President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign is accusing Republican rival Mitt Romney of politicizing the administration’s role in terminating pension plans for 20,000 non-union Delphi salaried retirees during the 2009 General Motors bailout. But a web video in May was the Romney campaign’s only foray into addressing the scandal.
“Independent fact checkers have found, the Delphi salaried pension plan was handled according to the standard procedure that applied in 34 other corporate bankruptcies that year,” Obama for America Ohio spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw told the Dayton Daily News on Thursday, “and for [Ohio GOP Rep.] Mike Turner and Mitt Romney to politicize the situation at Delphi is insensitive.”
Romney and his campaign have remained silent about emails The Daily Caller obtained and first published Tuesday, which show the U.S. Treasury Department, led by Timothy Geithner, was the driving force behind the termination of the Delphi workers’ pensions. The emails contradict the sworn testimony of Obama administration figures who said the decision came from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). That federal agency handles private sector pension benefits issues; its charter calls for independent representation of pension beneficiaries’ interests.
Federal law, under 29 U.S.C. §1342, identifies the PBGC as the only government entity empowered to take official action toward terminating a private-sector pension.
The Obama campaign has not responded to TheDC’s questions about how Romney’s silence can be seen as politicizing the issue.
Obama, on the other hand, appears to have broken a 2008 pension-related campaign promise. Obama said four years ago that he considers “pension protection … something we ought to put at the top of our priority list.”
“Right now, bankruptcy laws are more focused on protecting banks than protecting pensions,” Obama said during his first presidential campaign. “And I don’t think that’s fair. It’s not the America I believe in. It’s time to stop cutting back the safety net for working people while we protect golden parachutes for the well-off. If you’ve worked hard and played by the rules, then you’ve earned your pension. If a company goes bankrupt, then workers need to be our top priority, not an afterthought.”
Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner has been investigating the Delphi case for more than a year. The Obama campaign’s allegation that Turner is politicizing the issue mirror Democrats’ responses to Operation Fast and Furious and the Solyndra scandal. In those cases, Congressional Democrats and Obama administration officials have attacked Republicans leading investigations to deflect the attention of reporters and the public.
Turner spokesman Tom Crosson tweeted Thursday morning that it’s absurd for Obama’s team to accuse Turner and Romney of trying to “politicize” the Delphi scandal. Crosson said it was “@WhiteHouse appointees” who terminated Delphi employees’ pensions “according to their own emails. Time to own up.”
The Obama campaign has defended itself against revelations in the internal PBGC emails TheDC published Monday by relying on a December 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which did not conclude Treasury hijacked the PBGC’s authority in the Delphi case. GAO conceded this week, however, that it relied on incomplete information to write its report. Most of its source material, GAO said, was publicly available or provided by Treasury and the PBGC. GAO did not have the internal PBGC emails when it published that report.
Representatives from GAO and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (SIGTARP) have also said GAO’s report was not meant to be a comprehensive review. SIGTARP Christy Romero, a 2012 Obama appointee, has launched her own parallel investigation since then, and is expected to produce a more comprehensive and definitive report.
After GAO acknowledged that its Delphi report was based on incomplete information, Obama for American spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw stopped citing it. She now claims “independent fact checkers” back up the administrations claims but has not identified them. Obama campaign spokespersons have not responded to TheDC’s requests for information about who they are.