Sen. Lindsey Graham openly threatened the National Labor Relations Board before they filed a complaint against Boeing for illegally moving their plant from Washington state to South Carolina, according to notes taken by the NLRB’s general counsel, Lafe Solomon.
The House Oversight Committee obtained the documents through a subpoena, and they show total intimidation on the part of the Senator:
Days before the NLRB issued the April 20 complaint against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against union workers, there were at least two phone calls between Graham and Lafe Solomon, the NLRB’s acting general counsel, during which the senator tried to talk the agency out of filing the complaint.
“He said that if a complaint was filed, it will be ‘nasty,’ ‘very, very nasty,’ ” Solomon wrote in notes describing a phone call with Graham on April 11. “He said that if complaint issued, he was going ‘full guns a-blazing.’ ”
Graham didn’t disappoint after the complaint was filed, and Solomon didn’t disappoint in letting the law rather than Lindsey Graham guide his actions. But this is completely out of bounds.
Graham copped to making the call when confronted by the Hill. “I meant that I would vigorously criticize the NLRB and actively work to protect the economic interests of South Carolina,” he said in a statement. “Those statements were made to convey to Mr. Solomon the political uproar that would occur both in South Carolina and nationally if the complaint was filed.” So this is an admission of guilt.
Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, raise the issue of influence peddling in his commentary on the new documents. And he released more details of the documents. Graham worked hand in hand with Boeing on this double-team of Solomon.
First, Michael Luttig, the General Counsel of Boeing, called Solomon, and he asserted he would “go to the Hill” and prevent Solomon from filing the claim, rather than accepting a settlement. Then Graham called and made his threats, adding that “he was more reasonable than his Senate counterpart (Sen. De Mint).” At this point, Solomon asked for Graham’s help in securing a settlement from Boeing, wanting to avoid litigation. Graham called Solomon back and said Boeing wouldn’t settle, and that if a complaint were filed it would be “very, very nasty,” and that Solomon was basically ruining the economy. Other members in the General Counsel’s office heard from Boeing that they would basically be blocked by Capitol Hill from issuing the complaint.
I’m sure this level of intimidation of federal agencies goes on all the time, but to see it all in print is a little bracing. This isn’t that different from a politician intervening in a legal proceeding on behalf of the defendant to try and get the case dropped. That’s at the very least unethical, if not illegal.
UPDATE: Here’s the debate in The Hill, which got some of these notes through a FOIA request, on whether or not this action was unusual:
Former NLRB officials contacted by The Hill had different views about whether Graham’s calls to Solomon were out of bounds.
John Irving, a former NLRB general counsel who was appointed by former President Ford, said he sometimes heard from lawmakers before he filed a complaint at the agency.
“There’s no impropriety communicating with the general counsel about a charge pending before the general counsel,” said Irving, who is now of counsel at Kirkland & Ellis. “To try to get them to decide one way or the other by expressing a personal view about what the general counsel ought to do is okay. At that point, the general counsel is an investigator, not a judge.”
Others said Graham’s calls were unusual.
“We got lots of threats and statements of hostility after cases materialized,” said Bill Gould, who served as chairman of the labor board during the Clinton administration. “I certainly didn’t get any calls like that.”
Gould, now a Stanford University law school professor, compared Graham’s calls to “picking up the phone and calling the prosecutor” to sway a case in a certain direction.