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Working In These Times

Sunday, May 27, 2012, 9:00 pm

End of a Scandal? NLRB Member Terence Flynn Resigns; Prosecution Still Possible

BY Mike Elk

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Amid accusations that he broke the law by leaking information to then-top Romney adviser Peter Schaumber, embattled GOP National Labor Relations Board member Terence Flynn resigned Saturday evening. The NRLB's Inspector General (IG)  had been investigating Flynn for leaking confidential pre-trial information to top Romney advisors and for allegedly drafting op-eds and preparing Schaumber, who was Romney's labor policy advisor, for television appearances and debates.

Flynn has denied any wrongdoing. The leaks allegedly occurred last year, before Flynn was appointed to the NLRB in January by President Obama, when Flynn was working as a lawyer for the federal agency, which mediates labor disputes.

The IG alleged that Flynn may have violated the Hatch Act by providing “non-public deliberative information and other assistance to Peter Schaumber, a co-chair of the Labor Policy Advisory Group for the Mitt Romney Presidential campaign.” The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using their official power to influence the results of an election. (Since the NLRB IG's report was released earlier this year, the Romney campaign has said Schaumber left the campaign in December 2011, but serious questions about the validity of that story remain unanswered.)

Recently, Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.) and Congressman Elijah Cummings referred the matter for prosecution by the Office of Special Counsel. (The Office of Special Counsel will not comment on whether it will prosecute Flynn.) House Education, Labor and Pension Chairman Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) also recently threatened to hold hearings on the matter.

As I reported in late March, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on Flynn to resign after the release of the first of two NLRB IG reports showing Flynn had provided confidential information to the Romney campaign and helped Schaumber craft attacks on the NLRB. Trumka said that “The report makes clear that Schaumber used his inside connections through his former chief counsel Flynn to get internal, confidential information that he then utilized in ongoing public attacks on the actions of the NLRB. These unethical practices are unprecedented and indefensible.”

A second report by the IG on why Flynn leaked information to Schaumber concluded that Flynn did so in exchange for Schaumber's efforts to secure Flynn's appointment to the NLRB. NLRB IG Dave Berry wrote, “The situation gives rise to the appearance that Mr. Flynn’s disclosure of deliberative information and assistance to former Member Schaumber was in return for former Member Schaumber’s lobbying on behalf of Mr. Flynn’s nomination.”

After the release of that report, NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce said, “We take the findings in these reports very seriously. They raise questions of ethics and trust that go to the heart of the values shared by all of us at the NLRB. Those concerns are paramount in our minds as we consider the necessary response.”

In a prepared statement, Barry Coburn, a lawyer for Terence Flynn, said Flynn’s "contacts with Mr. Schaumber, his friend and former colleague, were not illegal in any respect." Coburn said that Flynn "does not deserve to be publicly smeared," and said that "circumstances are precisely what deter people like Mr. Flynn from government service."

It is unclear if Flynn’s resignation will affect any potential criminal investigations launched by the Office of Special Counsel or any future hearings threatened by Harkin. Pearce said he intends to issue a statement on the matter this week.

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Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Working In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is currently a labor reporter at Politico.

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