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FEC Slaps SEIU With $260,000 Penalty

The Service Employees International Union gave Democratic presidential frontrunner Howard Dean its official blessing Wednesday, the same day the Federal Election Commission announced it had hit SEIU and several affiliates with $260,000 in fines related to improper record-keeping and other violations of the law.

SEIU’s political campaign committee paid a $75,000 civil penalty in December 2002, the FEC revealed Wednesday.

Three related groups — New York’s Health and Human Service Union 1199, the Local 1199 Federal Political Action Fund and the 1199 Service Employees International Union Federal Political Action Fund in New York — were assessed another $187,000 in fines for violations alleged to have taken place between 1998 and 2000.

According to the FEC, the groups made improper transfers of funds and failed to properly report certain transfers.

With 1.6 million members nationwide, SEIU is one of the largest and most influential unions in the nation and has become increasingly active in the federal campaign finance system in recent years under the leadership of President Andy Stern.

The labor union’s PAC, the Committee on Political Empowerment, has doubled its spending on federal campaigns from around $1 million in 1994 to more than $2 million in the 2002 campaign cycle. Thus far in the 2003-04 cycle, the SEIU PAC has already donated $740,000 to other PACs, candidates and party committees.

SEIU — which made its announcement together with another labor giant, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — is credited with having an exemplary history of grassroots organizing, which will be a boon to the former Vermont governor.

Stern is one of several Democratic activists at the helm of a multimillion dollar get-out-the-vote effort financed in part by billionaire philanthropist George Soros that is dedicated to trying to beat President Bush in key states next year.