Of course, you can't mislead an interviewer in a job interview.
Unless, apparently, you've been nominated for a government position
that requires high ethical standards.
Consider Patricia Smith, President Obama's nominee for Solicitor
of the Department of Labor. Senate Republicans have asked President
Obama to withdraw her nomination after documents surfaced
contradicting her testimony at her confirmation hearing.
While Smith was Commissioner of the New York State labor
department, she created a "wage watch" program that used union
activists and other private citizens to act as wage and hour
inspectors and report violations to the state. Within weeks of the
program's creation, convenience and retail stores began complaining
that it "steps well over the boundaries of even the most
constructive collaborations with community groups and
No one opposes enforcing minimum wage or overtime laws. However,
businesses began to suspect that "wage watch" had less to do with
fighting malfeasance and more to do with giving unions a way to
target unorganized firms. Union organizers deputized by the state
can create a public relations nightmare for targeted firms by
reporting spurious violations to the government for
As the program unfolded, many union organizers applied to join.
Curious. Then a union local wrote down its plan to use wage watch
in "all of our organizing campaigns."
Such a misuse of state power to advance a private agenda is
troubling. During her confirmation hearings, Smith downplayed the
program. She told Senators that the idea for wage watch and the
development of the program came from her within department, not
from outside groups. She also presented it as a pilot project in
New York City that her office had not decided to expand.
Neither of those statements was accurate.
Documents delivered to the Senate show that unions were heavily
involved in developing wage watch. It was their idea from the
beginning. And the program was hardly a "pilot." At the time of her
hearing the New York Department of Labor planned to expand the
program throughout the state, even though Smith told Senators
It's possible that Patricia Smith didn't knowingly mislead the
Senate. But if that's true, she must have been completely ignorant
about how her subordinates implemented her departments' signature
Here's the more likely scenario: Smith knew how her department
implemented wage watch but didn't want the controversy to hinder
her nomination, so she misrepresented the facts to smooth her
Either scenario is damning: On the one hand, could an
administrator so ignorant of her subordinates' actions be trusted
with the third ranking spot in the Department of Labor? On the
other hand, a nominee who misleads the Senate has made a mockery of
the confirmation process.
Ethics in government are always important, but especially so for
the Solicitor of labor, the department's top lawyer. This person's
job is to give legal advice to the Secretary of labor and manage
the attorneys who represent the department in court. The Solicitor
ensures that DoL treats everyone it regulates -- including small
businesses -- fairly and without prejudice.
Small businesses need to know the Department of Labor will treat
them fairly before the law. Patricia Smith cannot give them that
kind of confidence. The question the Senate should now ask is: Why
should she not face the same consequences as a private-sector
jobseeker who misleads a prospective employer?
Sherk is the Bradley fellow in labor policy at The Heritage