a way that resulted in the violation of ethics rules. Allowing Schaumber to remain as an advisor will speak volumes about candidate Romney and the value he places on ethics in government officials. He should renounce these violations and dismiss Schaumber.
Will Mitt Romney dismiss Schaumber? Unlikely. His anti-labor position is clear (for now) but, given his consistent inconsistency and flip-floppery, we should probably expect him next to tell the country that he supports labor and collective bargaining rights.
At least until the next time someone bumps his Etch-A-Sketch.
[Image credit: Anne C. Savage, used with permission.]