Biden’s pick to head Labor Department faces scrutiny over hefty payments to girlfriend’s firm

President-elect Joe Biden campaigned on a promise to restore decency, honesty, and transparency to the executive branch — but if he truly wants to fulfill that vow, he ought to consider choosing a new nominee for labor secretary.

According to the Washington Examiner, Biden’s pick to head the Department of Labor, Democratic Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, has come under intense scrutiny for reportedly funneling more than $1 million in campaign funds to a consultancy business that employes his girlfriend, Lorrie Higgins.

Citing campaign filings, the Examiner said Walsh directed nearly $1.2 million to a company known as LB Strategies in an ethically questionable, but reportedly not illegal, arrangement that first came to light in early 2019.

A mutually beneficial arrangement

Fox News reported that Mayor Walsh, who was first elected to the role in 2014 and granted a second term by voters four years later, appeared to have established the arrangement some time ago. It has reportedly accounted for roughly half of LB Strategies’ political business since at least 2013.

Reports also noted that Walsh’s payments to the consulting firm had stepped up incrementally over the years; as of 2019, the campaign had been paying the firm $14,650 per month, according to Fox.

The last payment received, according to the filings, was on Dec. 2, 2020.

That money was apparently well-spent, as LB Strategies — which oversees the mayor’s campaign and assists with things like scheduling, office management, and fundraising — helped Walsh raise nearly $3 million for his 2018 re-election bid, Fox reported, and the mayor is said to currently have a campaign war chest of around $6 million.

Given that there are no term limits for the office of mayor in Boston, it is possible that those funds are earmarked for a 2022 re-election campaign; however, if confirmed to lead the Labor Department, he may opt to remain in Biden’s administration and leave the mayorship open for another candidate.

“It looks like nepotism”

As for Walsh’s allegedly nefarious campaign dealings, questions of the arrangement first arose following a March 2019 report published by The Boston Globe.

At the time, a University of Massachusetts–Boston professor named Maurice Cunningham — who, according to Fox, has “written extensively about campaign finance issues” — told the Globe of the situation: “It’s the kind of thing that voters are concerned about. It looks like nepotism in some form.”

Indeed, and it is the exact sort of “swampy” behavior that Biden often vowed to eschew if he were elected president.

But will the soon-to-be commander-in-chief reconsider his choice in light of the growing criticism? Only time will tell, but I certainly wouldn’t hold my breath.

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