NLRB's Becker is already under investigation

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When it comes to President Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill, what Big Labor wants, Big Labor gets. Unions spent $400 million electing Democrats in 2008, so they demanded to select which fox gets to guard the henhouse overseeing organized labor.

In the least surprising news of the week, Craig Becker -- Big Labor's go-to legal expert -- has served on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for barely three months, and he's already under investigation.

Becker lost a bipartisan Senate confirmation vote for the NLRB before Obama gave him a recess appointment. Becker is so pro-union he previously opined that "employers should have no right to be heard" in cases before the NLRB.

Aside from impartiality, the other concern about Becker was that the former associate general counsel for the radical Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and AFL-CIO lawyer would be embroiled with conflicts of interest regarding unions he's now charged with overseeing.

Sure enough, on June 2, Becker joined in on an NLRB decision involving SEIU Local 1957 and denied St. Barnabas Hospital's request to review a union election. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked the Inspector General to examiner Becker's conflict of interest in the matter. An investigation is underway.

After being appointed to the NLRB, Becker signed an ethics pledge that reads in part:

"I will not for a period of two years from the date of my appointment participate in any matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts."

When you've received numerous paychecks from the nation's two largest unions, upholding that ethics pledge would mean recusing yourself from an enormous number of disputes that come before the NLRB. So Becker came up with a novel solution to this quandary -- he ignores the ethics pledge.

The NLRB told The Washington Examiner Becker isn't commenting on the investigation but did pass along a windy ruling Becker authored on recusal motions. Becker argues it would be appropriate to recuse him from cases involving the national SEIU but not cases involving the local chapters because they are "distinct legal entit[ies]."

Does Becker's hairsplitting seem reasonable? Hardly. The SEIU's own constitution says the national union has "jurisdiction over its affiliated bodies and all Local Unions."

In the same ruling, Becker himself notes he is further bound by the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, which in part reads "Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards. ... [Whether] standards have been violated shall be determined from the perspective of a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts. "

Becker does not get to decide for himself whether his own conduct is in violation of ethical guidelines. It should have been painfully obvious to Obama that Becker is not just incapable of being impartial but also incapable of meeting the most basic ethical requirements to perform his job.

In related news, White House political director Patrick Gaspard -- a former top lobbyist for the SEIU -- revealed last week that he forgot to disclose that the union paid him $40,000 while working at the White House last year.

These revelations about Becker and Gaspard follow SEIU's June announcement that it is spending $44 million for "incumbent protection." In the Obama administration, it seems the foxes can waltz right into the henhouse -- provided they pay handsomely for the privilege.

Mark Hemingway is a editorial page staff writer for The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at mhemingway@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Mark Hemingway

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