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- - - - Mark Twain (Roughing It)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jerry Brown packs government with labor union hacks

LEGAL BRIBERY:  If you hand a politician an envelope full of cash you go to jail for bribery.  But if the enveloped is marked "campaign contribution" it is legal.

Socialist Gov. Jerry Brown is seeding state government with fellow Democrats, political supporters and appointees linked to powerful labor groups that helped install him in office, an Associated Press review found.

Public employee unions representing nurses, teachers, firefighters and other workers spent millions of dollars in the 2010 campaign to put Brown in charge in California, fearing Republican Meg Whitman would make good on her promise to shrink the state payroll and collar the soaring cost of government pensions.

So far, Brown has placed a string of appointees with ties to those unions in prominent jobs that intersect with labor: The state agency that negotiates worker contracts is now headed by a former champion of the prison guards union, and the chief lawyer for the agency that settles disputes between workers and state managers has ties to the powerful California Nurses Association.

Brown's office says there is no connection between the union support he received in 2010 and his job picks, but it has opened him to criticism that he is stacking the deck in favor of labor interests as the state struggles with an ongoing financial crisis.

"If you look at who funded his gubernatorial campaign, they are getting one hell of a return on their investment. It's paying off in spades through these appointments," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a low-tax advocacy group that supported Whitman in 2010.

Some accounts nearly 3,000 appointments come with the California governorship that range across state agencies and a web of boards and commissions that have influence in everything from agriculture to energy.
Records show appointees with ties to unions are laced throughout the administration. They include:

  • Ronald Yank, a retired labor lawyer and Democratic donor who has represented bargaining units for state prison guards and firefighters, is making $143,000 as director of the Department of Personnel Administration, which negotiates contracts with state employee unions. His appointment also made him a board member at the California Public Employees' Retirement System, which oversees state worker pensions and its $226 billion in assets.

  • Howard Schwartz, special legal counsel from 1984 to 1999 for the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, the state's largest public employee union, joined Yank as chief deputy director at the Department of Personnel Administration, where he makes $132,396.

  • Marty Morgenstern, whose union ties include consulting for labor organizations and serving as a former area director at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is making $175,000 as head of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, which oversees an array of labor and business panels. He was director of the state Department of Personnel Administration from 1999 to 2003 in the administration of former Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat. Pension benefits were sweetened for many state workers during that period.

  • A. Eugene Huguenin, staff counsel at the California Teachers Association from 1979 to 2000 and husband of longtime Democratic activist and donor Aleita Huguenin, was appointed to a $128,109 position on the Public Employment Relations Board. The quasi-judicial agency oversees labor laws for tens of thousands of state workers.

  • M. Suzanne Murphy, legal counsel for the California Nurses Association from 2006 to 2007, was named general counsel of the Public Employment Relations Board.

Brown's office said in a statement that he makes appointments based on qualification, not campaign donations or party affiliation.

Kelly Green, a regulatory policy specialist at the California Nurses Association since 2009, who was named to a $105,000 deputy director's post at the Department of Health Care Services, and Patricia Ann Rucker, named to the state Board of Education. Rucker worked as a lobbyist for the California Teachers Association and, earlier, was a consultant to the union on instruction and professional development from 1997 to 2008.
Brown rewarded his campaign manager, Steven Glazer, with a nomination to the California State University Board of Trustees, while Richard Maullin, co-chairman for Brown's 1980 presidential campaign and associate campaign manager for his 1974 run for governor, was named to the Independent System Operator Board of Governors.

Banker Mark Ferron, a frequent Democratic donor who, with his wife, gave more than $50,000 to Brown's campaign last year, was named to the California Public Utilities Commission. Duran, Brown's spokesman, said Ferron's donation had no connection to his appointment.

The state is facing a host of issues tied to labor, including examining benefits for disabled workers and meeting the staggering cost of payments to unemployed workers in a state with double-digit unemployment - nearly $23 billion last year, according to state records.

Public employee unions wield broad influence with Democrats who control the Legislature. With Brown's picks, unions will have ties to administration appointees who negotiate labor contracts, as well as legislators who later ratify them.

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