Ex-labor leader denies reports of federal investigation

A prominent former union official close to the White House has denied reports that he is being investigated by federal authorities.

Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said Tuesday that stories by the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press saying he was under federal investigation are not true.

"The stories appearing today in the Los Angeles Times and on the Associated Press are simply false," Stern said in a statement passed on by his former union. "I have absolutely no reason to believe, and not the slightest indication, that I am being investigated by federal authorities with respect to Alejandro Stephens, or A Country That Works, or for that matter anything else."

The two stories say investigators with the FBI and the Labor Department are asking about Stern's role in approving union payments to pay the salary of Stephens, an ex-SEIU leader in California, who performed no work as well as a book contract that Stern landed in 2006 for A Country That Works. SEIU helped promote and fact-check the book but Stern kept the advance.

Michelle Ringuette, a SEIU spokeswoman, said the reports were "flat out false."

In a statement, Ringuette said neither the union nor Stern have been contacted by government authorities about any investigation. Also, she said SEIU believes Stephens violated the terms of his August 2008 separation agreement with the union and they are seeking repayment via arbitration.

In addition, SEIU's general counsel and its international executive board "carefully examined and approved every aspect of the transaction related to the book. Andy Stern never received any royalties from any sales of the book," according to Ringuette.

Stern was president of SEIU for 14 years. His abrupt resignation earlier this year surprised many in Washington.

Stern was a vocal proponent for healthcare reform and was considered the labor leader closest to the Obama administration as a frequent White House visitor. Stern still serves on the president's debt commission, which is supposed to come out with its recommendations in December this year.