Online Opinion Editor
01/30/10 1:07 PM EST
(Opinion) Patricia Smith, President Obama’s nominee for Solicitor of Labor, appears to have lied to Congress, according to e-mails released from during her tenure as Commissioner of the New York State Labor Department. As Daniel Halper explains over at The Weekly Standard, 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.
Senate Labor ranking member Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., has asked that Smith’s nomination be withdrawn.
Halper’s post reproduces two memos on Smith that Republicans are circulating on Capitol Hill. The Wage Watch program was an effort to deputize unions to detect illegal employment practices — for example, by confronting and interviewing employees as they leave work, or even while they are on the job.
Beyond the issue of the expansion of Wage Watch, Smith also appears to have misled Congress as regards the involvement of outside labor groups in developing the program. She had been asked about this during her confirmation hearing by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.:
Senator Burr. But you reached out to individuals and groups to help craft the specifics of—-
Ms. Smith. Actually, no, Senator, we did not. This was an internally crafted group. It was only after we sat down and crafted it ourselves that we reached out to groups to see if they would be interested.
But the e-mails obtained through New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) suggest otherwise. Outside groups were being consulted as early as April 2008, and played a key role in developing the program. Smith herself was copied on e-mails discussing the program with these groups as early as November 2008. The program was announced publicly in January 2009, and Enzi’s memo contends that the businesses affected weren’t even allowed a meeting with Smith until March.
Smith’s actions with respect to this program seem to show she has a heavy bias toward labor and against business — no big surprise, perhaps, considering who is appointing her. But why she would mislead or even directly lie to Congress about any of this is a bit odd. Even when given the opportunity to revise her testimony in written questions, Smith stuck to a story that does not seem consistent with the paper-trail.
On Monday, Smith will get a cloture vote in the Senate. With Scott Brown waiting at least another week to be seated in the Senate, there is a chance her nomination will slide right through.