Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Most Transparent Government Gets Sued For Information

My friends over at the National Right to Work Foundation called my attention to an article in the Washington Examiner. NRTW president Mark Mix and his organization have been seeking information on the links between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), AFL-CIO, other big labor organizations, and officials in the Obama administration. Their multiple Freedom of Information Act requests have been entirely ignored by the Department of Labor. NRTW has now filed suit in federal court to require the administration to respond to those FOIA requests.

We all know that the Obama administration is heavily beholden to big labor, but rewarding your loyalists is not the same thing as using the offices of the federal government in illegal or unethical ways, while trying to hide the direct links between officials in government and officials in the labor organizations. When SEIU president Andy Stern is the most frequent overnight visitor at the White House, reasonable people want to know why. This goes a lot deeper than that.

The FOIA requests were more pointed than visits to the White House. Hilda Solis, the Secretary of Labor, was a former leader of American Rights at Work (ARAW). That organization was funded by both the AFL-CIO and the SEIU. Once in office, Solis has held private meetings with leaders of those two organizations, and refuses to release any information about what was discussed. That sounds sneaky, but it's also a direct violation of ethics requirements and the words of the man at the top, one Barack Obama. In his first day in office, Obama declared "[my appointees] will not for a period of two years participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to their former employer." So what was with Solis overseeing lobbying activities of ARAW while a member of Congress followed by secret meetings with the same people after her appointment as head of the Department of Labor? NRTW wants to know, and the administration refuses to answer.

In addition, NRTW wants to have an explanation of Secretary Solis's close connections and meetings with former AFL-CIO lawyer Deborah Greenfield, who is now an employee of the Labor Department. Nothing wrong with them meeting as associates in the Department of Labor, but why is Greenfield placed in charge of rolling back union disclosure requirements when prior to her appointment she had sued the Department of Labor to prevent implementation of the very regulations she is now rolling back? At best, there's a conflict of interest between her duties as former AFL-CIO counsel and her present duties at the DOL. And why is this lawyer one of the parties evading the FOIA requests from the NRTW?

The Obama campaign and the Democrats in general received more than a billion dollars in campaign contributions from the forced dues of union members who may or may not have supported Obama and his fellow lefties. So they owe favors to the union leadership (but not necessarily to the union members who don't much like what's going on in D.C. these days). That payback could be accomplished publicly, legally and ethically as long as the details are being revealed to the public. But there is the strong likelihood that much of what is being discussed in those secret meetings are payoffs, not paybacks, and that union members specifically and the public generally would not like what's being cooked up. Each time "card-check" was mentioned publicly as a Democratic goal, there had just been a meeting between DOL and labor leaders. Coincidence? Secret meetings and backroom deals are anti-democratic, as are card-check procedures which prevent secret ballots on whether employees want to unionize or not.

There is at least a strong argument that something nefarious is going on. An honest, documented answer to the FOIA requests could clear this apparent conflict up. But the more the officials hide and obfuscate, the more likely it is that the connections are either unethical or illegal, or both. At best, it indicates that the Obama administration wants to be opaque rather than transparent. As the Examiner article puts it: "Starting on day one, the Obama administration set about to dismantle union disclosure regulations, impose coercive unionization on unwilling federal contractors and limit employee access to information about their rights in the workplace. Because this has all been accomplished through a series of under-the-radar executive orders, the media have not scrutinized Big Labor's influence in Washington." I suppose I should add that the latest attempt to unionize our national security workforce is another example of this opaqueness.

Union operatives are clearly getting nearly unrestricted access to the Department of Labor. There is no doubt that they are playing an important part in reconfiguring the Department's policies, while leaving the public out in the cold. Even union workers are left out of the dialog. They may also be helping the administration prepare new pro-union legislation to be submitted to Congress. But who knows? The Department of Labor, Secretary Solis and her minions refuse to tell us anything. I applaud the NRTW lawsuit, and wish them every success.


AndrewPrice said...

Good for them. They should prevail on their FOIA requests, the court generally do force those disclosures.

It's amazing how corrupt this administration is. I never thought anyone would be more corrupt than those pillagers from Arkansas, but Obama has made them look like amateurs.

Unknown said...

Andrew: And I'll just add that I've been through the Nixon and Johnson administrations, and I never thought that an administration would come along that would make those two look like government by the saints. Obama has done just that.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--Apparently, the Department of Labor can hide from the National Right to Work Foundation as well as the Justice Department can hide from the Civil Rights Commission. No wonder nothing gets done--they're all hiding.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: It makes me wonder of they still have all those bunkers throughout D.C. After the final healthcare and cap 'n tax votes, all the Democrats will need a hiding place.

StanH said...

Things like this eventually come back to bite you, and Barry though he may thinks so, cannot walk on water. The slow drip, drip of criminality, whether there’s a crime or not will eventually be Obozo’s demise.

Unknown said...

StanH: Democrats have always made a big deal out of the word "hypocrite." I hope they're looking in the mirror. One scandal after another. And I suspect they will grow into full flower as others are being discovered. From Sacramento to DC, this administration is involved in reprehensible behavior nationwide. Most transparent administration in history, my butt. Most deceptive is more accurate.

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