Ohio Dem. Sen. Sherrod Brown backs calls for stronger probe into Delphi pension scandal

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown backs the recent bipartisan call for stronger probes into a Department of Treasury scandal that left 20,000 non-union Delphi retirees without their pensions after the 2009 General Motors bailout.

Last week, 12 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 dig deeper into the issue. Those 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.”

Now, a spokeswoman for Brown told The Daily Caller the Democratic senator backs that call too. “Sen. Brown agrees that this investigation needs to be transparent and has been a long-time fighter for Delphi retirees,” Brown’s spokeswoman said in an email when asked if he backs those 12 lawmakers’ request.

This renewed call for an investigation comes in the wake of emails TheDC obtained and first published on Aug. 7 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.

Another Democrat, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, also signaled some distrust with how the Treasury Department and PBGC have handled this issue. Last week, he wrote his own letters to Geithner and PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum asking that they provide Congress with “additional documents and full transparency.”

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and his Treasury Department had cited a December 2011 Government Accountability Office report which did not conclude Treasury hijacked the PBGC’s authority in the Delphi case as their only piece of evidence to support their claims about what happened. But, after GAO conceded that it relied on incomplete information to write its report — most of its source material was publicly available or provided by Treasury and the PBGC  — the Obama campaign stopped citing it. At that point — even though bipartisan congressional support for an investigation exists — Obama for America Ohio spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw began accusing Mitt Romney and Rep. Turner of trying to “politicize” the scandal.

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