Dem: NLRB member might have broken law in contacts with ex-Romney adviser

A member of the National Labor Relations Board might have broken the law by providing internal information to a former adviser for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). 

In a letter sent Thursday to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Committee, Cummings said he has learned of new information stemming from the inspector general’s (IG) probe of Terence Flynn, a Republican who was recess-appointed by President Obama to the NLRB this past January. 

Cummings, the Oversight panel’s ranking member, said the labor board’s IG has found “multiple additional improper disclosures of confidential inside information” and intends to issue a supplemental report this week.

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Cummings said the leaks of inside information at the NLRB might have violated the Hatch Act, a law that limits the political activity of government employees. The IG has allegedly found that Flynn has shared more confidential information with Peter Schaumber — a former NLRB member and an adviser to Romney’s presidential campaign — than originally thought, according to Cummings.

“In addition, the Inspector General has now referred the improper disclosures described in his initial report to the Office of Special Counsel for potential Hatch Act violations due to Mr. Schaumber's role as a senior adviser to presidential candidate Mitt Romney,” Cummings said in his letter. 

The Romney campaign on Thursday told The Hill that Schaumber no longer serves as an adviser. 

“Mr. Schaumber informed us in December 2011 that he was stepping down from his volunteer advisory role,” said a Romney campaign aide. 

Schaumber had served as co-chairman of the campaign's labor policy advisory group.

The labor board’s IG released his original report on Flynn last month. That report said that the NLRB member, then an agency chief counsel, had violated ethics rules and attorney-client privilege by sharing internal agency information with people outside of the NLRB. 

The report highlighted Flynn’s emails with Schaumber and another former NLRB member, Pete Kirsanow. Those emails included non-public information, including where cases stood at the labor board and what positions NLRB members were taking.  

Flynn and Kirsanow have denied all wrongdoing in response to the IG report. Schaumber did not return messages asking for comment for this piece.

The NLRB IG declined to comment on Cummings’s letter.

"As a rule, the Inspector General does not comment on investigations," said Nancy Cleeland, a NLRB spokeswoman.

Last month, Cummings sent a letter to Issa asking their committee to conduct interviews and request documents from Kirsanow and Schaumber. 

In his letter Thursday, Cummings repeated his request and said Issa has done nothing to investigate the leaks at the NLRB.

“You have called no hearings, conducted no interviews, and sent no document requests,” Cummings wrote. “Our Committee should conduct vigorous oversight of alleged abuses on an even-handed basis, regardless of whether those implicated are Republicans or Democrats.”

Barry Coburn, Flynn's attorney, noted that the IG has not issued a supplemental report yet. He also said Flynn has voluntarily responded to questions from the IG as well as from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. 

"We are unaware of any basis whatsoever for any allegation that Mr. Flynn violated the Hatch Act. His contacts with Mr. Schaumber, his friend and former colleague, were not illegal in any respect," Coburn said.

— This story was updated at 2:41 p.m. with new information from the Romney campaign, and at 5:50 p.m. with a comment from Terence Flynn's attorney.