By Walter Alarkon - 09/29/10 09:35 PM EDT
Former SEIU President Andy Stern on Wednesday dismissed reports that he's under scrutiny in a federal corruption probe, calling the allegations "completely false."
Two unnamed labor officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Stern was being investigated by the FBI and Labor Department as part of a corruption probe of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
The officials said they were interviewed by federal agents last summer about Stern's 2006 book contract and role in payments to a California SEIU leader who allegedly performed no work, the AP reported.
Stern told reporters he hasn't spoken to or heard from federal officials about either issue and added that he doesn't expect to. He said the reports were political attacks aimed at weakening SEIU days before California health workers vote on whether to leave the union for another labor group.
About 42,000 SEIU members in California will vote next month on whether to join the National Union of Health Workers, which was started by former SEIU leaders who were removed last year for misusing SEIU money. Stern said the anonymous allegations against him were related to the election.
"I've never been contacted, and two unnamed people who've been removed by the union [and] found guilty by a jury of their peers of diverting money makes this about tabloid journalism, not investigative journalism," Stern said.
"I'm not naive," he added. "We're in an election for 42,000 workers. The ballot count is Oct. 3. This is the last week of get-out-the-vote."
The unnamed labor officials in the AP report said that federal investigators asked Stern about his 2006 book, A Country That Works. Stern, who was SEIU president at the time, received a six-figure advance, and his union agreed to buy copies of the book and pay for the fact-checking and promotion of it.
The AP and Los Angeles Times stories also said investigators asked about union payments to Alejandro Stephens, an ex-SEIU leader in California, who allegedly performed no work in exchange for a salary.
Stern told reporters that details about his book deal have already been entered into the public record as part of a court battle between SEIU and the splinter union. He said there was nothing wrong with the contract.
The book deal "was clearly structured and transparent and voted on three times by our executive board," he said. "It was more lawyered-up than you could possibly imagine, with inside counsel and outside counsel making sure that I was protected, the union was protected and that we were ethically acting. I don't know what else you do."
Stern, who left SEIU earlier this year, was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in his capacity as a member of the White House fiscal commission.
The co-chairman of the White House panel, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), defended Stern.
"I think any person who uses an anonymous blog — to say it quite clearly — is a jerk, or a bonehead or a boob — just a personal opinion," Simpson said at the outset of the commission's meeting Wednesday. "If you have something to say, say it and tell who you are. Don't whimper and hide out."