For all the serious disagreements I have with President Barack Obama over policy and philosophy, I have been pleased to hear him promote the idea of greater government transparency. That’s something all citizens can rally behind, regardless of partisan affiliation. Only a few days into office, Obama sent out a memo to department heads about the Freedom of Information Act:
A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”…
All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.
Hats off to the Obama administration for this one, though it’s up to citizens to hold him to it and see it followed through.
But what about financial disclosure for labor unions? If the existing union movement today were as democratic as we often are told that it is, then labor officials should be extremely supportive of the transparency that produces needed accountability. The fight to resist this disclosure and the trove of information it unveils (here’s one small example) speaks volumes.
It would be disappointing, but it sounds like the President wants to roll back reporting that has made union leaders more transparent, and thus more accountable to their membership for the dues money they collect and spend.
The Bush administration was working to make the disclosure forms and requirements more transparent and effective, but apparently got “outfoxed” by career bureaucrats at the Labor Department. Obama and crew already have started the process to put a halt to these improvements, at the behest of union leaders.
The next testing ground will be to see whether the Democratic President rolls back the transparency that’s already in place. As one expert told Bloomberg News in this informative story (H/T The Union Label):
Unions are likely to win some easing of the disclosure requirements, said Charles Craver, who teaches labor law at George Washington University Law School in Washington. â€œLabor will still have to maintain certain financial reports, but it will wind up less burdensome,â€ he said.
The kind of disclosure that’s good for the government and good for corporations is good for labor unions, too. The question is whether Big Labor’s $100 million-plus in contributions to Obama and Congressional Democrats will trump his stated commitment to openness and transparency.
I guess it will just be another thing I have to disagree with the administration about, though what’s one more after the Pelosi-Reid-Obama Generational Theft Act is shoved down our throats?