Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

Could Obama have buyer’s remorse?

The White House may have another reason to regret those recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board back in January.

Aside from royally ticking off Republicans, the move to bypass Congress and install a handful of nominees seems to have installed a Trojan horse on the board. Terence Flynn, a Republican who was one of the White House’s recess appointments, is accused of sharing inside information about the board with private-sector friends, including Mitt Romney’s top labor adviser.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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(Khin Maung Win/AP) - Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, center, arrives at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party Monday in Yangon, Burma.

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So it seems the very guy that President Obama took flak for appointing is allegedly providing aid and comfort to the enemy. Might be cause for a case of buyer’s remorse.

According to an inspector general’s report, Flynn violated ethics rules by supplying information about the board’s inner workings to two Republican former members, Peter Kirsanow and Peter Schaumber.

Schaumber is the co-chairman of Romney’s labor advisory group.

Congressional Democrats are pouncing on the connection between Flynn and the Romney campaign. Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) sent a letter to Flynn this week asking him for more information about his contact with outsiders.

Not only do Dems fear the Obama appointee could be assisting Romney, but Harkin says he worries that Flynn’s alleged loose lips might also be helping to arm critics of the NLRB. In recent months, Republicans have hammered the agency for favoring unions over business interests.

“Mr. Flynn’s disclosure of confidential information . . . raises the alarming possibility that the recent political attacks on the Board could have been aided and abetted by his unethical activity,” Harkin said in a statement.

Flynn’s attorney, Barry Coburn, says his client “committed no wrongdoing.”

“Mr. Flynn is troubled by the politicization of this internal matter . . . and feels that this manufactured controversy is emblematic of the mean-spirited political theatrics that currently paralyze Washington and deter individuals from public service,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

Changing winds in Burma

Burmese democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi’s huge electoral victory last weekend is seen as an important step in thawing relations between Washington and Rangoon.

But despite the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s victory and the symbolism it evokes, it’s not as if conditions on the ground have been upended. After all, her party has only a small fraction of the seats in parliament and the military junta remains firmly in control.

Still, the elections and the regime’s recent freeing of political prisoners and signing of cease-fires with ethnic rebels — though fighting continues in some areas — are viewed by U.S. officials as worth noting.

Maybe not worth a dramatic easing of all the numerous U.S. economic sanctions imposed to squeeze the regime, but something. We’re told one of the first orders of business, as noted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in January, would be to send an ambassador there for the first time since 1990.

Smart money is trending these days to veteran Asia hand Derek Mitchell , who’s now the special representative for Burma and the architect of the current diplomatic policy, as the likely pick as ambassador.

In addition to the merits, any outside candidate would probably have to wait as long as three months to clear the Senate. But Mitchell was confirmed by the Senate in August for his current job, so the paperwork is pretty much done and he could be sent over quickly.

We’re told an announcement will come “soon” on who the ambassador will be, though maybe not this week. Turns out Mitchell is in Europe this week, coordinating matters Burmese with the Euros.

But it seems he’ll be back in town by Monday evening to attend a screening and panel discussion of the recent Luc Besson film about Suu Kyi, “The Lady,” at the Motion Picture Association of America.

Mitchell and Melanne Verveer, the U.S. ambassador at large for global women’s issues, will be on a panel with Besson discussing the movie and events in Burma. Clinton is also expected to attend, along with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell.

Timing is everything, they say.

Democracy’s outreach

A congressional delegation traveling in Egypt raised a few eyebrows Monday when it met with Khairat el-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood’s new candidate in the country’s 2012 presidential race.

The Brotherhood’s surprise move Saturday to run its chief financier and strategist — reneging on prior commitments not to run anyone for president — was a political bombshell, worrying liberals and secularists and even splitting the Brotherhood.

But members of the bipartisan House Democracy Partnership, which brings together U.S. lawmakers and those from countries with less-established democratic traditions, cautioned against placing too much significance in the meeting.

The session was scheduled before the controversial presidential nomination, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (R-Va.) said at a Cairo news conference. “I would not read much into it,” he added, according to the Web site Daily News Egypt. The delegation, which has gone often to Arab Spring countries — its members were in Libya just before the Cairo stop — also included the democracy panel’s chairman, Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.); its ranking Democrat, David Price (N.C.); and Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.). The group left Tuesday for Kosovo and Macedonia.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

 
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