Most Transparent Administration History Won’t Release Cost of Union Subsidy

U.S. citizens should easily be able to find out how their tax dollars are spent by the federal government. Yet under the Obama administration, the Office of Personnel Management has made it increasingly difficult to inspect how much of the public’s money is used to subsidize federal employee unions.

The wasteful subsidy to government unions that the current administration is trying to cover up is known as union official time, which grants federal employees paid leave from their regularly assigned duties to conduct union business. Worse, hundreds of federal employees work on 100 percent official time, meaning they never perform any government duty. At its core, official time is just a massive subsidy to government unions that cost taxpayers, at minimum, $155 million in 2011.

Yesterday for the second time in four months, Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) requested that OPM publish the Official Time Usage in the Federal Government Report FY 2012, which provides the amount of hours, cost and activity performed on union official time (see Reps. Gingrey and Ross’ letters at the end of the post).

Unfortunately, this has been a recurring problem during the Obama administration. My organization, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, first started requesting that OPM release official time reports in 2011, which eventually led to the release of the FY 2009 and 2010 official time reports. The latest available official time data is from FY 2011.

But the fact that the Obama administration is stonewalling congressional and public inquiries related to the cost of official time is not surprising. Especially when the Obama administration changed the furlough guidance for last year’s government shutdown to permit official time use. And federal agencies did grant official time during the government shutdown (view the Department of Transportation, Social Security Administration, United State Department of Agriculture and Department of Veterans Affairs government shutdown official time use, here.)

For a president that promised to run the “most transparent administration in history,” why is it so hard to obtain basic information on how tax dollars are spent?