Intersection of Life and Faith

  • Eric Hogue Radio Talk Host and Syndicated Columnist
  • 2005 21 Mar
From Republican Communications Director, Karen Hanretty tonight...

News that Speaker Fabian Nunez is in the back pocket of organized labor shouldn’t surprise anyone.  After all, the Speaker got his start in politics as a union organizer.  What is surprising, however, is that Nunez is still on the payroll of organized labor. 
Specifically, Nunez is being paid by the Voter Improvement Program (VIP), a nonprofit founded by LA’s union boss Miguel Contreras. 
“Though Contreras and other VIP officials say the organization is independent of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the group’s agenda closely mirrors that of organized labor.
“In the last several years, VIP fought for a living wage measure in Santa Monica, helped block the San Fernando Valley’s secession from Los Angeles and slowed Wal-Mart’s expansion efforts in Inglewood, all campaigns that local unions supported
“VIP and the labor federation have more than a common purpose: Contreras serves as the head of both groups, which share a phone number and address on state and federal documents.”  (Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2005)
But wait, there’s more!  Contreras isn’t just the founder of a nonprofit that shares an identity with organized labor; he’s also a committee member of My Vote Counts: The California Plan for Voting in the 21st Century.  According to an executive summary distributed by former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley on September 2003:
“‘My Vote Counts’ is a comprehensive road map to restoring voter confidence, a prerequisite to increased participation.  ‘My Vote Counts’ details how California will implement HAVA as part of our continuing challenge to make our voting process fairer, more accessible and more secure.”
You have to appreciate the cosmic coincidence that Contreras – who sat on the HAVA board – was all along paying Nunez to advise VIP on voter trends and demographics.
“The group [VIP] has also bolstered the personal finances of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), a former political director for the federation.  He has earned about $35,000 a year from VIP as a consultant since 2002, the same year that he was elected to the Assembly.  Nunez said that, when the Legislature is not in session, he spends about 10 to 15 hours a month providing ‘strategic advice’ to VIP about voter trends and demographic patterns.”  (Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2005)
Funny how Nunez has time to advise his union client about voter trends but can’t find the time or inclination to confirm a new Secretary of State or schedule additional JLAC hearings to find out where all that HAVA money went. 
You’d think Contreras, who sat on the committee to advise the Secretary of State about how to implement HAVA, would want to know how and why things went so badly under Shelley.  Yet neither Nunez nor Contreras seem interested in making progress on HAVA or Sen. Bruce McPherson’s confirmation. 
“Who cares if California jeopardizes $100 million in federal funds by not fixing its elections procedures?  Or that the Senate confirmed McPherson 34-0?  Nunez is doing the people’s work.  Stall.  Delay.  Make political hay out of nothing.  That’s what the people want – isn’t it?”  (Editorial, Sacramento Bee, March 19, 2005)