Sen. Richard Blumenthal has pushed for more transparency in financial markets, contracting and higher education since taking office in 2011, but he recently went to federal court to keep some of his own records from public view.
The Connecticut Democrat filed a motion to quash a subpoena last week in federal court in Washington after a nursing home company called on him to turn over records about his office's communications with health care union members in his state.
Care One Management LLC said it needs the records and testimony from Mr. Blumenthal in its racketeering case against two locals of the Service Employees International Union.
Care One, joined in the lawsuit by several related entities, said the unions bypassed traditional bargaining in favor of a "corporate campaign" using illegal tactics that enlisted powerful elected officials.
Mr. Blumenthal isn't accused of any wrongdoing, but the company says he is one of several elected officials whom union members sought to influence using "false and misleading statements."
"Senator Blumenthal's office was particularly receptive to the [New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199] e-mail communications and even collaborated with the NEHCEU on a press release and open letter to the National Labor Relations Board on the NEHCEU's behalf," attorneys for the company argued in a Feb. 25 filing in federal court in New Jersey.
The company has issued subpoenas to Mr. Blumenthal, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, a fellow Connecticut Democrat, and Gov. Dan Malloy. The company says the governor was beholden to the union as a result of "outsized campaign contributions."
Mr. Blumenthal has made no secret of his support for the union. He joined the picket line as union members in Connecticut became embroiled in a bitter labor dispute. After five nursing homes filed for bankruptcy protection, he joined union members as they went back to work last year under a court order.
"You sent a message to all of the working class that you can fight and win," he was quoted as saying last year in the Milford Mirror.
Care One attorneys say the union's campaign against management just before a 2012 strike included what it called criminal acts such as removing patient identification wristbands, changing name plates on doors and switching the names of patients in a memory care unit.
The unions have sought to dismiss the case and called claims of sabotage "naked assertions" that don't link the union to any organizers.
A spokesman for Mr. Blumenthal's office declined to comment Tuesday.
But in papers filed last week in federal court in Washington, Mr. Blumenthal objected to a subpoena to give testimony in a deposition and to turn over SEIU emails and other internal documents.
Senate attorneys said Mr. Blumenthal had turned over records of all written communications between his office and the unions in regard to the labor dispute.
Even if the unions made "false and misleading statements" to Mr. Blumenthal, the motion said, such deception is protected. The Senate attorneys argued that the subpoena for records and testimony from Mr. Blumenthal "constitutes an inappropriate 'fishing expedition into congressional files.'"
They also argued against releasing any information on the basis of a constitutional clause that immunizes members of Congress from lawsuits arising from their legislative work.
Senate attorneys argued that Mr. Blumenthal served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees labor laws, so information he received about the labor dispute in Connecticut is protected from release.
The litigation has pried loose some emails revealing behind-the-scenes communications between Mr. Blumenthal's office and union officials.
In one exchange, a Blumenthal staffer said his boss couldn't attend an event at a nursing home as workers returned to their jobs last year.
"By the way, Dick cannot make the 630 start on Sunday," the staffer wrote to a union official. "He was wondering if you would do a similar event for the second shift? Maybe more likely to get press."
"Fabulous," the union official replied.
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