Senator John Thune
From political targeting at the Internal Revenue Service to secret wait lists and delayed care at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Obama presidency has been riddled with crises of misinformation and mismanagement at the highest levels of the administration. Despite these missteps, the president and White House continue to hail this administration as the “most transparent” in history. It’s ironic then that an administration that prides itself on transparency would repeal rules designed to tackle union corruption by requiring transparency in unions’ financial activities.
Congress has long recognized the potential for abuse in union’s finances, and in 1959 passed the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) in response to union corruption. In spite of the LMRDA, unions quickly found a way around disclosure rules, hiding malfeasance through financial tricks such as shifting funding to trusts and giving union officers “loans” with long repayment schedules and almost no interest. Unions also hired officers’ family members as “consultants,” paying them lavish salaries for little work, and paid for campaign activities through union trust funds.
To combat union leader corruption, the Labor Department finalized three rules between 2007 and 2009 requiring unions to report financial information. While these rules were designed to protect union members from leadership squandering their dues, union officers fought these news requirements tooth and nail until their allies in the Obama administration repealed them. This once again opened up union trusts as mechanisms to hide corrupt financial transactions.
The Obama Labor Department’s roll back of these financial transparency rules is cronyism at its worst. To combat corruption in union finances, I introduced the Union Transparency and Accountability Act (S.2688) on July 30th to require more transparency in labor unions’ financial activities and tackle corruption by restoring three rules that were repealed by the Obama Labor Department. My bill would provide the Labor Department with the necessary tools to hold unions accountable and would allow union members access to the financial information about union trust funds, providing legal protections and rights to restitution if union leaders do not comply.
It’s time to put an end to the Obama administration’s political favors for union leaders by restoring transparency in union financial activities. I hope my colleagues join me in supporting an end to the administration’s political favoritism and restoring transparency to union finances.