Labor Department IG Nominee Favors Immigrant Voting Rights; Co-Founded Union-Supported PAC

U.S. Department of Labor headquartersIf there is one position within the federal bureaucracy more than any other that requires impartiality it is Inspector General (IG). By law, the holder of this office must operate independently of his political beliefs. The nomination this past May of the next head of the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General is putting this principle to the test. The Obama White House believes it has found the right man for the job in Paul Tiao. Yet Tiao, an experienced federal prosecutor, apparently holds the view that one need not be a U.S. citizen to be eligible to vote. Moreover, a little over a decade ago he co-founded a political action committee whose extensive union support might compromise his impartiality. When the Senate Judiciary Committee convenes after summer recess to consider the nomination, members should raise these issues as a matter of protecting public integrity.

Various appointees in labor-related federal agencies embody President Obama’s progressive-Left vision. Craig Becker, a recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board this March (following a Senate filibuster), back in the Nineties argued in a law journal that unrepresented private-sector workers should be forced to join a union to keep their job even where they don’t constitute a majority. At the Department of Labor (DOL), Secretary Hilda Solis had been an energetic supporter of union interests during her four terms as a California Democratic congresswoman, receiving major campaign contributions from organized labor. M. Patricia Smith, whom Congress approved this February as the department’s new Solicitor of Labor, in her previous position as New York State Labor Commissioner helped create a program to hire members of unions or union-allied nonprofit organizations to monitor private-sector hour and wage violations. That program’s chief administrator, Lorelei Boylan, was nominated to head the DOL’s wage and hour division before eventually dropping out for lack of Senate support.

Paul Tiao would fit in well here. Like the above persons, he has an impressive resume. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Princeton and a law degree from Columbia. He’s been an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland since 2002, and has worked as a special counsel to FBI Director Robert Mueller since March 2009. He also served as an associate in the blue-chip Washington, D.C. litigation firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering during 2000-02 and counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee during 2007-08. And like the above persons, Tiao believes social equality should trump liberty. Before serving in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he was a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where he led housing and lending discrimination investigations and brought forth lawsuits. The department’s civil rights division long has had a reputation as a path to upward mobility for affirmative action-minded lawyers. In this case, however, there are more pressing considerations.

Paul Tiao believes non-citizens in this country should be granted voting rights. In 1993 he wrote an article for the Columbia Human Rights Law Review titled, “Non-Citizen Suffrage: An Argument Based on the Voting Rights Act and Related Law,” in which he argued that all lawful permanent residents should be eligible to vote in federal, state and local elections. He favorably cited the enactment by the City of Takoma Park, Maryland in 1991 of a nonbinding ordinance granting local resident immigrants the right to vote. Tiao further expressed support for granting “undocumented” (i.e., illegal) immigrants voting rights. Here, too, he referred favorably to the Takoma Park ordinance, which “technically extended suffrage to all non-citizens, including undocumented aliens.” Tiao has not recanted in his view.

Supporters of the idea note that granting non-citizens the right to vote is an idea with a long pedigree. Any number of states, in fact, allowed this practice during the early days of our republic. Moreover, in recent years, several localities in Maryland in addition to Takoma Park, plus three municipalities in Massachusetts – Amherst, Cambridge and Newton – have passed ordinances granting local non-citizens voting rights. Yet legal doesn’t necessarily mean sound. Indeed, aside from open borders, it’s hard to imagine an idea more destructive of national self-determination. Citizenship, by its nature, is an exclusionary concept, whether in America or anywhere else. Certain people who reside within a nation – i.e., citizens – ought to enjoy some rights not available to others. Why else would an immigrant go to the trouble of obtaining citizenship in the first place? Indeed, why make any legal distinctions between citizen and alien? Put another way, we would not argue that Americans, save for those holding dual citizenship, should have the “right” to vote in Mexican, Canadian or Russian elections. Yet apparently Paul Tiao sees little or nothing wrong with giving Mexicans, Canadians or Russians the right to vote in ours.

Adding insult to injury is that the fact that contemporary advocates of non-citizen voting view the idea as a stalking-horse for vetoing preferences of white voters. Consider a leading figure in this movement, City University of New York political scientist Ronald Hayduk. Writing in the December 2004 issue of the journal, New Political Science (“Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the US”), he argued:

Although noncitizen immigrants behave much in the same ways as citizens, they possess fewer rights and benefits. Immigrants are subject to all laws and pay taxes, work in and/or own businesses, send their children to schools, can be drafted and serve in the military, and participate in all aspects of daily life. Yet, noncitizen immigrants are excluded from selecting representatives at every level of governance who fashion public policy that affects them on a daily basis.

Later in the article he revealed his true intent:

Making common cause among immigrants – and with other people of color, particularly African-Americans – is crucial to forge a progressive agenda. Together they are, after all, the emerging working-class solidarity across racial and ethnic lines will not alone overcome the multiple and significant challenges progressives face in forging and sustaining such alliances. Still, it is a start.

Replace “African-Americans” with “Asian-Americans,” and one pretty much has the sensibility Paul Tiao would bring to the Labor Department as its next Inspector General – and with a possible wink and a nod to lawbreaking. As IG, among other duties, he would be monitoring the department’s Foreign Labor Certification Program, which administers permanent and temporary work visas. As a mass-immigration enthusiast, in other words, Tiao may well be predisposed toward overlooking likely program violations.

That brings us to a second and related problem in Tiao’s background: his political activism. In 1999, he helped found the Asian American Action Fund (AAAF), a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee that worked closely with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to elect Barack Obama as president. The group’s website lists nine sponsoring organizations. Fully seven are unions or union federations: the AFL-CIO; the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the American Federation of Teachers; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the Service Employees International Union; and the Sheet Metal Workers. It is perfectly legitimate to question Tiao’s ability to conduct impartial audits of these labor organizations or individual officials or members in them. Unions have become aggressive immigration enthusiasts in the last decade or two; supporting AAAF is an indirect way of expanding their rank and file. 

Paul Tiao’s background ought to raise serious questions about his qualifications to serve as Inspector General, a job which is akin to an internal affairs cop. The Inspector General, in the Labor Department as in any other applicable agency, is supposed to operate with bulldog tenacity in going after wrongdoing and incompetence. As much as possible, he checks his own politics at the door. That was the idea behind Congress enacting, and President Jimmy Carter signing, the Inspector General Act of 1978. The law mandates federal agencies to conduct audits and evaluations of their operations, including contractor and grantee performance. From its findings, the OIG determines whether programs are in compliance with the law and are achieving stated goals in a cost-effective manner. Tiao seems more an Asian-ethnic politician than an efficiency expert.

The Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General, now with more than 400 full-time employees and an annual budget exceeding $80 million, is no backwater agency. Tiao would have extensive resources at his command. It’s entirely conceivable that he would use his power to direct staff to go easy on corrupt unions, especially those donating funds to AAAF. And it’s entirely conceivable that he would have a blind spot for employers or unions skirting immigration law. Currently, Daniel Petrole, a holdover from the Bush years, is DOL’s Acting (as well as Deputy) Inspector General. He doesn’t appear motivated by political activism. Paul Tiao does not inspire similar confidence.