andy stern SEIU president

FBI investigates prominent labor leader Andy Stern

By SAM HANANEL , Associated Press

The FBI and the U.S. Labor Department are investigating prominent labor leader Andy Stern in their probe of corruption at the Service Employees International Union, according to two people who have been interviewed by federal agents.

The two organized labor officials met with federal agents this summer to answer questions about a six-figure book contract that Stern landed in 2006 and his role in approving money to pay the salary of an SEIU leader in California who allegedly performed no work.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation. The FBI and the Labor Department’s office of inspector general declined to comment for the record.

The disclosure about the federal inquiry of Stern – who abruptly resigned as president of the 2.2-million member SEIU in April – comes just weeks ahead of contentious congressional elections in which the union is spending an estimated $44 million to support its favored Democratic candidates.

The SEIU has been plagued with several financial scandals since 2008, when the Los Angeles Times reported that Tyrone Freeman, head of the union’s largest California local, misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union. The union ousted Freeman and demanded that he return the money. No federal charges have been filed against him, but SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said the union has been cooperating with the FBI.

Stern left his post two years before the end of his term, saying he wanted to focus more on his personal life. He remains a member of President Barack Obama’s deficit commission and a highly influential figure in the White House, where he was one of the most frequent visitors last year. He is also a research fellow at Georgetown University and a paid consultant for the SEIU.

Ringuette said she is unaware of any federal scrutiny of Stern. Ringuette rejected the notion that there was anything improper about the book deal or how the union paid its officials. She said similar unsubstantiated accusations have been floated for years by disgruntled former SEIU leaders and conservative bloggers.

To read more, visit: http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2010/09/28/general-us-union-probe_7965810.html

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