Rep. Turner blames Geithner for Delphi pensions decision, calls for pension restoration
Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner told The Daily Caller he thinks President Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is ultimately responsible for the decision that terminated pensions for 20,000 non-union workers at Delphi during the auto bailout.
Turner – the congressman who has been leading the charge in pushing for answers and accountability with regard to the Obama administration’s termination of those pensions – said he thinks Geithner is the one who’s ultimately to blame.
Turner has argued before that Geithner played multiple roles in this process. He was, of course, the Treasury Secretary, was a member of the president’s Auto Task Force bailout team and was a board member of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Those associations gave Geithner had a triple role in the decision – something Turner and other members of congress have described as a “conflict of interest.”
“I think it’s the Treasury Secretary,” Turner said when TheDC asked who the major power player was here. “He’s involved in all sides of this in both his representation of the White House, having that responsibility of the Auto Task Force, being on the board of the PBGC, conducting the bailout and manipulating the taxpayers’ funds – I think this is absolutely the responsibility and actions of the Treasury Secretary.”
Emails The Daily Caller obtained and first published on Tuesday show 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 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 claimed 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.
Moving forward, Turner said the ultimate and primary goal is to restore those 20,000 retirees’ pensions. “The goal is restore the pensions,” he said. “People will be held accountable, but more importantly those pensions need to be restored.”
On the accountability front, things have moved at a glacial pace. Current and former Obama administration officials have for more than a year blocked efforts by Congress and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) to get information about what occurred in this case.
Up until just before a mid-July congressional hearing, three Obama officials – Ron Bloom, Obama’s former auto czar, and former Treasury officials Matt Feldman and Harry Wilson – had outright refused to sit down with the SIGTARP for interviews on their roles in the process. At the last minute, they each changed course and agreed to interviews with investigators.
Now, Turner said, “we’re continuing with the SIGTARP investigation.”
“We’re now to the point where they [Bloom, Wilson and Feldman] have committed to answer those questions,” Turner said, adding: “Now, that will not be the end of it, obviously.”
“Litigation will continue moving forward and Congress will continue to ask the tough questions to try to get the documents to show what happened – but, more importantly, what should have happened,” Turner said.
“This is about the government picking winners and losers on a political basis and using the taxpayers’ dollars to take over the bankruptcy and the pension systems of our country,” Turner continued. “This is about the fundamental basic values of equity and fairness that we expect.”
Turner added that “Absolutely [we’re winning].”
“Every day that this issue gets put forward, we find additional documents and information that substantiate our claim that these pensions were wrongfully taken away,” he said.