Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman told The Daily Caller that he thinks President Barack Obama’s administration – and specifically Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner – need to stop withholding information about the Delphi pension scandal from Congress and the American people.
“What American taxpayers should be looking at is how the administration has not provided us with the information to be able to understand what happened to over 20,000 Americans who apparently were left behind during the taxpayer-funded bailout,” Portman said in a phone interview. “We’ve been trying for years – since 2009 – and the administration has not been willing to be transparent and let us know what really happened. We are eager to get the administration before my committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the oversight committee in the House and to have a full investigation of this.”
During the 2009 auto bailout, the Treasury Department and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) worked together on and eventually axed pensions for 20,000 non-union salaried retirees who worked for Delphi. Those workers’ pension plans lost between 30 and 70 percent of their value, while similar plans covering members of the United Auto Workers and other labor unions were preserved and made whole.
For three years since, Obama administration officials have claimed in congressional testimony and court filings that it was the PBGC – a federal government agency that handles private-sector pension benefits issues – that made the decisions in this case. The PBGC’s charter calls for independent representation of pension beneficiaries’ interests.
But, on Aug. 7, The Daily Caller published internal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) emails showing that senior White House and Treasury officials were instrumental in the pension terminations.
Those emails show that Treasury 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 government figures have consistently said that the decision to terminate the pensions came from the PBGC.
On Wednesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp demanded the Obama White House, Treasury Department and PBGC turn related documents over to him by Sept. 7. Portman said he “applaud[s]” Camp for that, and hopes the administration will comply.
“We’re not asking for anything that hasn’t been promised by the administration from its outset,” Portman said. “It’s transparency. And, it appears that some of the previous testimony they’ve given was inaccurate based on emails that you were able to obtain and I think that they owe the American taxpayers answers. And, I think they certainly owe the Delphi retirees answers.”
Portman added that the reason he thinks the Obama administration hasn’t been forthcoming thus far is because it’d be an “embarrassment to them if it came out that they favored one group over an another.”
“Based on the emails you uncovered, it appears they showed a preference for some employees over others even though publicly they’ve said that’s not the case,” Portman said. “I assume they would prefer this just not come up.”