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SEIU on the Hot Seat

The good news for the SEIU is that the “official” named in the complaint does not appear to be head honcho Andy Stern. The rest of the news is not good. This report explains:

[T]he federal investigations cast a shadow over the Service Employee International Union, a quickly growing alliance of more than two million workers. Tuesday’s complaint noted that Gov. Blagojevich spoke at least twice with an SEIU official to discuss a separate possible candidate for the vacant Illinois seat. The complaint indicates that in exchange for naming a candidate seen as friendly to organized labor, Gov. Blagojevich was open to being named national director of the Change to Win federation, a six million member partnership that includes SEIU.

An internal communication from the Illinois office of the SEIU, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, indicated that the SEIU official was Tom Balanoff. The communication also indicated the representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited Mr. Balanoff’s house at about 6 a.m. Tuesday, which is the same time that agents arrested Mr. Blagojevich. Sources say Mr. Balanoff had flown to Denver on Monday, ahead of SEIU meetings.

Aside from the potential criminality, the public is going to get a lesson in just how dependent the Democratic Party is on Big Labor:

The SEIU, meanwhile, spent about $29.2 million to support to Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign this year, more than any other outside group, according to Federal Election Commission records. The union’s earliest ties to Mr. Obama appear to have been forged by Mr. Balanoff, who is a longtime friend and supporter of the Chicago Democrat.

The Republican National Committee said on Wednesday that the Obama team had used the SEIU to “keep Blagojevich at arms length.” The federal affidavit says Gov. Blagojevich approached SEIU, hoping that union officials would reach out to the Obama team to get him the lucrative job at Change to Win. In exchange, the affidavit said, Gov. Blagojevich discussed appointing a “Senate Candidate No. 1.” Congressional sources familiar with the Senate-seat portion of the probe say Candidate No. 1 is Mr. Obama’s friend, Valerie Jarrett.

The SEIU denies any wrongdoing and says it is cooperating with the investigation. But the nature of the union’s involvement is likely to cloud things. (Mickey Kaus has similar thoughts here.) How long before the calls go out to return funds from the union? How likely is it that SEIU officials can publicly testify in favor of Big Labor’s bills or appear with Congressmen in public settings?

Simply put, we have no evidence so far that Blago made headway with the Obama transition team. But we certainly know he got the ball rolling with the SEIU. And that’s a big problem for Democrats who have become dependent on the financial and organizational muscle of Big Labor. There’s a reason why the head of the RNC went after the SEIU– like Willie Sutton said of banks, “It’s where the money is.”



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