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Obama's Hypocrisy on Unions and Political Disclosure

The president's proposed executive order is a transparent attempt to help his own political allies.

2:46 PM, Apr 22, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Now the National Labor Relations Board has been controversial for much of the Obama administration. This is largely due to Obama's recess appointment of radical labor lawyer Craig Becker to the board -- after his nomination was rejected by a bipartisan vote in the Senate due to concerns about Becker's inability to be impartial. A former lawyer for both the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, Becker has controversially handed down at least 17 decisions in cases involving his former client, the SEIU. It's widely observed by the business community that Becker's pushing the board in a radical direction and that his unusual appointment was payback to organized labor for their generous support of Obama.

So even as unions are running roughshod in the federal government, if Obama's executive order were enacted that would make it much harder for companies such as Boeing to counter their obvious political influence. And since the draft of the executive order covers corporate officers, directors, affiliates and subsidiaries -- that would undoubtedly be used by unions and their friends in Congress to demagogue those running these companies by name. Knowing the way that unions play hardball, things would turn nasty and personal fast.

It's also hypocritical in the extreme that Obama would make such a big deal about alleged political corruption with regard to federal contractors while ignoring the role unions play in the awarding of federal contracts. As I noted in my cover story in the current WEEKLY STANDARD, one of Obama has previously signed an executive order stacking the deck on government contracts in favor of unions and Democrats also used the stimulus to line the pockets of unions with federal contracts:

One of Obama’s first official acts as president was a February 6, 2009, executive order that in effect mandates union labor on large federal contracts through “project labor agreements” (PLAs). According to a study by the Beacon Hill Institute, PLAs make construction projects cost an average of 12 percent to 18 percent more.

Just after the executive order on PLAs, the stimulus bill was passed, which contained $188 billion in federally overseen construction projects as well as a provision applying Davis-Bacon “prevailing wage” laws to stimulus projects. This further slanted the awarding of federal contracts to the 17 percent of the construction industry that is still unionized. Heritage Foundation labor expert James Sherk estimates that the Davis-Bacon requirement alone could inflate the cost of the stimulus by as much as $17 billion.

Perhaps there is an argument to be made for more campaign finance transparency. But that transparency must apply equally across the board. What Obama is proposing here is to codify a galling double standard.

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