U.S. Dist. Judge Gladys Kessler (D.C., Clinton), on New Year’s Eve, blocked the immediate implementation of the Bush Administration’s union financial disclosure reforms. Union bosses will now be able to spend membership dues, voluntary and compulsory, on election-year politics without having to account for it, which the new disclosure rules would force them to do.
This is not the first time Judge Kessler has sided with unions in a disclosure case. In Dec. 2001, she ruled that documents revealing links between the AFL-CIO and Democratic Party during the 1996 campaign must be kept secret. Kessler acknowledged that her opinion “ends a 25-year practice by the [Fed. Elect. Commn.] to make available to the public the full investigatory record pertaining to any complaint filed once the complaint is resolved.” Kessler said that she was “compelled by the plain wording” of the Fed. Elect. Campaign Act, which requires that FEC investigations be kept secret and sets no time limit for disclosure. The FEC had interpreted the law as allowing disclosure once the investigation was finished.
The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s changes in the LM-2 financial disclosure required of the nation’s wealthiest unions were scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1. But the first filings of the new form would not have been required until March of 2005. Nonetheless, Kessler ruled that unions needed more time to comply with the new rules. She will rule later on the AFL-CIO’s attempt to permanently stop the reforms.