Bipartisan group of legislators demands stronger probe into Delphi pension scandal

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

Twelve lawmakers wrote to House oversight committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman asking that they expand current probes into a Department of Treasury scandal that left 20,000 non-union Delphi retirees without their pensions after the 2009 General Motors bailout.

The members — Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and Reps. Pat Tiberi of Ohio, Steve Stivers of Ohio, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Dan Burton of Indiana, Bill Johnson of Ohio, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Gregg Harper of Mississippi — are led by Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner.

“We are writing to request that the committees which you chair submit additional requests for documents from the Department of the Treasury and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) on matters pertaining to the unjust termination of Delphi salaried retiree pensions in the federal government’s bailout of General Motors,” the lawmakers wrote. “As you may know, the pensions of Delphi salaried retirees were significantly reduced in the aftermath of the bailout, while their union counterparts were made whole. These retirees, regardless of labor affiliation or not, spent their careers working alongside one another and should not be treated differently in their retirement. This decision of the Auto Task Force, Treasury, and the PBGC continues to affect roughly 20,000 current and future retirees across the nation.”

The bipartisan support for this renewed investigation call — Kaptur is a Democrat — undercuts the Obama campaign’s accusations that his GOP rival, Mitt Romney, and Turner are trying to “politicize” this scandal.

Portman, who’s widely considered to be on Romney’s short list of potential vice presidential candidates, said in a statement that he has “met with these hard-working Ohioans who lost a significant portion of their pension benefits while other retirees from the same company received far better treatment.”

“The idea that the administration played politics with their pensions is beyond disappointing, and it deserves answers,” Portman said. “The administration’s decisions have caused pain and loss to thousands of workers and their families as a result of their reduced benefits. This matter deserves continued scrutiny from Congress, and the administration must be called upon to account for its decisions.”

This renewed investigation call comes in the wake of emails The Daily Caller obtained and first published on Tuesday showing that senior White House and Treasury officials were behind the termination of pensions for 20,000 non-union Delphi salaried retirees.

Those emails show that the Treasury Department, led by Secretary Timothy Geithner, was the driving force behind terminating those pensions — a move made in 2009 while the Obama administration implemented its auto bailout plan. The emails contradict sworn testimony in which several Obama administration figures have consistently said that the decision to terminate the pensions came from the PBGC. The PBGC is a federal government agency that handles private-sector pension benefits issues. Its charter calls for independent representation of pension beneficiaries’ interests.

29 U.S.C. §1342 maintains that the PBGC is the only government entity that is legally empowered to initiate termination of a pension or make any official movements toward doing so. (RELATED: Obama campaign says Romney wants to politicize Delphi pension scandal, despite his months of silence)

In their letter to the committee chairmen, the lawmakers express the desire to ensure that wrongs are righted in this case, and make sure those responsible for government wrongdoing are held accountable. “Given the nature of the correspondence made public at the House committee’s hearing on July 10, 2012, and in recent press reports, it is our hope that these additional requests will yield a thorough production from the Treasury and the PBGC,” they wrote. “We believe that these requests will ensure that Congress is provided full and complete disclosure and that these agencies are held accountable to the American taxpayers.”

On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Turner said there’s a suspicion that Obama administration officials committed illegal acts during this activity in 2009, but regardless, the actions were absolutely improper — and that the officials involved have misled congressional investigators during a series of several House oversight committee hearings.

“[The emails] show that the administration has been misrepresenting this process,” Turner said on the call. “They have previously said that the pension decisions were made by General Motors and they said they were by PBGC. The emails that are now surfacing clearly show that this was run by Treasury in back door deals with the Auto Task Force, the PBGC and, of course, General Motors — [which was] acquired by the taxpayers through the Treasury. [It was] all being coordinated through the Treasury Department, resulting in what we believe may be illegal activity — but is definitely improper activity.”

Representatives for Issa and Lieberman haven’t immediately returned TheDC’s requests for comment on the letter.

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