Wage nominee at Labor also works for AFL-CIO
Job vacant for three years due to other nominees’ conflicts
When the White House nominated David Weil to be in charge of wage enforcement for the Labor Department, officials stressed his weighty academic credentials as a Boston University professor and Harvard University researcher.
But officials never mentioned his side work consulting for the AFL-CIO.
The nominee disclosed $24,000 in consulting fees from the AFL-CIO since last year in a recent government ethics filing reviewed by The Washington Times.
It’s unclear whether the labor consulting deal will require Mr. Weil to get a waiver from President Obama’s ethics rules, which bar appointees from participating in particular matters involving former clients or employers. The AFL-CIO spends millions of dollars lobbying federal agencies, including the Labor Department, on minimum wage and other issues.
Neither Mr. Weil nor the Labor Department responded to inquiries Tuesday. But it’s an issue that already is getting attention as Senate aides vet his nomination.
“We’d want to know specifically what he’d do if AFL-CIO should come to his door,” said a Republican Senate aide, who was not authorized to speak about the vetting because the nomination is pending.
A spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO confirmed Mr. Weil worked for the organization.
“Dave Weil did limited work with the federation in helping to facilitate two senior staff retreats but did not work on any substantive issues for the federation,” AFL-CIO spokeswoman Amaya Smith said in an email.
The White House announcement of Mr. Weil’s nomination noted both his positions as professor of markets, public policy and law at Boston University as well as his work as a fellow and codirector of the transparency project at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. According to his ethics form, Mr. Weil earned more from the AFL-CIO than he did from Harvard. His selection was announced in September along with more than two dozen other nominations for politically appointed jobs across government.
“I am grateful that these talented and dedicated individuals have agreed to take on these important roles and devote their talents to serving the American people,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.
But Mr. Obama hasn’t had much success in filling the job Mr. Weil is seeking. It has remained without a Senateconfirmed appointee for years.
Mr. Obama’s first selection, Lorelei Boyland, withdrew her name amid Republican opposition over her involvement in a state “wage watch” program in New York, a first-of-its-kind program that deputized unions and advocacy groups to visit private businesses and report wage violations to the government, The administration yanked a second nominee, Leon Rodriguez, in 2011.
The Wage and Hour Division enforces minimum wage, overtime pay and the Family and Medical Leave Act, among other labor laws. With the top job vacant, Laura Fortman, a former top labor official in Maine, oversees the division.
The administration may face a Senate battle in its bid to nominate Mr. Weil, too, according to the legal news site Law 360, which reported that the nominee’s 2010 report “Improving Workplace Conditions Through Strategic Enforcement” has served as a blueprint for the Department of Labor division’s enforcement priorities.
“We know from [Mr. Weil’s] record and based on the report he wrote in 2010 that he favors significantly ramped-up punitive measures toward employers,” Paul DeCamp, a former wage and hour administrator, told Law 360.
“In a lot of ways, he brings an enforcement philosophy that seems to be entirely consistent with where the administration has been on these issues for the past 4 1⁄2 years, and as a result, I think that he may find Senate confirmation to be elusive.”
Meanwhile, Senate aides plan to seek more details about Mr. Weil’s work for organized labor and whether any potential conflicts could arise.
“It’s a concern for any nominee and it’s something we do thru out the vetting process,” the Senate aide said. “I’m fairly certain this will come up.”
Mr. Weil wrote a letter to a Labor Department ethics official saying he plans to cease all of his consulting work when confirmed.
“In addition, I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which a former client of mine is a party …” he wrote.
Mr. Weil is hardly the only administration nominee from academia who earned income on the side by consulting.
Ashton B. Carter, named the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer in 2011, also was a professor at Harvard, according to the White House announcement of his nomination. But the announcement didn’t mention he also earned money consulting for defense firms.
Likewise, James Steinberg, who served as one of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s top deputies, worked as a dean at the University of Texas. Disclosure forms at the time showed he also consulted part-time for the Glover Park Group, a lobbying firm with ties to the Clintons.