Former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has a long history of playing fast and loose with federal rules. A possible violation of campaign fundraising rules is only the latest example.
For those who missed the news Wednesday, Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, played an audio recording of Solis apparently breaking the federal law against political fundraising by executive branch employees.
In the recording, she says: "Hi -- this is Hilda Solis calling, um, just calling you off the record here -- wanted to ask you if you could, um, help us get folks organized to come to a fundraiser that we're doing for Organizing for America for Obama campaign on Friday at La Fonda at 6 p.m. ... [I] wanted to ask you if you might help contribute or get other folks to help out."
According to Issa, the recording was made to a subordinate prior to Solis stepping down from her cabinet position in January 2013. If so, that would make the recording a potential violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits political fundraising by executive branch employees.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday the call was the subject of an "ongoing law enforcement investigation." Solis, however, may be technically exempt from the act, reports the Washington Examiner's Susan Crabtree.
Why would she leave such a message? Perhaps because she has gotten away with flouting the rules before. In February, documents in a lawsuit involving the International Union of Operating Engineers revealed that Solis regularly flew on the union's private jet. This began when she was a California congresswoman and continued into her Cabinet tenure.
Solis, a staunch union ally, was not a party to the lawsuit, which alleged embezzlement by IUOE leaders. The lawsuit claimed that IUOE First Vice President William Waggoner "bragged openly that he was flying Solis back to Washington, D.C." from her home in El Monte, Calif.
The Los Cerritos (Calif.) News said it independently confirmed that Solis was provided with "thousands" of dollars worth of flight time on IUOE Local 12's Cessna Citation Excel jet. She did not disclose the travel in her in her financial filings, an apparent violation of House gift rules.
While she was still in Congress, Solis also served as treasurer for American Rights at Work, a union-allied nonprofit group that lobbied in favor of the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act -- a pretty clear conflict of interest. The White House nevertheless defended her involvement, saying during her 2009 confirmation hearings: "Rep. Solis was not involved in any way in personally supervising any lobbying activities by American Rights at Work."
As the answering machine message indicates, Solis also has a history of saying things she probably shouldn't have. Not long after her confirmation as Labor secretary, she told the delegates to the AFL-CIO's 2009 convention, "I am proud and humbled to be your humble servant as labor secretary," removing any pretense of evenhandedness at the department. She also referred to then-AFL-CIO President John Sweeney as "our president."
Solis is currently supervisor-elect for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She could not be reached for comment. She may have decided she has said too much already.