Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hillary flies ‘friendly' skies of IPA


When I was a teenager, my mother told me to be careful who I got in a car with. She wouldn't have approved if I took a ride from a convicted criminal, or a company being sued by the federal government in a massive sexual harassment lawsuit.

The admonitions worked: I never did either. Maybe my mother should have talked to Hillary Clinton.

Hillary apparently had no qualms climbing into the undoubtedly plush confines of a corporate jet owned or leased by International Profit Associates, Buffalo Grove, Il., a business consulting firm/defendant in the largest sexual harassment lawsuit ever filed by the Chicago office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Washington Post had the airplane nugget buried in a larger story earlier this year. I just dug out the FEC report and found the IPA travel disbursement on page 621 of a filing in 2004. The relevant part of the document is shown above.

Hillary, as we reported earlier, has been endorsed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) so you'd think she might be a little sensitive about a matter like this. Apparently not, because there's no evidence she's returned the $150,000 or so that IPA or its executives have given her over the past several years, making the company one of her largest donors.

Here's what EEOC lawyer Diane Smason said about the case in a May 2006 story in the New York Times.

"This is probably the most egregious case of sex harassment that the Chicago district office has seen. The owner of the company (John Burgess) engaged in harassment, and that set the tone for the company, on down."
And later last year, in a EEOC filing, the agency added:

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.
This case was filed in 2001, so Hillary doesn't have the excuse she didn't know about the allegations. She could have watched the two-part series here and here on the alleged sexual harassment on Chicago's NBC 5 the same month she was taking the corporate jet ride from IPA.

As we reported earlier, company founder John Burgess is a convicted criminal, the Better Business Bureau says IPA has an "unsatisfactory record," the Illinois Attorney General's office is investigating the company for fraud and more than 125 individual lawsuits have been filed against IPA, including a federal racketeering suit pending in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Politicians across the country have given money back to IPA after learning about its problems, including Barack Obama, who took and returned $2,000. John Edwards took $6,000 from IPA and its executives and, like Hillary, there's no record he returned the money.

Hillary also takes money from IPA's lawyer, Myron "Mike" Cherry, who admitted he is the conduit between the Clintons and IPA in the New York Times article. Cherry has another nickname besides "Mike." In Illinois, he's also known as "Individual H" in the indictment of insider Tony Rezko. According to the indictment, Cherry's name was listed as the recipient of a bogus $250,000 finder's fee before it was squelched by a pension agency. Cherry's denies knowledge of the commission and says he's cooperating with the feds. Cherry got a consolation, a fat no-bid contract from Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to investigate insurance fraud even though critics said Cherry had no experience on the topic.

I haven't seen this many red flags since the old Red Square days in the Soviet Union. Hillary is either color blind or doesn't care about IPA's problems. She'd rather take the money and run—or in this case, fly.

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