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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

 

Obama aide failed to disclose payout

Obama aide failed to disclose payout
Jake Sherman
June 28, 2010 01:29 PM EDT

Patrick Gaspard (shown) served as the political director for the Service Employees International Union local 1199.
Patrick Gaspard served as the political director for the Service Employees International Union local 1199. AP

President Barack Obama’s political director failed to disclose that he was slated to receive a nearly $40,000 payout from a large labor union while he was working in the White House.

Patrick Gaspard, who served as the political director for the Service Employees International Union local 1199, received $37,071.46 in “carried over leave and vacation” from the union in 2009, but he did not disclose the agreement to receive the payment on his financial disclosure forms filed with the White House.

In a section on his financial disclosure where agreements or arrangements for payment by a former employer must be disclosed, Gaspard checked a box indicating that he had nothing to report.

Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, told POLITICO Monday that Gaspard was in the process of correcting his disclosure form to reflect that he did in fact have an agreement for severance.

“We have made the small administrative change to this year's and last year's forms to indicate that part of the final payment to Patrick reflected their typical severance of one week of pay for each of his nine years of service at Local 1199 of SEIU,” Burton wrote POLITICO in an e-mailed statement.

Such financial disclosures are governed by federal law, but Stan Brand, a former House general counsel and ethics expert, said the Justice Department is unlikely to pursue an investigation unless they suspected a “knowing or willful” intent to deceive.

Gaspard’s omission is a potentially embarrassing episode for the Obama administration, which has made a high priority of ethics.

“They’ve made ethics a fetish and they have all kinds of people over there with experience, so I don’t know how they missed this one,” Brand said.

Gaspard spent nine years at 1199 SEIU, a major labor union in New York. Gaspard also worked for Obama’s campaign, and later worked for the transition team, where he earned $11,500, according to the financial disclosure form he filed this year. He was pulling a salary from SEIU until Jan. 16, 2009, shortly before Obama was inaugurated.

Gaspard, who made $172,200 in 2009, has from $35,000 to $80,000 in credit card debt and student loans, according to his financial disclosures.

This SEIU payout was first raised in early June by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the top GOP lawmaker on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He sent a letter to the White House asking for information about the payment. They have yet to respond.


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