Federal law requires that when a large employer anticipates it may have to lay off workers, it must issue notices of the possibility to them. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act - WARN - mandates such notices.
But when officials at Lockheed Martin, the giant defense contractor, decided they ought to send out WARN notices to as many as 123,000 employees just a few days before the presidential election, the White House erupted.
Why, that many WARN notices at that time might cost President Barack Obama votes on Nov. 6, administration officials fumed.
Maybe so, but the law is the law, Lockheed Martin responded. In view of big spending cuts the Pentagon will be required automatically to make Jan. 2, unless Congress acts to stop them, the company would risk breaking the WARN law.
So desperate was the White House to avoid the Lockheed Martin WARN notices that it tried to make a deal this week. The Office of Management and Budget offered assurances the Pentagon will not cancel any contracts on Jan. 2. And, the administration added, the government instead of Lockheed Martin will make payments required by the WARN Act to any workers who are laid off - providing the company does not issue the WARN letters.
The bottom line is that the White House is offering Lockheed Martin our tax dollars if the company will forestall action required by law - but that might cost Obama votes.
In some places, that's called bribery.