Back in August, Boeing paid to fly me and a dozen other journalist-bloggers to Everett, Washington, to see the plant that will build KC-767 tankers — assuming Boeing beats out European rival EADS in the $40-billion KC-X contest. But we weren’t the only passengers on the luxury BBJ that day. There were all sorts of mysterious Boeing employees and “consultants” lounging on the sofas, drinking cocktails and muching the catering, including some guy named Gil Meneses. What exactly Meneses was doing on that junket, he never really explained. Now Congress Daily (subscription only) has the answer. Meneses has been connected to a labor group that is calling for the Pentagon to keep airplane-manufacturing jobs in the U.S.:
A coalition of influential minority labor groups last week publicly denounced the proposal by Northrop Grumman Corp. and its partner, the European consortium [EADS] that owns Airbus, arguing that the team’s offering of the KC-30, based on the Airbus 330 airframe, would result in thousands of skilled jobs sent overseas.
The groups — including the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the A. Philip Randolph Institute — also raised ethical questions about Airbus’ parent company EADS, which is involved in a World Trade Organization challenge by rival Boeing Co. over its subsidies from European governments.
Aerospace industrial lobbying sure does seem a strange mission for labor unions, no? How exactly did the groups get on this warpath? According to Congress Daily, Washington consulting firm LMG steered the labor coalition to the issue:
LMG consultants Gil Meneses, who has worked as a spokesman for both the Democratic National Committee and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Joe Velasquez, a former deputy political director in the Clinton White House and longtime union organizer, alerted LULAC to the issue, [coalition director Brent A.] Wilkes said. “It’s a tight-knit community of Latino leaders in Washington,” he said. Ultimately, LMG took charge of the media campaign, sending out releases and orchestrating press interviews.
But a closer examination reveals that LMG — unbeknownst to these groups — is a paid consultant on the Boeing tanker program. Indeed, Meneses, who would not provide an on-the-record comment for this column, traveled with Boeing on an August media trip to Everett, Wash., aimed at promoting the company’s KC-767 offering. …
A Boeing spokesman initially would not comment on whether Boeing had collaborated with the groups, saying only that the company was open to discussions with any group interested in the tanker program. In a follow-up e-mail, he offered a clarification: “We (the Boeing KC-767 Tanker program) have not briefed the groups that spoke out last week … and have not coordinated with them on their position,” the spokesman wrote. “They definitely can and have spoken for themselves.” Later, after being pressed about LMG’s Boeing connections, the spokesman confirmed LMG serves as a paid consultant on the tanker program. The spokesman also confirmed Meneses was present on the August trip to Everett.
So who’s got the ethical problems now?