August 22, 2011 11:19 am ET - by Matt Gertz
Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) attack on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is drawing fire from an unusual quarter: the editorial board of The Washington Post.
In June, the paper criticized NLRB's complaint against Boeing for allegations that the company retaliated against union workers and illegally shipped jobs from Washington state to South Carolina. But after seeing Issa's investigative tactics in action, the editorial board is now suggesting that his inquiry into NLRB's actions may be intended to "sabotage the Boeing litigation."
In the editorial, titled "Overreach on oversight," the paper calls out Issa for seeking from NLRB's Office of General Council documents that have yet to enter the public record through the ongoing judicial hearing:
The agency has resisted turning over certain documents it says could jeopardize its ability to pursue its case. Lafe Solomon, the NLRB's acting general counsel, testified before the committee this summer; the board has also turned over more than 1,500 pages related to the Boeing matter.
Boeing tried to obtain many of the same documents sought by Mr. Issa's committee but was rebuffed by a judge under the rules governing NLRB proceedings. If it obtained those documents, there would be nothing to stop Mr. Issa's committee — or other members of Congress who obtain copies or read them — from making available to Boeing information that the judge has denied to it. Even if the committee agreed to keep the documents confidential, it is not difficult to imagine how information gleaned from them could become the topic of a public hearing.
There is a simple and sensible solution that protects both the NLRB's independence and Congress's oversight interests: Most documents become a matter of public record once they are introduced in an NLRB proceeding.
The Post is not alone in stating that Issa's document requests are unreasonable. In a letter to Issa, more than 30 labor law professors similarly said that his "unnecessarily broad" request for "disclosure of privileged documents" "could seriously undermine the authority of those charged with enforcing the nation's labor laws."
Moreover, during a May hearing on the topic, Issa set the standard that "any item which is not discoverable by the defendant, will be considered out of bounds for any question."
As the Post points out, Issa's current actions to the contrary suggest that his goal is "to sabotage the Boeing litigation," not "to scrutinize the NLRB."
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