Hilda Solis, Obama's former labor secretary, might be in deep trouble

When Hilda Solis, President Barack Obama’s first Secretary of Labor, resigned in early 2013 before the president had taken the oath of office for his second term, it came as a shock.

Then, in February of the following year, allegations surfaced that Solis had attempted to hide the fact that she had provided people close to the leader of the International Union of Operating Engineers with free private jet travel. It is a crime to not disclose what were considered in-kind contributions – disclosures which Solis never made.

Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained a lawsuit filed in the California Central US District Court claiming that former US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, a current candidate for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, was provided thousands of dollars’ worth of free private jet travel without declaring the trips on the federal government required forms, paid for by the powerful International Union of Operating Engineers based in Pasadena during the same period she was undergoing confirmation hearings to become part of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

Sources close to the case tell HMG-CN that Solis was given transportation on IUOE Local 12′s Cessna Citation XL Jet and that Solis failed to report the in-kind gift to the Federal Election Commission as required under law.

Ed Morrissey noted at the time that the investigation into Solis’ conduct resulted from her decision to run for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, a race she won on June 3. Solis is expected to take office in December, but a few new questions about her past conduct have come up in recent days which may hinder her future political aspirations.

The L.A. Times reported:

Rep. Darrell Issa released a recording Wednesday that his office said supported allegations of illegal fundraising activity by Los Angeles County Supervisor-elect Hilda Solis when she served as U.S. Secretary of Labor.

Issa (R-Vista), whose House Oversight and Government Reform Committee obtained the audio as part of an ongoing probe of political activities by Obama administration employees, played the recording during a hearing in Washington.

That recording is the following tape of Solis appearing to solicit a colleague to help organize an Obama campaign fundraiser. Some have suggested that this represents a potential violation of the Hatch Act.

“Hi — this is Hilda Solis calling, um, just calling you off the record here,” she said. “Wanted to ask you if you could, um, help us get folks organized to come to a fundraiser that we’re doing for Organizing for America for Obama campaign on Friday at La Fonda at 6 p.m.”

White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest confirmed on Wednesday that the tape was released as part of an “ongoing law enforcement investigation.”

The Washington Examiner’s Susan Crabtree suggested that Solis’ position in the administration exempts her from having to answer for Hatch Act violations.

A complaint sent to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that investigates allegations of administrative violations of fundraising rules by federal officials, triggered an inquiry. It alleged that Solis left a voicemail message on a subordinate employee’s government-issued Blackberry in which she asked the employee to contribute toward and assist with organizing others to attend a fundraiser for Obama’s re-election campaign.

The Hatch Act prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president, vice president and other high-level officials, from engaging in partisan political activity, and specifically bars employees below the policy-making level in the executive branch from engaging in “any active part” in political campaigns.

While Solis would be exempt from the Act, her subordinates most likely would not be.

Cabinet members are, however, prohibited from participating in certain campaign activities including using their positions to raise money for candidates. “They may not solicit campaign contributions,” the Center for Public Integrity’s Michael Beckel wrote in 2012, “but that doesn’t prohibit them from appearing at political fundraisers.”

Helping to organize a fundraiser, however, may fall into a bit of a grey area. Regardless of the outcome of this investigation, the LA County Board of Supervisors can’t be thrilled about the baggage their newest colleague will bring to the office.