President Obama put Richard Griffin on the National Labor Relations Board almost exactly a year ago, using his power to make "recess appointments" when the Senate isn't available.
But mind you, it wasn't because the Senate was unavailable. The Senate wasn't even in recess. Nor was the Senate actually blocking Griffin's nomination, which had only just been announced right before Christmas, three weeks before the sham recess appointment was made. The whole thing was a cynical attempt by Obama to get around the confirmation process, and there is currently a court challenge to the legality of these appointments.
The assumption among NLRB watchers was that the White House used the sneaky process because it didn't want to advertise how obviously it was stacking the NLRB with pro-labor partisans. Griffin was formerly general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers and a board member of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee. (He was appointed along with Sharon Block, a former staffer for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.) But the White House may have had another reason for Griffin's hasty, backdoor appointment: to avoid any Senate inquiries into his background.
Last July, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, sent Griffin a letter noting that "during your lengthy tenure at the IUOE many union members and officials faced charges." These included fraud, extortion, racketeering and embezzlement. Hatch wrote that Griffin apparently "did not directly represent any accused members or officials" but said that his recess appointment had prevented the Senate from properly exploring his role in addressing the union's crime problems during his confirmation.
Now there is an indication that Griffin's involvement in these problems may have been a bit more direct. Griffin has been named a defendant in a lawsuit recently filed by 10 members of the Los Angeles-based IUOE Local 501 against the IUOE itself. Griffin is alleged to have been the go-between for then-IUOE General President Vince Gilbin when he tried to pressure Local 501 business manager James McLaughlin to drop his investigation into member Dennis Lundy (a friend of Gilbin's) for allegedly embezzling $4,000 in union funds.
McLaughlin refused, prompting Gilbin to allegedly fume to another Local 501 official: "I told him to make that Lundy thing disappear, and he never did. That fat lazy f--k has got to go!" Gilbin threatened to put the local under the trusteeship of the national union if McLaughlin and two others did not resign.
Griffin's attorney told the Washington Free Beacon the allegations were "preposterous" and the whole thing was a "frivolous lawsuit." Perhaps -- it wouldn't be the first time such a thing has happened in Washington.
But to the extent that the allegations will stick to Griffin, it will be because he never had a Senate confirmation process in the first place. That would have given him a chance to rebut any such allegations regarding his tenure at IUOE.
Perhaps Griffin should tell the next NLRB nominee to insist on getting a Senate hearing -- for his or her own sake.