The SEIU is flatly denying reports of a federal investigation against the union and its former leader, Andy Stern.
The Associated Press reported this morning that the FBI and the Department of Labor are looking into a $175,000 advance Stern got for a book deal in 2006, and the approval of a contract for a former union official who was booted after it was discovered he did no actual work.
The sources, identified as “two organized labor officials,” told the AP that they had been questioned this summer. Investigators, they said, were interested in Stern’s book deal because the SEIU and its locals bought thousands of copies. They also asked about Alejandro Stephens, the former president of a California local, who was paid a $75,000 consulting salary until the SEIU realized he wasn’t doing any actual work. Stephens was recently sentenced to jail for stealing tens of thousands from a voter outreach program.
The SEIU and Stern deny the existence of an investigation.
“The stories appearing today in the L.A. Times and the on AP are simply false. I have absolutely no reason to believe, and not the slightest indication, that I am being investigated by federal authorities with respect to Alejandro Stephens, or A Country That Works, or for that matter anything else,” Stern said in a statement.
SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said, “To our knowledge, this is flat out false.”
Ringuette told TPM that the book deal had an “airtight” contract to protect against conflict of interest, and said Stern didn’t receive any royalties for books sold to the union. She also said that the union had cooperated in the federal investigation of Stephens more than a year ago.
In a statement, she said the union has been a target of “disgruntled former union officials.”
Stern resigned as president of the SEIU in April.
Late update: An SEIU union official who spoke to TPM pointed the finger at the NUHW, or National Union of Healthcare Workers, which has had a long beef with the SEIU. The NUHW began as a southern California local of the SEIU, but after a feud, broke off from the SEIU. The two have engaged in bitter battles for the membership of local health care workers and have gone to court.
A spokesperson for the NUHW, said it’s “really not our story.”
“It’s a shame that they want to blame other people,” the spokesperson said. “We don’t have anything to say about the story.”