The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union bosses have a habit of flouting Pennsylvania state lobbying laws.
UFCW Local 1776 President Wendell W. Young IV is not a registered lobbyist despite his frequent visits to the Capitol and to legislators, according to a Media Trackers report published earlier this month. But Young is not the only UFCW official that has not bothered to register.
UFCW Local 23 also has three officers that have admitted to their lobbying activities on federal disclosure forms but have not registered with the state as lobbyists. Local 23 President Anthony Helfer, Strategic Programs Director Richard Granger and Director of Public Affairs Kevin Kilroy are not registered with the state, but appear to be over the threshold of lobbying that is allowed before registration is required.
Pennsylvania law states a principal making more than $2,500 a quarter — or $10,000 a year — for lobbying is required to register with the state as a lobbyist.
Robert Caruso, the executive director of the state’s Ethics Commission, told the PA Independent there are some exceptions to the law that can make it tricky, though he said it’s best to play it safe and register with the state if there is any doubt.
“We always try to tell people to err on the side of caution,” he said.
Helfer has been floating around that threshold for the past few years, sometimes staying below $10,000 and sometimes exceeding it. Helfer makes an average salary around $126,000 (including “disbursements for official business” his yearly total comes to around $135,000) and said he spent 8 percent of his time on “political activities and lobbying” in 2010, 2011, and 2012. That means just over $10,000 of his paycheck is for lobbying. In 2013, he spent 6 percent of his time on these activities and was just under the limit.
Granger’s time spent on “political activities and lobbying” fluctuates from year to year. In 2012, however, Granger said he spent 23 percent of his time in that category. He makes a salary of $83,266, or $89,604 including disbursements.
Kilroy, on the other hand, is consistently above the $10,000 threshold. UFCW 23 federal disclosure forms show Kilroy has spent from 64 to 82 percent of his time on political activities and lobbying since 2010. With a salary of $87,845 (or $97,218 with disbursements included), he makes far more than $10,000 a year for his time spent on “political activities and lobbying.”
Young compared the lobbying that he and other union officials do to that of corporate CEOs, whom he said are similarly not registered.
“I don’t get paid to lobby,” Young told Media Trackers last week. “The fact that I sometimes lobby doesn’t mean I have to report. We [union officials] are not contract lobbyists, but from time to time we have the right to talk to legislators about legislation that affects our members.”
“If we don’t spend any time lobbying, our paycheck doesn’t change,” Young added.
Misreporting of Lobbying Expenses
At the end of 2010, UFCW 1176 started visiting its members across the state to get permission to raise union dues in order to fight legislation that would privatize the state-run liquor industry. With this increase in dues, they launched a anti-privatization campaign and paid lobbyist, lobbying firms and advertising firms to fight against the legislation.
While these activities should fall under “political activities and lobbying” on federal disclosure forms, UFCW 1776 chose to file them under “representational activities.” Young told Media Trackers they could have filed them under either category.
UFCW Local 23 has also chipped in to the anti-privatization campaign by sending UFCW 1776 money in 2012 and 2013. Local 23 sent $72,932 in 2012 and $338,435 in 2013. Both payments were for “PLCB Anti-Privatization.” And both of these payments were filed under “representational activities” even though those expenses were being sent to a local union that does not represent Local 23 employees.
Unlike UFCW 1776, UFCW Local 23 has not filed any other political expenses under “representational activities” from 2010 to 2013. But the money Local 23 sent to Local 1776 is funding a blatantly political cause.
Local 23 represents around 900 liquor store employees, while Local 1776 represents about 4,000.
Local 23 had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.