On July 11, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a charge against Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Leadership Council 14 for campaign finance violations following a formal complaint by the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation. The AG’s action marks the seventh time in less than two years that the Freedom Foundation’s formal complaints have led to penalties against labor unions for violating state campaign finance laws.
The Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit which describes its mission as advancing “individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government,” issued a Citizen Action Notice to the Washington AG’s office in April. According to state law, if the AG’s office does not act on the notice within 45 days, the party issuing the complaint can bring its own litigation on behalf of the state.
The case, filed in Thurston County Superior Court, charges the SEIU chapter for its failure to register and report as a political committee, find a treasurer for its committee, and identify a depository for funds with the State Public Disclosure Commission as required by Washington law. After receiving the April complaint, the AG’s office discovered that the union had made significant political contributions in 2014 and 2016, and allowed much of its $4 million revenues for those two years—as well as its expenditures—to remain hidden from public view. Despite already having a registered political committee, SEIU Council 14 illegally opted to act as a political committee in its own right. In 2014, the union spent $902,005, amounting to 55 percent of its expenditures; in 2016, it spent $2.25 million—or 74 percent of its expenditures—on political causes.
The lawsuit follows on the heels of a separate “lawfare” campaign—or warfare by litigation—instigated by SEIU against the Freedom Foundation for attempting to educate union members of their legal right to opt out of paying monthly dues.
Washington state is home to powerful labor unions, including SEIU, which work in concert with legislators and state employees to extract millions in union dues from unwitting members. This particular scheme involved inventing a state-created shell corporation for the purpose of treating all Medicaid recipients as employees of the state. The corporation then selectively mailed ballots to Medicaid recipients. Washington is not a right-to-work state, so when a majority of returned ballots voted to join the SEIU the labor union claimed all Medicaid recipients as members—allowing the SEIU to withdraw dues from their Medicaid payments.
The Freedom Foundation estimates that this method has extracted some $25 million in dues unbeknownst to Washingtonians, many of whom need the money to care for sick or elderly loved ones and children.
In 25 other states and the District of Columbia, SEIU’s attempt to take down the Freedom Foundation with expensive, frivolous lawsuits would violate anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) laws, which are intended to prevent groups from piling on lawsuits intended to intimidate and eliminate critics. Washington state also had an anti-SLAPP law, until it was struck down as unconstitutional by the state supreme court in 2015.
CRC’s Michael E. Hartmann has exposed the SEIU’s attempts to drown the Freedom Foundation in a barrage of legal actions and attorneys bills–amounting to some $1.4 million in legal expenses for the free market-oriented nonprofit. The Freedom Foundation may be under fire, Hartmann writes,
But it’s no small victory if you’re one of the Washingtonians who provides in-home health care to a disabled loved one, and a union is trying to skim from that loved one’s benefit payments without their permission or yours.
Read Hartmann’s comments about the SEIU’s lawfare campaign covered in the Blaze here.
CRC’s Dr. Steven J. Allen narrates our latest short video explaining the insidious nature of lawfare, or warfare by legal means, here: