WASHINGTON -- Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) sent a letter to House Republicans Thursday accusing the GOP of trying to keep portions of an investigation by the federal labor board's inspector general out of public view.
According to Miller, the Republican majority of the House Education and the Workforce Committee asked the inspector general to "impose restrictions" on the release of the report, the subject of which is not publicly known.
"I respectfully ask that you withdraw any such request to restrict or in any way quash the Inspector General’s report," Miller wrote to the committee's majority leader, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.). "In the interest of our shared oversight responsibilities, please allow him to complete his investigation unfettered."
In a letter written in response, Kline denied that his staff obstructed the report in any way, and he chastised Democrats for declining to meet with him on the issue. "At no time did my staff attempt to influence, restrict, or in any way suppress the release of the report," Kline wrote. "I am deeply disappointed you elected not to discuss your concerns with me or my staff prior to sending this imprudent letter."
For the past year, Republicans and Democrats in the House have been butting heads over the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency tasked with enforcing labor law and mediating between employers and workers. After a string of rulings seen as pro-labor, Republicans went so far as to try to defund the board, accusing it of catering to unions.
The investigation in question apparently piggybacks off an earlier investigation by the board's inspector general, according to Miller's letter. In that earlier probe, the inspector general looked into whether the board's lone Republican member, Brian Hayes, had been improperly urged to resign in order to kill the board's quorum and cripple it.
The inspector general found that although Hayes had discussed employment prospects with a law firm that had business before the agency, there was no evidence that Hayes had been unethically influenced to resign. Hayes had threatened to step down, but ultimately stayed on the board and finished out his term.
Hayes' lawyer, Robert Kelner, says that whatever followup investigation the inspector general is carrying out, his client is not the subject of it. "It is my understanding that there is no pending inspector general's investigation of member Hayes," Kelner says. "And that has been confirmed to me by the inspector general's office."
This post has been updated with Kline's letter and with comment from Kelner.
The text of Miller's letter:
March 8, 2012
The Honorable John Kline
Committee on Education and the Workforce
2181 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Kline:
I learned today that the majority of our Committee reportedly asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Inspector General to impose restrictions on the release of an investigative report regarding an individual or individuals at the NLRB.
It is my understanding that the report you may be seeking to restrict involves a follow-on Inspector General investigation into matters related to a previously released investigative report. That previous report addressed, among other things, questions of enticements made to NLRB Member Hayes to resign last year. As you know, I referred that matter to the Department of Justice for further investigation.
I respectfully ask that you withdraw any such request to restrict or in any way quash the Inspector General’s report. In the interest of our shared oversight responsibilities, please allow him to complete his investigation unfettered and produce the results of his work to our Committee and other interested parties.
Senior Democratic Member