Judge Helps AFL-CIO/DNC Suppress Public Documents

U.S. Dist. Judge Gladys Kessler (D.D.C., Clinton) blocked the Fed. Election Comm’n July 16 from re-releasing public documents from FEC’s probe of 1996 campaign efforts of AFL-CIO, the Democratic Nat’l Committee, and other liberal entities. Kessler’s preliminary injunction, sought by AFL-CIO/DNC, came a day before FEC planned to re-release the documents, which may contain evidence of union embezzlement crimes whose statutes of limitations are due to run this Fall. Despite this, Kessler’s order will remain in effect until at least Oct.; she claims no one will suffer a great injury from the delay. AFL-CIO/DNC claim the documents contain “proprietary information,” including campaign strategies and employees’ names. [AP 7/16/01; BNA 7/17/01]

The Nat’l Legal & Pol’y Ctr., a union corruption watchdog, has already obtained some documents from the court record and under the Freedom of Information Act. NLPC is piecing together AFL-CIO/DNC’s corruption puzzle and will release as many liberal campaign strategies and employees’ names as possible. FEC partially denied NLPC’s July 3 FOIA request for the challenged documents due to the injunction. NLPC is appealing the denial and will fight to bring all 55,000 documents of the taxpayer-funded probe into the public domain.

Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees Beck issues, is also seeking the documents to better understand how unions may use dues for political activity in violation of Beck. In a July 18 letter encouraging the FEC to appeal the injunction, Norwood contended that Kessler’s order, in so far as it denied Congress access to the documents, is invalid. Further, raising embezzlement and statute of limitation concerns, Norwood said: “If these documents are found to provide evidence of criminal wrongdoing, this order amounts to concealment of evidence in a federal investigation and will be pursued as such.”