In the last two years, Andrew Puzder, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, has donated more than $27,000 to at least eight senators who may vote on his confirmation. At least one of those senators is on the committee charged with vetting Puzder later this week in the first “round” of questioning before sending him to the rest of the Senate, which will vote to confirm or deny his nomination.
Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants (which owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger franchises), is a millionaire with a fondness for donating to political causes. Between January 2015 and the election, he donated more than $500,000 to Republican candidates, leaders, and organizations, including $75,000 to the Trump Victory PAC and $60,000 to members of Congress, according to Federal Election Commission data.
At least eight senators have collectively received thousands of dollars from the politically involved nominee. Puzder has given $5,600 to Marco Rubio’s (R-Florida) presidential and senatorial campaigns, and more than $8,000 to Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio). They’re among Puzder’s top donation recipients and will ultimately cast a vote during the Senate confirmation process, but neither has released official statements showing support for the nominee.
Here is the full list of senators who have gotten money from Puzder:
But it’s not just Puzder’s potential financial influence over senators that has some worried. The Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws on behalf of workers, but Puzder is a fast-food CEO who has spoken out against several of them. He’s criticized minimum wage increases, overtime pay, and sick leave, leaving labor rights advocates particularly concerned. The largest federation of unions, the AFL-CIO, for instance, has called Puzder’s nomination “shocking” and against workers’ interests.
Meanwhile, two days before Puzder’s hearing, Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator and member of the senate committee that will be interrogating the candidate this week, sent the nominee a 28-page letter with 83 questions she plans to use during cross-examination. In the letter, Warren wrote: “In addition to your role as CEO at CKE, your long record of public comments reveals a sneering contempt for the workers in your stores, and a vehement opposition to the laws you will be charged with enforcing." The statement echoes remarks Warren made about Puzder during a forum she hosted in January highlighting working condition complaints from current and former CKE employees.
But Puzder has his supporters, and at least one is a senator who will be vetting Puzder alongside Warren and the rest of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Thursday. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) received $1,000 in campaign donations from the CEO last year. On his website, Hatch commended Puzder as a “great pick” for Labor Secretary. “Having grown a prosperous company and facilitated business development over a prolific career in the private sector, he will bring invaluable expertise to the Department of Labor,” Hatch wrote.
The split between Puzder’s critics and supporters highlight the tensions between employers and employees that labor laws cause. As workers’ rights activists are against Puzder’s nomination, employer advocates support it. The National Restaurant Association, an organization that advocates on behalf of restaurant owners — of which Puzder is also a member — publicly supported the CEO in December. Steve Danon, the senior vice president of communications for NRA, told Eater that Puzder is a “change agent” who knows how to create jobs and improve the department. “Trump made a bold move when he went to the private sector,” Danon said. “To have someone with Andy’s ability to help shape the environment of public policy would be extremely helpful.”
The Restaurant Association also gave Senator Hatch $5,000 last year, part of the more than $1 million it has contributed to political causes in the last year. Danon added that people concerned over Puzder’s positions should know that his experience means he understands the industry and its workers’ needs. Danon also believes Puzder will work well with President Trump to improve issues like overreaching regulations, tax reform, and immigration reform.
But others still worry if Puzder’s private sector connections, in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to the government, may actually be too much of a conflict of interest — concerns the senate committee plans to address during the anticipated hearing February 16.
• Elizabeth Warren Takes Aim at Labor Nominee Andy Puzder [Boston Globe]
• Former Hardee’s Employee Paints a Grim Picture of ‘Puzder’s America’ [E]
• Trump’s Labor Secretary Pick Could Be Disastrous for Workers [E]