Politics
"This Is Our DC" activists hold "We are the 99%" and mix with "Occupy DC" protesters during a protest outside the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. (Reason TV)  "This Is Our DC" activists hold "We are the 99%" and mix with "Occupy DC" protesters during a protest outside the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. (Reason TV)   

Secretive nationwide network gives SEIU new organizing muscle

Photo of Richard Pollock
Richard Pollock
Contributor

The SEIU’s connection to Our DC and other local groups is clear. An SEIU-tied Washington, D.C. law firm incorporated each of them. The founding board members are solely SEIU executives and organizers. In each city the founding addresses match those of SEIU locals.

For example, the legal name of the Los Angeles group “Good Jobs LA,” is “Good Jobs, Safe Communities LA.” It is registered with the California Secretary of State at the Sacramento headquarters address of SEIU California.

The street addresses listed on many of the websites themselves, however, do not correspond with SEIU locals.

At least one of the websites, “One Pittsburgh,” provides a list of 14 “coalition partners,” including the NAACP, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, and locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers and an Ironworkers union affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The SEIU is among that list, making its role appear minor.

The Daily Caller previously reported on a similar tactic employed in February by the United Auto Workers, which sought to distance itself from a “99% Spring” campaign scheduled for April. Planning documents described that union as one participant of many, even though the documents were being distributed from an unprotected portion of a UAW Web server.

Many of the Internet domain names for the groups’ websites were originally registered through an anonymous proxy service. But records compiled by Robtex.com, a website reputation management firm, reveal that all of their IP (Internet Protocol) addresses link back to a main SEIU Web server.

An IP address is a unique number assigned to an Internet-connected computer or computer network.

The principal IP address of the SEIU’s main Web server reveals an inventory of 69 Web domains representing union and advocacy groups throughout the United States. All of the sites corresponding to the city-specific SEIU front groups are on that server.

Most of their websites have similar visual designs and appear to be based on the same template — a template that The Daily Caller was able to identify on an unprotected SEIU server.

As 501 (c)(4) non-profit organizations, the SEIU-related groups are tax-exempt, meaning they do not pay federal taxes on their income. Their donors, however, are not entitled to deduct their contributions on their own income tax returns.

While the Occupy movement abhors corporate secrecy, demanding that Wall Street firms and banks open their books, the new SEIU network is marked by a lack of transparency that runs afoul of best-practice standards established by the non-profit and philanthropic communities.

While the union is creating non-profits that mask its relationship to the union, the world of mainstream charities has been moving toward greater openness.

Daniel Borochoff, the president of CharityWatch, a national watchdog group that evaluates charities for donors, says the SEIU and its offspring are dishonest.

“I would call it lying by omission. By leaving stuff out that’s relevant, it’s a passive way of not telling the truth,” he told The Daily Caller.

“If this union is playing a major role in the governance, policy and politics of the organization, it should not be hidden. It should be up-front about this,” Borochoff added.

For attorney Jeff Hurwit, the groups’ secrecy is contrary to the principals of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“If you’re calling for openness and transparency and to organize it in way that’s secretive, that’s hypocritical,” he told The Daily Caller.

Hurwit is a principal in the Boston-based law firm of Hurwit & Associates. Nationally, his firm represents more than 2,500 non-profit organizations.

While he is sympathetic to the cause of Occupy Wall Street, Hurwit said secrecy has no place in the movement. “Who are the stewards of your organization, the trustees, the directors, so there would be confidence in your organization?”