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Former SEIU Chief Stern Says FBI Probe Reports False

Andy Stern, former head of the Service Employees International Union, said reports that he is being investigated by the FBI and Labor Department are “absolutely false.”

Reports of an inquiry are “tabloid journalism” spread by “unnamed sources who are former union leaders removed from office for corruption and found guilty by a jury for diverting money,” Stern told reporters today outside a meeting in Washington of President Barack Obama’s commission on the federal deficit. Stern serves on the panel.

Two union officials said yesterday they were interviewed by federal agents about Stern as part of a corruption probe. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a pending inquiry, said they talked with investigators about Stern’s $175,000 book contract in 2006 with publisher Simon & Schuster. The SEIU bought thousands of copies of the book, “A Country That Works,” and paid to help promote it, the officials said.

The FBI also asked about Stern’s role approving the salary of Alejandro Stephens, a California labor leader who may have performed no work, the officials said. Stephens, a former president of an SEIU local that represents Los Angeles County government workers, has been sentenced to four months in jail and three months’ home confinement after pleading guilty to stealing $52,000 from a voter outreach program.

Christopher Seagle, a spokesman for the Labor Department’s inspector general, said yesterday he wouldn’t confirm or deny that the office is investigating Stern. Bill Carter, an FBI spokesman, declined to comment.

‘Bonehead, Boob’

Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming who is the co-chairman of the deficit commission, opened the panel’s meeting today by praising the members’ “fine friend Andy Stern, now the subject of anonymous allegations and retribution from fellow union members, who used the electronic fog machine to shower material upon us all.”

Simpson criticized “any person who uses an anonymous blog” to make assertions. Such a person “is a jerk, or a bonehead or a boob,” he said.

Stern, 59, resigned in April after 14 years leading the 2.2 million-member SEIU, the fastest-growing U.S. union. Stern said at the time that he wanted to spend more time on other projects, including the deficit commission.

Stern issued a statement through the SEIU yesterday saying he had “absolutely no reason to believe, and not the slightest indication, that I am being investigated by federal authorities.”

He declined to discuss the book contract when asked about it by reporters today. Michelle Ringuette, an SEIU spokeswoman, said in an interview yesterday that Stern “never received royalties from the sale of the book” and that “there was an airtight conflict of interest policy.”

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