Obama helps labor thugs hide corruption
This is bad news for union members. They are back to the mercy of leaders who now have more tools for hiding corruption. There is also a potential conflict of interest with the lawyer who is now in the labor department.
The Obama administration, which has boasted about its efforts to make government more transparent, is rolling back rules requiring labor unions and their leaders to report information about their finances and compensation.
The Labor Department noted in a recent disclosure that "it would not be a good use of resources" to bring enforcement actions against union officials who do not comply with conflict of interest reporting rules passed in 2007. Instead, union officials will now be allowed to file older, less detailed conflict reports.
The regulation, known as the LM-30 rule, was at the heart of a lawsuit that the AFL-CIO filed against the department last year. One of the union attorneys in the case, Deborah Greenfield, is now a high-ranking deputy at Labor, who also worked on the Obama transition team on labor issues.
Labor officials declined to say whether she played a role in the new policy, noting that Ms. Greenfield is abiding by all government ethics rules. In court filings, she and other union attorneys called the 2007 rules "onerous."
The Labor Department also is rescinding another key labor financial disclosure regulation. The expansion of the so-called LM-2 rule, approved during the last days of the Bush administration, requires unions to report more information about finances and labor leaders' compensation on annual reports.
Critics worry that the rollback of union reporting requirements will keep hidden potentially corrupt financial arrangements aimed at rooting out corruption, but unions say the Bush administration reporting rules were unfair and burdensome.
"Strong financial disclosure requirements are necessary to root out and combat union-related corruption," Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, California Republican, and Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican, wrote in a recent letter to the department.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas sent the department a similar letter signed by more than two dozen other Republicans.