Video: CNN looks at Stern lobbying issue

posted at 9:30 am on January 6, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Over the last two months, the groups Americans for Tax Reform and Alliance for Worker Freedom have pursued complaints against SEIU chief Andy Stern and SEIU treasurer Anna “Queen of Labor” Burger for illegal lobbying. The national news media has shown little interest in the story despite Stern’s weekly visits to the White House — until now. CNN takes a surprisingly balanced look at the charges, although they only see fit to interview Stern rather than the very-accessible groups demanding the investigation:

Stern claimed he would send ATR and AWF a letter telling them the truth, which prompted the groups to respond thusly (letters are published at their websites):

When responding to a question from CNN’s Carol Costello during American Morning on January 5, 2010, concerning Americans for Tax Reform and the Alliance for Worker Freedom’s investigation request, you said, “we’re going to send them a letter and tell them the truth, which is we’ve complied with the law. And we assume whenever the investigation is done it will be fine.”

It has been 55 days since we first requested an investigation to elucidate your lobbying during 2009 and we have received no correspondence from you or your organization.

Please note that “Lobbying activity” under LDA includes time spent on lobbying contacts as well as time spent by the individual on any efforts to support his or her, or another’s, lobbying contacts such as preparation or planning activities, research and other background work, as well as time spent coordinating the lobbying activities of others.

As for the White House refusal to comment on Stern’s activities, ATR and AWF note that transparency seems to be in short supply:

Today, Andy Stern, President of the Service Employee International Union  (SEIU), contemptuously disregarded lobbying rules when  questioned by Carol Costello on CNN’s American Morning.

On Nov. 13, 2009, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and Alliance for Worker Freedom Executive Director Brian Johnson called on acting United States Attorney Channing D. Phillips to investigate Stern’s potential violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), 2 U.S.C. 1601, et seq. Stern de-registered as a lobbyist in January 2007 however it appears he continues to lobby.  When asked about this by Carol Costello on CNN, Stern replied:

“We’re going to send them a letter…I don’t care if I went there [The White House] once, or I went there every single day – they would think it’s too much.”

It appears the law would think it is “too much” as well. The LDA defines a “lobbyist” as a person who spends over 20% of his time on “lobbying activities” per quarter. Evidence submitted by the organizations shows Stern spent 11 days at the White House and more meeting with members of Congress per quarter.  Since 13 days per quarter constitutes the 20 percent threshold, and all prep-work, research, communication, etc also contributes to the 20 percent, an investigation was requested.

It’s shocking that a White House which claims to be ‘the most transparent in history’, refused to comment to CNN on this matter, and is allowing Mr. Stern to claim he doesn’t have to follow the rules other lobbyists do, yet he can still visit the White House ‘every single day,’” says AWF Executive Director Brian Johnson.

The Senate Secretary has already responded on Burger, saying that she will close her investigation because, er, Burger assured her that she doesn’t spend 20% of her time lobbying. The groups will send a letter this morning to the Secretary demanding that she share any correspondence on the matter:

The decision to close Ms. Burger’s file appears to be based on a letter you received from SEIU, as you wrote, “the response [from SEIU] stated that Ms. Burger has not spent 20% or more of her time on lobbying activities in either 2008 or 2009.”

We are formally requesting any correspondence between your office, Ms. Burger or the SEIU and/or any other entities in relation to this matter. Further, we are requesting any documentation or evidence provided to you by Ms. Burger, the SEIU or any third-parties which indicates Ms. Burger is not in violation of the 20 percent threshold.

Perhaps we may see some action yet.  Will other media outlets start looking into how an SEIU chief with a war room specifically designed for lobbying on health care can visit the White House every week and still not have to register as a lobbyist?


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Just so you know, Freedom of Information Act requests are racist.

rogerb on January 6, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Transparency of the Obama Administration = solid B+

Good Lt on January 6, 2010 at 9:36 AM

although they only see fit to interview Stern rather than the very-accessible groups demanding the investigation:

…..

Well, it’s not ethical to mix journalism with your liberalism.

So, they don’t.

artist on January 6, 2010 at 9:40 AM

Too Many Secrets

29Victor on January 6, 2010 at 9:41 AM

Birds of a feather flock together.

elderberry on January 6, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Just so you know, Freedom of Information Act requests are racist.
rogerb on January 6, 2010 at 9:33 AM

don’t forget it also wants people to die

dirksilver on January 6, 2010 at 9:42 AM

The White House visitor logs clearly show that it was “A. Stern” who visited and not specifically Andy Stern, so this is obviously a non-issue.

Bishop on January 6, 2010 at 9:43 AM

It is not lobbying – lobbying.

GnuBreed on January 6, 2010 at 9:48 AM

Bishop on January 6, 2010 at 9:43 AM

Actually A. Stern stands for astern, a nautical term often used by Wm. Ayers in his and others’ books.

chaswv on January 6, 2010 at 9:49 AM

Just so you know, Freedom of Information Act requests are racist.

rogerb on January 6, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Just call it like it is: Freedom is racist.

uknowmorethanme on January 6, 2010 at 9:52 AM

They really, honestly don’t believe rules or laws apply to them.

The MSM agrees.

Not gonna end well.

Merovign on January 6, 2010 at 9:52 AM

Andrew Breitbart: So far, according to unnamed White House sources, “different” people with the familiar names of Malik Shabazz, Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers were discovered on White House visitors logs. As I skeptically asked on my Twitter account, “What are the odds?”

The Andy Stern on the visitor log is a different Andy Stern from the one who heads the SEIU.

Shurrr.

petefrt on January 6, 2010 at 9:57 AM

Rather than transparency the Obama administration will go down as the most corrupt administration in history. Obama has in one years proved more corrupt than anyone ever accused the Bushies of being.

Corrupt to the core. Cannot possibly be saved.

The way they are handling healthcare is nothing less that the Soviet way. Totalitarianism in America.

It may be a oligarchy but it is Totalitarian.

Transformative indeed.

petunia on January 6, 2010 at 9:58 AM

CNN looks at Stern lobbying issue

Stern was not lobbying. He and Obama were only trying to decide how to devide up the U.S..

Johan Klaus on January 6, 2010 at 10:01 AM

we’re going to send them a letter and tell them the truth, which is we’ve complied with the law.

If I’m ever arrested, I’ll just send a letter to the judge, telling him the truth, and I’m sure that will settle everything.

MarkTheGreat on January 6, 2010 at 10:02 AM

“Transparency for thee, but not for me.”

– Barack Hussein Obama (mmm mmm mmm)

UltimateBob on January 6, 2010 at 10:08 AM

It strikes me that Mr. President and his administration is doing almost the exact opposite of every single thing they promised and campaigned on. It’s (hate to use the word, but no other fits quite so well)…unprecedented. With each new day comes another failure. It truly is mind blowing.

scalleywag on January 6, 2010 at 10:15 AM

The Chicago Democratic Machine at work.

As a life-long Chicagoan, I beg the public: please do not ever elect a Chicago…no…Illinois Democrat or Republican to high office ever again. Our state is too far gone.

visions on January 6, 2010 at 10:15 AM

CNN/Anderson Cooper also had on a lady (well-known D.C socialite whose name I can’t remember) calling for Desiree Rogers to resign because the 3 security breeches at the WH make Obama look incompetent and “team players” always take it for the president.

SouthernGent on January 6, 2010 at 10:18 AM

With Bill Ayers, this criminal is the top capo of the “ist” revolutionaries. He should be in jail for life.

notagool on January 6, 2010 at 10:21 AM

Will other media outlets start looking into how an SEIU chief with a war room specifically designed for lobbying on health care can visit the White House every week and still not have to register as a lobbyist?

I’m not holding my breath waiting. And this is the most ‘transparent’ administration ever. Transparently corrupt with the complicit help of the MSM.

GarandFan on January 6, 2010 at 10:21 AM

Yesterday Mr. President was blasted and publicly humiliated by C-SPAN for his lack of transparency, and his speaker of the house giggled. Today he’s exposed as having dealings with lobbyists who claim they aren’t lobbyists. Was he really such a blatant liar to the American people while campaigning for almost two years? Or did he have no idea that once he got to Washington it was going to be business as usual and he was going to be pressured by lobbyists and his speaker of the house to do things the way they’ve done them for years and he just wasn’t able to make the “change” everyone had “hoped” for? I really don’t know, but if he really is just a liar how can we throw him out?

scalleywag on January 6, 2010 at 10:21 AM

These are not the droids we are looking for…move along…

faol on January 6, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Costello is grossly wrong about one fact in her report: federal lobbying law requires you to register as a lobbyist if you have more than TWO meetings with a federal official to discuss policy or legislation on behalf of your client or organization. The 20% threshold is for itemizing lobbying expenses on your lobbying reports.

I believe Stern and Burger de-registered in 2007 so they could personally donate a lot of money to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and not technically violate his campaign policy of not accepting contributions from lobbyists. But I have zero doubt that they are violating the law now with all these meetings in the White House.

rockmom on January 6, 2010 at 10:30 AM

Is that like seeing a shooting and not calling law enforcement?
CNN is a donkeys ass wiper…a total joke of media ethics.

hawkman on January 6, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Also it was grossly unfair for Costello not to have Grover Norquist on the air to defend his complaint and respond to Stern’s nonsense. Grover never met a camera he didn’t like, so it’s obvious CNN didn’t want to put him on the air.

rockmom on January 6, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Our only hope is to regain the House and/or Senate and hold hearings.

But then the House/Senate cannot prosecute or jail anyone, that is still up to the inJustice Department.

barnone on January 6, 2010 at 10:38 AM

I mentioned this on prevous threads about this issue: in my previous job I managed public policy for a large company that took a very conservative stance on lobbying reports. My job specifically did not include lobbying, and the company employed a full time lobbyist in Washington who registered and filed. I had to keep meticulous records of how much time I spent doing behind-the-scenes stuff like analyizing bills and devloping the company’s policy position, going to industry meetings and such, and this took well over 50% of my time and this part of my salary was reported as a company lobbying expense; but I never had to register as a lobbyist. However, my boss finally made me register as a lobbyist after I atttended two meetings with members of Congress as part of a state delegation of industry executives.

It is the number of meetings with federal officials (and this applies to Executive Branch officials as well as members of Congress and staff) that triggers the lobbyist registration requirements, not the amount of time you spend on lobbying activities.

rockmom on January 6, 2010 at 10:39 AM

CNN looks at Stern lobbying issue

Every instance of lobbying should be looked at sternly.

tree hugging sister on January 6, 2010 at 10:40 AM

The love of money…………

True_King on January 6, 2010 at 11:26 AM

Where exactly is the line crossed when it becomes lobbying? If I visit my congressman’s office several times to tell him or his staff about how I would like him to vote on legislation do I have to register as a lobbyist?

Mark1971 on January 6, 2010 at 11:44 AM

Nothing to see here – move along.

Fuquay Steve on January 6, 2010 at 11:47 AM

It is not lobbying – lobbying.

GnuBreed on January 6, 2010 at 9:48 AM

Well that just depends on what is – is.

PaCadle on January 6, 2010 at 12:00 PM

This lobbying issue is important, but in many respects its a side show. More important is the vast tentacles of the S.E.I.U. (including ACORN) as well as the gazillions they donated to Obama and the Dems. If the S.E.I.U. were a private corporation, the Dems would be jumping up and down screaming that they were a monopoly.

Buy Danish on January 6, 2010 at 1:19 PM

Bambi – “WeeWee won!”

gregbert on January 6, 2010 at 1:25 PM