Kansas Liberty: 02 September 2009
They know where you live! Parkinson administration asks agencies to collect personal data on companies and individuals and give the information to union linked to the Democratic Party and ACORN.
Kansas state agencies told to pass personal info to liberal union activists
Individuals and companies working for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services and the Department of Aging have been requested by Secretary Don Jordan and Acting Secretary Martin Kennedy to gather personal information on their employees and surrender it to the state.
The data-harvesting initiative, supported by Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson, calls for the information collected to be given to the Services Employees International Union, one of the country's largest — and most politically active — labor unions.
The SEIU has made headlines recently because of its support of President Barack Obama's health-care initiatives. The union is closely allied with the Democratic Party and with ACORN, the activist group charged with election manipulation and other radical activities, including disruption of public meetings.
Recently, SEIU has been busing union members to town-hall meetings, trying to agitate for support for the Democratic health plan. The union has also launched a “Change that Works” campaign, which is aimed at providing support for Obama's policies.
As bloggers at Kansas Meadowlark and Kansas Trunkline reported Monday, the information requested includes names, addresses and telephone numbers of providers. The Kansas SRS sent out 960 letters and the Department of Aging sent out approximately 80.
According to the union’s web site, the SEIU has a total of 2.1 million members spread throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Union members are mostly government employees in public services and property services, but more than half of the union members are in the field of health care.
The SEIU endorsed Obama while he was a presidential candidate and also supported former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius while she was a nominee for secretary of health and human services. Kansas Meadowlark reported the SEIU is also a political donor to Sebelius’ political action committee, the Bluestem Fund. The union donated $100,000 to the PAC in 2008.
The SEIU also recently hosted a meeting in which Sebelius dispelled supposed myths about health-care reform plans to its union members.
SRS gave respondents until Sept. 3 to comply with the request to supply information for the SEIU.
“Considering that the nature of their work can make it difficult to reach these individuals, this will provide an opportunity for these individuals to receive information regarding services offered by this organization,” the SRS letter said.
State Rep. Brenda Landwehr, chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, said she thought the request for information was “flat wrong.” Landwehr, R-Wichita, said it was concerning the SRS and Department of Aging were complying with a group that has many ties to Democrats and Sebelius.
“The smell test says, yes this is politically motivated,” Landwehr told Kansas Liberty.
The SRS and Department of Aging said they would ensure that the information is not used “improperly” and argued providers should be obligated to provide the information because of the Benefits and Limitations section of the Kansas Medical Assistance Program Manual.
According to an excerpt from the manual, the attendant-care service providers must supply contact information to “federal and state agencies, law enforcement, the attorney general’s office and legislative post audit” when it is requested. Also according to the manual, "if there is a dispute between the provider and a requesting entity on whether the list should be released, the state agency responsible for the program will make the final decision."
Michelle Ponce, spokesperson for Kansas SRS, said the agency was simply responding to a request made by the SEIU through the Kansas Open Records Act. Ponce said she was unaware of any pending requests from other unions or any other circumstances in which the SRS provided information to unions in the past.
“They would like the contact information so they can send information to those workers,” Ponce told Kansas Liberty. “And from an agency standpoint, we do not have any opinion to what workers should then do with the information, but we would like to ensure they have the information so they can make an informed choice.”
Ponce said the Kansas SRS’s position on the SEIU was “very neutral.”
“Our hope is to be able to comply with an open-records request in a timely manner as we would with any request,” she said.
Ponce said she was unsure how the SRS would respond to providers who refuse to submit the information.
“My hope would be if they have concerns or questions about supplying the information, they should contact us,” she said. “We have had some providers send the information and have had some contact us with questions so far.”
Barb Conant, director of communications with the Kansas Department of Aging, said the department would not take any negative action against providers who do not comply. Conant said the department would not break any provider agreements, or withhold payments in situations where a provider does not wish to submit the information.
“We would encourage them to comply, but we won’t take any kind of punitive action if they are uncomfortable with it,” Conant told Kansas Liberty.
The current acting secretary for the Department on Aging is a replacement for former Secretary Kathy Greenlee, who now works under Sebelius as the United States assistant secretary for aging.
Doug Gerdel, payroll agent with Life Patterns, said he would not be complying with the request for information he received from SRS. Gerdel said the Topeka group — which coordinates health-care support for people with disabilities — has roughly 245 employees and that he did not feel comfortable sharing the employee information.
“I think this is way over the line,” Gerdel told Kansas Liberty. “They want us to just give them all of this information and we aren’t going to do it. I can't imagine why Secretary Jordan would ask for something like that when he knows full well that it is a total invasion of privacy."
Ponce said she did not believe providers could get into any type of legal trouble for providing the information.
The action also raised eyebrows at the Kansas Republican Party, which posted a notice of the letter on its Trunkline blog yesterday afternoon.
“While the health care debate continues and the SEIU remains heavily involved in it, it seems suspect that they would make this request now,” the GOP blog says.
Beth Martino, Parkinson's spokesperson, said the letter was not a specific initiative of Parkinson’s, though he does not oppose it.
“The governor is supportive of the effort to get union information to employees,” Martino told Kansas Liberty.
It is unclear whether other states are also being requested to provide this information. Attempts to reach the national SEIU were not responded to, and an attempt to speak with the Wichita chapter of the SEIU resulted in a representative who refused to answer questions, and who spoke about "far right-wing" news organizations as he hung up on a Kansas Liberty reporter.
Kansas Meadowlark report: SEIU collecting names from Kansas SRS and Dept of Aging a payback for $100,000 contribution to Sebelius’ PAC?
The Kansas Trunkline-official GOP blog