HOME / PRESS OFFICE
|For Immediate Release
October 12, 2004
|KENTUCKY CARPENTERS UNION PAYS $297,000 CIVIL PENALTY|
| WASHINGTON -- The Federal Election Commission
(FEC) has entered into a conciliation agreement with the Indiana-Kentucky
Regional Council of Carpenters (the successor to the Kentucky State District
Council of Carpenters, or "KSDCC") and three of its former officers,
J. Stephen Barger, Donald Mitchell, and Thomas Schulz. The conciliation
agreement resulted in a civil penalty of $297,000.
This agreement completed an investigation into allegations that the KSDCC, a labor organization representing carpenters and other crafts persons within the State of Kentucky , Mr. Barger, Mr. Mitchell, and Mr. Schulz coerced union employees into making political contributions to federal candidates and working in candidates' campaign offices under threat of job loss and/or other consequences. The union also illegally bundled contributions from union members and failed to disclose communications to members that expressly advocated the election or defeat of federal candidates.
The FEC investigation found that, during at least the 1998, 2000, and 2002 election cycles, the union assigned employees known as "field representatives" to work directly for the campaigns of federal, state, and local candidates on union time. Based upon weekly salaries and the total hours worked, KSDCC provided as much as $141,000 in salaries for union staff working with the unions' endorsed candidates during the ten weeks preceding the general elections. Many of the hours spent on campaign activity were in connection with federal campaigns and included attendance at rallies and campaign meetings, participation in precinct walks and literature drops, the posting of campaign signs, recruitment of volunteers, and communications with KSDCC's members. KSDCC also hired additional staff before the 2000 General Election for the purpose of assisting the union's endorsed federal and nonfederal candidates.
Labor organizations may not require employees to work with federal candidates on activities directed to the general public as part of their job responsibilities or compensate employees for the time they spend engaging in such activities. Otherwise, the monetary value of the time spent working with federal candidates on activities directed to the general public constitutes an in-kind contribution from the labor organization to the federal candidate in violation the FECA and FEC regulations.
In addition, during at least the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, KSDCC solicited and monitored contributions from its employees to federal candidates. The union told employees which candidates to support, and how much to contribute, and it gave a deadline by which contributions needed to be sent to the union office. These contributions were then collected, bundled, and forwarded by the union to the federal candidate committees.
The evidence also showed that making contributions to federal candidates was a required part of the job for field representatives, and some of them thought that they would face reprisals if they failed to contribute, including being fired and being prevented from obtaining future union jobs. Under the FECA labor organizations are prohibited from using coercion, such as the threat of a detrimental job action, any other financial reprisal, or force, to urge any individual to make a contribution.
Further, according to the conciliation agreement, KSDCC made partisan communications to its members and failed to report the costs to the FEC. Labor organizations must report the costs of membership communications if those communications expressly advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate (other than a communication primarily devoted to subjects other than the express advocacy of the election or defeat of a federal candidate) once the costs of the communications exceed $2,000 for any election.
*There are four administrative stages to the FEC enforcement process:
It requires the votes of at least four of the six Commissioners to take any action. The FEC can close a case at any point after reviewing a complaint. If a violation is found and conciliation cannot be reached, then the FEC can institute a civil court action against a respondent.