Monday, April 30, 2007

Hillary and a 'gauntlet of abuse'

Response Brief-1
We've reported previously that despite her enthusiastic endorsement from the National Organization for Women (NOW), Hillary Clinton apparently has no problem associating with a company accused of widespread sexual harassment in a federal lawsuit.

We got our hands on a recent filing in that lawsuit and it is apparent this is not your garden variety sexual harassment case. In a September 2006 response brief (click on document above) to a motion for summary judgment, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) outlined its case against International Profit Associates (IPA) of suburban Buffalo Grove, Il., outside Chicago.

IPA's management, led by John Burgess, created a culture at IPA where sexual harassment flourished. IPA's senior managers harassed women with impunity, sending a signal to lower-level managers and employees that they could do the same. Given the tone set by IPA's senior management, it is not surprising that sexual harassment at IPA was rampant in all departments and at all levels of the company. Women at IPA routinely had to endure a gauntlet of abuse, ranging from sexual solicitations and physical harassment, to sexual comments and offensive sexual materials. Based on the extensive record of harassment presented in this case, IPA is not entitled to a finding that as a matter of law, the sexual harassment that occurred at the company was insufficiently severe or pervasive to survive summary judgment.
IPA, in court documents, has denied the allegations.

Clinton took the NOW endorsement while holding some $150,000 in campaign contributions from executives of IPA. The company and its founder, convicted felon John Burgess, have become so radioactive in the political world that politicians across the country have returned tens of thousands of dollars, according to a New York Times story last year. The Times says Clinton took more than $150,000 from IPA and its agents while the online database Open Secrets pegs the amount at about $130,000, making the firm her 12th largest career donor. We've seen no online or published evidence that Clinton has returned the money. In the Times story last year a spokewoman said the matter was under review.

The association between Hillary and IPA was more than casual. Even if she returned the money tomorrow, it doesn't change the fact that Hillary attended a company awards dinner in 2004 while the sexual harassment case was pending, according to a Jan. 10, 2004 article titled "Company's founder has a past of highs and lows" in the Daily Herald (link not available).
The company's annual "Celebration of Success" dinner always draws top politicians. Sen. Hillary Clinton was this year's spotlight attendee. A Clinton spokesman described Burgess as a "family friend" in a recent Associated Press article.
In addition to the sexual harassment complaint, IPA has a long history of complaints from small and medium sized businesses who say they were scammed. The Better Business Bureau has given IPA an "unsatisfactory record" because of reoccurring complaints, 417 in the last three years, and the Illinois Attorney General's office has a pending fraud investigation.

But it's the sexual harassment case that provides the most compelling reason for Hillary to return the money. After all, I thought she was supposed to be a champion for women. Judging from the alleged victims at IPA, they could have used one.
While John Burgess and IPA's upper management, including Director of Sales, Dan Drugan; Director of Business Coordination and Director of Recruiting and collections, Rich Lubicz; Director of Business Coordination and Senior Executive, Scott Kollins; Director of Inside Sales, Tony Jones; and Hybrid Director, Keith Link, were the worst perpetrators of sexual harassment, the harassment at issue in this case was by no means limited to these men. Indeed, women alleged that they were harassed by men within all levels of the company, from the owner and upper management, to business coordinators and the janitor. No department at IPA was free from harassment. Men in the business coordination, inside sales, outside sales, hybrid, recruiting, collections, and the accounting departments harassed women and women in all of these departments were subjected to harassment.
The case is before federal judge Joan Gottschall in Chicago and could go on trial as soon as this year.

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