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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Did The SEIU Pay The White House Political Director $37,191?

We all know about the love connection between President Obama and former SEIU head Andy Stern, but we sometimes forget that the SEIU influence on the White House goes beyond Stern.  Political Director Patrick Gaspard used to be the head of the SEIU in New York and former SEIU New York boss Patrick Gaspard.
Gaspard served as national political director for much of Obama's general election campaign and was named deputy director of personnel for the transition effort. Prior to his work with Obama, Gaspard was the lead political operative for the 1199 branch of the Service Employees International Union, a huge and hugely influential union representing health care workers in New York. He spent the 2004 general election as the national field director for America Coming Together.

"Patrick is a talented leader of our union and has made an incredible contribution to workers as an organizer and a political strategist," said Anna Burger, the Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU. "We celebrate with him his new role. He's earned it and will serve our country well."
Several weeks ago, Big Government blogger Kyle Olsen exposed the fact that, in 2009, the SEIU 1199 paid Gaspard $37,191 (see page 17 of the document below)

And that's on top of the $74,552 that SEIU 1199 paid Gaspard in 2008.

Two questions come to mind. Why did the SEIU pay nearly $40,000 to the White House Political Director? On the other hand is Gaspard one of those miracle men who don't need any sleep? After all he spend much of 2008 working for the Obama campaign, from November 2008 through January 2009  he worked on Obama’s transition, and in January he went to work at the White House. So the only way he could have done any work for the SEIU in 2009 is in the middle of the night.

Maybe it was consideration for future work?

Politico’s Ben Smith broke an interesting  story about the former Grand Poobah of the SEIU, Andy Stern and his handpicked successor Anna Burger. When the two thought that Burger would actually win the union election (she didn't)  they had a little discussion about  talk” with Gaspard about taking over the SEIU as the first mate/heir apparent, to replace Anna Burger when she assumed Andy Stern’s role upon his retirement and eventually take over from Ms Burger.

The talks grew quite advanced: Stern and Burger spoke with George Gresham, the pivotal president of the union's largest local, New York's 1199, and offered him assurances not just that Gaspard would be given the number-two job, but that he would eventually succeed Burger as president, the sources said. Gresham indicated that he would throw his weight behind the slate.

Gaspard, who left the post of 1199 political director to take the same job on the Obama campaign, could well have pulled a united union behind Burger. Between the support of 1199 and the catch of a former senior White House official, it's unclear that a rival campaign would have developed.

"They started working on him in late January/early February to join her as Secretary Treasurer while Anna filled out the remainder of Andy's term," one of the sources said. "Their calculus was that he would never turn down the dream job -- President of SEIU -- and that this would lock in the votes for her because Gresham and [executive board member Gerald] Hudson would give her their votes since they are tight with Gaspard."
Another source said that while there was never an explicit promise of when Burger would hand over the reins to Gaspard, the promise of the presidency at some point was explicit.
Early leaks of Stern's planned retirement scuttled the discussions, the sources said, but the real sticking point was Gaspard, who rejected the arrangement (and who didn't respond to inquiries about the discussions). In his absence, Burger lost out to Mary Kay Henry, whose supporters included Gresham's 1199.

Another source said that while there was never an explicit promise of when Burger would hand over the reins to Gaspard, the promise of the presidency at some point was explicit.
Smith ends with:
"Apparently he didn't want to abandon the President, even for I would presume is the better job," said a labor source. "I am not sure I get it since they are going to lose seats and as political director he will have to eat it, but I guess he is a loyal guy."
So "the loyalty thing" just doesn't hold water. Could it be that that the mutiny against Stern's  hand-picked successor was already brewing? Hand-picked successors at giant labor unions do not get overthrown on a whim. Gaspard had to know what was brewing. It is much more likely that the the pending revolution scared the White House political director from making the jump.

No matter who is running the SEIU what hasn't changed is the fact that the White House political director has loyalties that go beyond his job in the administration.

H/T LaborUnionReport (LUR is MUST READ if you want to follow the sneaky things that Organized Labor is doing).

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