Government Investigation Tricks or Treats

Our ghoulish government is using its investigative powers to give tricks to private employers and treats to government agencies.

The Department of Labor issued a judge-less warrant called an “administrative subpoena” to trucking company Lasership demanding the cell phone numbers of all of its drivers. The DoL claimed it is investigating whether Lasership is classifying workers as subcontractors instead of employees in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Americans might believe that the Fourth Amendment requires probable cause and “oath and affirmation” for judges to issue warrants for government officials to get private records and personal information. Administrative subpoenas, however, bypass these Fourth Amendment requirements, and government bureaucrats issue them without probable cause and approval by judges. This sounds more like the East German Stasi than America.

Lasership objected to providing the phone numbers of its drivers to the government in response to the judge-less administrative subpoena. That appears to be a pretty reasonable and responsible position of an employer to protect privacy. When employers hire or retain people, they don’t expect they’d need to hand over the phone numbers of workers to the government without a warrant signed by a judge.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Haight would have none of this privacy argument by Lasership, and in September ordered it to cough up the phone numbers of the drivers. Judge Haight then ordered Lasership to pay the government’s legal fees for the temerity of trying to protect the privacy of drivers’ phone numbers. Tricks for private employers; treats for government.

Meanwhile, The Hill reports that a government Inspector General is investigating why employees at Lois Lerner’s old employer, the Federal Election Commission, seem to have a low morale problem. Really.

Inspectors General have broad investigative powers to track waste, fraud and abuse in government and of taxpayer dollars. With countless and daily acts of lawbreaking by government officials, and hundreds billions of dollars in government waste, fraud and abuse ($261 billion in 2012 alone), Inspectors General certainly have among the biggest and most important workloads in government, right?

Maybe not. As The Hill reports, “The FEC’s inspector general is responding to an annual survey taken by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in which the nation’s election regulator received an overall score of 43 out of 100 from its employees about how satisfied they are with their jobs . . . Only half of the employees surveyed said they were satisfied with their job . . . The Center for Public Integrity spoke with three FEC employees, one of whom said they ‘don't feel as if their work is valued by agency leaders, if it's acknowledged at all.’”

As reported at National Review, “Before Lois Lerner was embroiled in the IRS scandal, she was involved in a questionable pattern of law enforcement at the Federal Election Commission,” where she was Associate General Counsel for Enforcement. The FEC obviously liked Lerner’s style to raise her to such a position. Judicial Watch uncovered that when Lerner moved over to the IRS, she disclosed confidential tax information of conservative organizations to the FEC. She also obviously still had adherents to her style there.

Whether investigating low morale instead of low morals at the FEC is in the IG’s purview, I don’t know. Perhaps, though, the IG will recommend an appropriate solution: breaking out the world’s smallest violin.