AFSCME Official in Milwaukee Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement From Voter Fund

AFSCME logoCasinos held a special appeal for Paula Dorsey, even as her losses mounted. Her big mistake was using union funds to cover those losses. Dorsey, formerly president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 48, agreed to plead guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on June 25 to embezzling roughly $180,000 in union funds. She admitted her actions to officials of the Milwaukee labor organization after being contacted by the union bank concerning suspicious withdrawals. In addition to payment of restitution, she faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. 

Paula Dorsey, 59, a resident of Milwaukee, was a longtime employee of that city’s public library system. She also headed AFSCME Local 426 for about 20 years before taking over the reins of District Council 48. In addition, she was politically active. A member of the Democratic National Committee, she supported Operation Big Vote, a nationwide AFSCME-supported initiative to increase minority voter turnout. Dorsey saw the project’s account as a cover for gambling.

According to federal prosecutors, Dorsey made repeated withdrawals from AFSCME’s Operation Big Vote account to finance her gambling habit. Her preferred venue was her city’s Potawatomi Bingo Casino.  She wound up a preferred customer, too.  That establishment’s Firekeepers Club provided her with a card usable on its slot machines. What she gained in convenience, however, she lost in privacy. Usage made her gambling history easy to track. Starting in 2004 and running until May 2009, she racked up a cumulative loss of $208,796. Dorsey covered her losses primarily by drawing funds from the union account at Associated Bank in Milwaukee through personal checks, debit card charges and cash withdrawals. The bank took notice and notified her. She initially denied wrongdoing, but soon after admitted the truth to her council’s executive director and then to prosecutors. She quit her library and union positions, and eventually pleaded guilty.

Supporters are trying to put the best possible spin on this turn of events. “She was quite frankly a very powerful woman who did very phenomenal work for a long period of time,” remarked District Council 48 Executive Director Richard Abelson of Dorsey. “It’s things like this that erase a lifetime of good work.” Dorsey’s lawyer, Robin Shellow, touted her client’s honesty in the aftermath of the thefts: “Paula Dorsey came forward to the government and accepted responsibility for taking money that did not belong to her and putting it nickel by nickel into the slot machines at Potawatomi Bingo. She doesn’t blame her addiction, and she doesn’t use it as an excuse.” Shellow added that Dorsey has been attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings. But praise can’t mitigate the reality that Dorsey used AFSCME funds to fill a void in her personal life.

It’s worth mentioning in passing that the source of Dorsey’s stolen funds, Operation Big Vote, is anything but nonpartisan, contrary to its defenders’ claims. In fact, it’s an aggressive, heavily union-supported national campaign to increase black and Hispanic voter registration and turnout, resting on a (false) presumption that racially-motivated voter suppression is rampant in America’s precincts. Here’s how an AFSCME Florida affiliate justified its support several years ago of a lawsuit it had filed (along with several co-plaintiffs) against Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb for alleged (albeit unintentional) voter registration discrimination:

AFSCME conducts voter registration drives among its members, who are government employees. It also supports a program called Operation Big Vote, which registers citizens from traditionally disenfranchised communities, including low-income communities and communities of color.

AFSCME supports Operation Big Vote because many citizens from traditionally disenfranchised communities in Florida are intimidated and dissuaded from voting. This is due to the history of voter suppression in Florida and a variety of other factors, including past voting problems in low-income communities, a mistrust of government, a lack of knowledge about the mechanics and technology of voting, a lack of higher education, illiteracy, and a belief, based on experience, that elected officials will not respond to the needs of low-income communities.

This is the language of far Left radicalism, easily the match of ACORN. Thanks to Paula Dorsey, this gambit is around $200,000 short on funds. Theft under all circumstances is wrong, of course. Yet somehow an old saying comes to mind: “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys.”