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Senators Demand Obama Withdraw Labor Dept. Nomination

Watch out for Patricia Smith.

6:01 PM, Jan 29, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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On Monday, senators will vote on Barack Obama's nomination for the solicitor of labor in the Department of Labor, Patricia Smith. Like the president, Smith is a community organizer, primarily responsible for the "Wage and Hour Watch" in the state of New York. But Smith has a problem, causing several senators to ask the president to withdraw her nomination: She's dishonest. Smith has lied about her involvement with the Wage and Hour Watch program -- five times telling senators that she had no intention to expand the program to the entire state (leaving it localized in New York City), but later emails and other documents revealed that she did indeed plan to expand the program throughout the entire state of New York.

Barack Obama's nominees to key posts have continually come under fire (think: Tom Daschle, Tim Geithner, Erroll SouthersJide Zeitlin, and so on). Add to the list yet another nominee who has a shady past. On Monday, when Patricia Smith comes to the Senate floor for consideration, the choice will be pretty clear--to oppose Smith's nomination. 

Here are two documents being circulated on Capitol Hill that explain why her nomination should be opposed:

Re:  Nomination of Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor-Designee

Background and Chronology

On April 20, 2009, Patricia Smith, currently Commissioner of the New York State Labor Department was nominated by President Obama to be the Solicitor of Labor at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).  The Solicitor is the chief legal officer at DOL, third-ranking official in the Department, general counsel to Secretary, manages one of the largest legal offices in the federal government (more than 400 attorneys), responsible for ensuring that all stakeholders, including small businesses, are given fair treatment under department’s jurisdiction, and plays a key role in nearly every department policy, regulation and enforcement action.

In conducting due diligence, we learned of a program Ms. Smith launched, called Wage and Hour Watch in New York.  In the program, community organizations and unions are trained by the State Labor Department in wage and hour laws, issued state identification cards, sent to leaflet area businesses – and go into businesses to investigate and report suspected violations directly to the State Labor Department.  

On May 7, 2009, Ms. Smith testified at a confirmation hearing before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. During the hearing Ms. Smith is asked about several aspects of the Wage and Hour Watch program by Senator Burr.  

On May 13, 2009, Ms. Smith responded to Questions for the Record (QFRs) from Senators Enzi, Isakson, & Coburn.   In her responses, she declined to provide documents about New York Wage and Hour Watch Program, requesting that the Committee seek them from New York.  

On June 4, 2009, Senator Enzi requested documents from the State of New York under its Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) related to the Wage and Hour Watch Program, which were ultimately delivered the first week of July.  

On July 28, 2009, Ms. Smith responded to a second round of QFRs from Senator Enzi regarding Wage and Hour Watch.  She does not change prior testimony regarding program.

On August 25, 2009, Senator Enzi officially requested the White House withdraw Ms. Smith’s nomination.

On September 9, 2009, Ms. Smith responded to QFRs from Chairman Kennedy.

On September 10, 2009, Senator Isakson asked President Obama to withdraw Ms. Smith’s nomination.

  • Factual Inconsistencies in Ms. Smith’s Testimony to the Committee Regarding Expansion of the Wage and Hour Watch Pilot Program


Ms. Smith testified in five separate instances, both written and orally, that the NY Wage and Hour Watch Program was a “pilot program” only to be used in/around New York City, and that there were no plans to expand it, even to upstate New York.  Ms. Smith’s responses:   

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