- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A top Senate Republican is introducing legislation Wednesday that would restore financial transparency rules for labor unions that President Obama nixed shortly after taking office in 2009, The Washington Times has learned.

The bill by Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, would bring back three sets of Labor Department rules that were designed to crack down on union corruptions by required unions and their leaders to disclose more details of their finances.

The rules were proposed under President George W. Bush but rescinded after Mr. Obama took office, one of several moves he made to benefit unions that were strong supporters of his presidential campaign.

Mr. Thune was preparing to introduce the bill Wednesday.

The South Dakota Republican said that his bill would ensure union officers act in good faith when spending members’ dues.

“From exempting unions from parts of Obamacare to repealing union financial transparency requirements, the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to protect its union boss friends,” he said. “The Obama Labor Department’s rollback of these financial transparency rules is crony capitalism at its worst. I hope my colleagues join me in supporting my bill to put an end to the administration’s political favoritism and restore transparency to union finances. Union members deserve to know how their dues are being spent.”

The restored rules would force unions and union officials to file more detailed conflict-of-interest forms, disclose details on buying and selling of assets, and reveal the finances of hundreds of so-called labor trusts — largely unregulated entities set up to provide benefits for members.

The legislation has practically no chance of advancing in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The Bush administration proposed the rules to close loopholes in the anti-corruption Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 through which unions continued to use trust funds to grant loans on generous terms to union officers, pay salaries to union officers’ family members and hide spending on political and promotional activities from members.

Union officials have said many of the expanded disclosures were unnecessary and accused the Bush administration of retaliating against labor unions for their support of Democrats.

Republicans have accused Mr. Obama of reversing the rules as part of a pay-back to unions for their political support.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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