Complaint: Union-Backed Group Illegally Funding Arizona Dem Candidate

Restaurant Opportunities Center continued paying salary for progressive campaign employee

Eva Putzova / YouTube Screenshot
• February 18, 2020 5:00 am


A union-backed labor group is providing illegal in-kind contributions to an Arizona Democrat's congressional campaign, according to an ethics complaint obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon.

Steven Piasecki has continued to cash checks from the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC), a union-funded nonprofit, even as he serves as spokesman for former ROC employee Eva Putzova's campaign, according to the complaint. While the Putzova campaign pays Piasecki $600 monthly for his services in the candidate's primary challenge against Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D., Ariz.), the complaint cites digital evidence showing a "blurry line between Mr. Piasecki's work with the ROC and his work with the Congressional campaign as Communications Director."

Federal law prohibits contributions by a corporation or labor organization to a candidate for federal office. The complaint, filed by the pro-free market Employment Policies Institute (EPI), calls for an audit of ROC and the Putzova campaign, which could threaten ROC's nonprofit status.

In a comment to the Free Beacon, Piasecki denied the allegations and directed further questions to ROC. ROC did not respond to a request for comment.

EPI's complaint comes at a time of turmoil for ROC. The group pulled the plug on its New York City restaurant COLORS in January, as fired employees laid the blame on "crazy" mismanagement. Though the minimum wage advocacy group founded the restaurant on "ideals of fair wages and employee equity," former staffers allege that ROC prohibited its head chef from distributing $2,000 raised to "provide ‘a cushion' to staffers who have just lost their jobs." ROC previously partnered with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) in 2019. The progressive firebrand bartended an ROC event in her New York City district to push for the federal Raise the Wage Act.

The ethics complaint alleges an overlap between Piasecki's work for ROC and Putzova's campaign. Both organizations appear to coordinate messaging, sharing near-identical articles and graphics on their social media accounts. Some of those posts were published just minutes apart.

The accounts have also reflected shifts in Piasecki's digital device. While Putzova's campaign account previously sent tweets with an iPhone, more than half of the tweets sent after Piasecki's hiring were sent from an Android device. The change in device was also reflected on ROC's social media—the number of tweets sent from an Android on the official ROC Twitter account increased by more than 20 percent after Piasecki's hiring in 2018.

ROC's alleged illegal activity fits the group's history of incompetence, according to EPI managing director Michael Saltsman.

"It's been a terrible winter for ROC. A whistleblower exposed the organization's workplace toxic culture. Governor [Andrew] Cuomo's Labor Department in New York rejected the group's proposal to eliminate the state's tip credit, citing the ‘overwhelming majority' opposition of tipped workers. Most recently, ROC was forced to close its restaurant COLORS due to its total management failure, firing employees by text message in the process," Saltsman said. "Given this track record, it's not surprising that ROC may have operated with a lack of care elsewhere."

Putzova is running the self-described "most progressive campaign for Congress in Arizona." She has called O'Halleran a "corporate, conservative Democrat who is backed by the DCCC." Putzova has been outraised by both O'Halleran and Republican challenger Tiffany Shedd. The Cook Political Report rates the race in Arizona's First Congressional District as leaning Democrat.

Published under: Union