President Obama’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services stepped down today after it was discovered that he had failed to pay over $140,000 in taxes and amid allegations that he was too closely connected with health care lobbyists that would have had all-too-easy access to him as Secretary. This was the right thing to do, for the country, and for the President. We now fear that President Obama’s nominee for Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, may soon have to make the same tough choice on his behalf.
In an article written for the Weekly Standard, Hans A. von Spakovsky, uncovers some very disturbing details of Solis’ role in the pro-union organization, American Rights at Work (ARW), in which she may have violated multiple House ethics rules. It appears that while Hilda Solis served as a Board Member and Treasurer to the organization, they were lobbying Congress on bills Ms. Solis actually co-sponsored. One of those bills, the “Employee Free Choice Act”, is the card-check legislation that will eliminate the secret ballot in union elections, eliminating anonymous decisions by employees to decide whether to unionize.
On January 29, Congresswoman Solis filed a letter with the House clerk detailing her involvement. Much like Tom Daschle, Timothy Geithner and Nancy Killefer, her “honest mistake” was uncovered only when she was seeking a Cabinet appointment. This time, Solis says she “incorrectly answered” a question that directly asked if she was a member of any organizations like ARW. Apparently, she forgot that she was handling all of the finances and leadership of an organization that was pressing her colleagues to vote in favor of her own pro-union legislation.
Hans von Spakovsky points out in his Weekly Standard column that the Ethics Manual of the House of Representatives is quite clear that Members should not “take an active role in lobbying Congress on behalf of a private organization since that would conflict with a Member’s general obligation to the public.” Even if these circumstances didn’t warrant an ethics investigation, they surely would require the President to investigate whether his nominee has a clear conflict of interest as Labor Secretary. As of today, she is still listed as a Board Member on ARW’s website.
President Obama has repeatedly praised his own attempts to restrict lobbyists from working in his administration on issues they previously lobbied on. It appears the White House has added an asterisk to that promise when necessary. The latest is even more troubling in that Solis was a member of Congress when the lobbying occured. We certainly hope Congresswoman Solis can provide a reasonable explanation for what may be very serious lapses in judgment.