Obama admin threatened with subpoenas for details on Delphi pensions

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp threatened Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and President Barack Obama on Tuesday: Cough up the Delphi documents or get served with subpoenas.

“This is my third letter requesting that the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) come clean about its involvement in the decision-making that led to certain Delphi pension beneficiaries being treated differently during the 2009 General Motors Company (GM) bailout,” Camp wrote in a Tuesday letter to Geither. “To date, Treasury has provided two demonstrably incomplete productions consisting of little more than publicly available documents, redacted e-mails, ex post facto rationale for Treasury actions, and incomplete productions prepared for other inquiries. Despite my request, Treasury has refused to certify that it has produced all responsive documents or provide a privilege log for any documents withheld. This pattern of stonewalling is inconsistent with the high standards you have set for Treasury.”

“Thus far, and on the basis of documents produced both by Treasury and third parties, my investigation has found that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) advocated that GM take over both the Delphi hourly and salaried pension plans at a time when GM had raised doubts about its ability to afford the plans,” Camp continued. “Ultimately, under the watchful eye and perhaps influence of Treasury officials, GM decided to provide pension top-up benefits to hourly but not salaried retirees.”

Camp warned Geithner that if he doesn’t “provide all responsive documents and/or a privilege log” to the Ways and Means Committee by October 30, he’ll “be forced to consider using compulsory process to secure production of the documents.”

During the 2009 auto bailout, a decision was made to terminate the pension plans for 20,000 non-union autoworker retirees from auto parts manufacturer Delphi. While those non-union retirees lost significant portions of their pensions, health care and life insurance benefits from this deal, their union colleagues saw their benefits completely topped up.

For years since, the Obama administration has claimed the PBGC made the decision on its own, free of administration influence. Email evidence obtained and published by The Daily Caller in early August shows that’s not the case. Among other things, that new evidence prompted Camp’s investigation.

In a second Tuesday letter written to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, Camp said her Oct. 12 response to his investigative inquiries about the “extent to which the Executive Office of the President of the United States (EOP)” was involved in the Delphi pension decision was “both unresponsive and perplexing.”

“You claim that the September 7, 2012, Department of the Treasury (Treasury) response ‘did address the … [EOP]’s role in the Delphi pension matter,'” Camp wrote to Ruemmler, adding that he only found two such EOP references in that document dump. The first, Camp said, was a description of President Obama’s “decision to create the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry (Auto Task Force),” and the second was a “redacted e-mail chain including EOP personnel.”

Camp then asked Ruemmler to answer whether those two specific things “constitute the full extent of EOP involvement” in this matter, adding that he doubts that’s the case: “Given the amount of taxpayer dollars at stake in the GM situation and the more than 20,000 American workers negatively impacted by the Delphi decision, it strains credulity that this single e-mail chain represents the lone involvement of the EOP.”

Camp also said Ruemmler’s response suggests there are more documents the White House is hiding.

“Your request for all EOP communications implicates longstanding and significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests, an encroachment upon which is unnecessary at this time,” Ruemmler had written to Camp on Oct. 12.

Camp said he “frankly” doesn’t know what Ruemmler means by the phrase “confidentiality interests,” and said he “strongly disagree[s] that it is yours to decide what is or is not necessary at this time.”

Camp gave Ruemmler the same Oct. 30 deadline as Geithner.

In a statement accompanying the public release of the letters, Camp explained that using compulsory process means the service of congressional subpoenas — and he said the administration appears to be playing politics with this matter because the truth about it may hurt the president’s re-election campaign message.

“Despite repeated assertions that the Obama Administration would be the most transparent in history, Treasury and the White House have continued to stonewall this request,” Camp said. “This investigation has led to more questions than answers, and it is time the Administration comes clean about the role it played in the slashing of the pensions of 20,000 Delphi employees. I understand the answer may be difficult to explain in states like Michigan and Ohio, but politics cannot dictate the timing of when the American people learn the truth. If the Administration fails to act in a timely manner, they may well find themselves on the receiving end of a subpoena that compels their cooperation.”

A Treasury Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this development.

Two other House committees are also investigating the Delphi pension decision. The House oversight committee has been digging into the matter for years, and the House Education and Workforce Committee reignited its probe into the matter after TheDC published those documents in August — and both have also threatened the administration with subpoenas.

House Financial Services Committee chairman Rep. Spencer Bachus has offered his support for the investigations as well.

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