- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2001

From the moment President-elect George W. Bush announced his nomination of Linda Chavez for secretary of labor, the Democratic Party and the Big Labor bosses have been feverishly attacking her. The reason is simple: Both the party and the bosses rightly fear she will end the cozy relationship by which Big Labor siphons tens of millions of dollars each election cycle from workers' paychecks and funnels the loot into the Democratic Party's coffers or spends it on behalf of Democratic candidates. Never mind that nearly 40 percent of voters from union households pulled the lever for Mr. Bush in November.

Over the weekend, in an act of both political desperation and character assassination, Democrats and Big Labor directed their fire at Mrs. Chavez for perpetrating acts of compassionate conservatism. In the early 1990s, as she and her family had done in the past and continue to do today, Mrs. Chavez opened her home to someone who literally had no place else to go. For about one year, the Chavez family offered housing and cultural acclimation to Marta Mercado, an immigrant who had fled an abusive family situation in Guatemala and arrived in the Washington area penniless and unable to speak any English whatsoever. Apparently, a friend who was aware of Mrs. Chavez's earlier acts of charity asked Mrs. Chavez to provide temporary shelter to Mrs. Mercado.

During the time in question, Mrs. Chavez, who is a strong proponent of English as the national language and of personal responsibility, drove Mrs. Mercado to English classes and job interviews. As a guest of the Chavez family, Mrs. Mercado helped out with the chores, and Mrs. Chavez occasionally gave her impoverished visitor money to defray living expenses. Eventually, Mrs. Chavez helped her guest find a job with friends. At no time did either woman consider Mrs. Chavez's financial generosity to be wages for work performed. Indeed, neither woman viewed the relationship to be that of an employer and employee. At the time Mrs. Chavez opened her home to Mrs. Mercado, according to accounts by both women, Mrs. Chavez did not know that her guest had arrived in the United States illegally.

Nevertheless, shameless Senate Democrats, led by none other than Ted Kennedy (who himself has been known to provide transportation to at least one woman who wasn't a member of his family) have begun to twist a charitable act into a criminal offense. He and others are comparing the shelter and temporary assistance Mrs. Chavez provided to a needy woman to the actions of Zoe Baird, whose nomination as attorney general was withdrawn by President-elect Clinton after it was revealed she had failed to pay Social Security taxes on the wages she paid to illegal immigrants she employed. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has unilaterally concluded that Mrs. Chavez has violated the law because she did not pay Social Security taxes on the charitable contributions she made to Mrs. Mercado.

In the midst of the character assassination of Mrs. Chavez, let the record show these other acts of premeditated compassionate conservatism: At the request of Catholic Charities in 1979, Mrs. Chavez opened her home for a year to two Vietnamese brothers who had become refugees the year before. Ngxia Bui, a computer specialist at the Justice Department, told the New York Times, "I have everything now because of her." Ada Iturrino is a single mother from Puerto Rico who has lived in New York City since the mid-1970s. Her two children have spent at least five summer vacations at the home of Mrs. Chavez, who also pays the children's tuition at a parochial school in New York. "They're beautiful people," Ms. Iturrino told the Times about the Chavez family.


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