Obama Administration Still Stonewalling on Delphi Pension Scandal

The lack of transparency from the Obama Administration continues as leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee continue to try and persuade the Treasury Department to hand over documents relating to the Administration’s involvement in the termination of non-union Delphi retirees’ pension benefits. Non-union Delphi retirees saw their benefits lost while unionized UAW retirees at the company had their benefits “topped off” and preserved with taxpayer dollars funneled through General Motors during the 2009 auto bailout process.

Evidence surfaced about a year ago that the Obama Administration played a role, once again, in choosing winners and losers by protecting friends in the UAW over less-favored groups when the Daily Caller unearthed emails pointing to Treasury’s involvement. The emails confirmed that the Treasury Department was the driving force behind the termination of non-union pension benefits. The evidence suggests that Treasury officials lied when they testified, under oath, that the Administration had nothing to do with the Delphi pension decisions that favored political allies.

The Oversight Committee has been unsuccessfully trying to get the documents relating to the Delphi pension scandal from Treasury since September of 2012. The latest attempt to try and find out why non-union retirees interests were subordinated to union allies of the Administration came in the form of a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew from Oversight leaders last week as reported by the committee’s website which stated:

“Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Subcommittee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and senior Committee member Mike Turner (R-Ohio) sent letters to Secretary Lew and Josh Gotbaum, Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, seeking documents related to the preferential treatment Delphi’s unionized employees received during the taxpayer-funded bailout of General Motors in 2008 (should read “2009”).

‘Now is the time for the Treasury Department and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to stop stonewalling the Committee’s legitimate requests,’ said Chairman John Mica, R-Fla. ‘We will take whatever steps necessary to uncover all the facts and to expose how the TARP union bailout transpired.’

‘For far too long this Administration has refused to provide the documents and answers that the Delphi Salaried Retirees deserve,’ said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio. ‘They have willfully refused to comply with the oversight process, and in turn have spurned their commitment to the American people to be the ‘most transparent Administration’ in history. We will no longer accept excuses or delays. If the Administration once again ignores and evades the oversight process, compelling responses will be the only option left to ensure their compliance.'”

The Delphi retiree incident is one of the more egregious abuses of the Obama-orchestrated GM bankruptcy process. During the process, less politically-favored groups like the non-union Delphi retirees and GM bondholders saw their rights subordinated to union members who in turn repaid the favor by helping with President Obama’s reelection bid. The Delphi retirees continue to try and get their story heard since filing a lawsuit in 2009 to little media attention.

The Obama Administration has had little sympathy for those non-union individuals who lost their benefits. In May of 2012, when the retirees requested help from President Obama, the Department of Labor’s Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers Jay Williams responded, “Delphi retirees may be eligible for assistance through the Workforce Investment Act Adult and Dislocated Worker Program. The program is designed to provide quality employment and training services to assist eligible individuals in finding and qualifying for meaningful employment and to help employers to find the skilled workers they need to compete and succeed in business.” The cold-hearted response was basically, “Don’t like it? Get a job!”

Congressman Mica is right in trying to “take whatever steps necessary to uncover all the facts and to expose how the TARP union bailout transpired.” While the auto bailouts have been widely proclaimed as a huge success, the politically-motivated process exudes a hidden element of cronyism, abuse of contract law, and general unfairness that has been under-reported by the media. Attempts to shed light on the corrupt process should not be viewed as a partisan attack without merit. Instead of the expected predictable response from the Obama team, which defends every scandal with accusations of unfounded partisan witch hunts, Treasury should live up to the President’s promise to be the most transparent administration in history.

Up to this point, the Delphi scandal gives further evidence that this administration has been anything but transparent and it is past time for them to come clean and answer the questions about why union interests were given so much preference over non-union claims which should have had equal legal standing. The question should be answered; what involvement did Treasury have in the Delphi pension scandal and why?

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.