U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) and Congressman Lance Gooden (R-Texas) led 33 colleagues in a bicameral letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland stating their opposition to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) return to the Obama-era practice of directing legal settlements to partisan, non-victim organizations.
“The Biden administration is attempting to take a page from the Obama playbook to funnel money to its political allies by requiring federal defendants to pay a portion of their settlement funds to outside activist groups,” Tuberville said. “This corrupt practice is a prime example of executive overreach. It is Congress’s job to direct federal funds and federal bureaucrats should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. Federal settlement funds should go to the victims first and then to the U.S. Treasury. I will continue to push for government accountability and transparency at all levels of the federal government.”
In a companion statement, Gooden said, “President Biden knows Republicans are set to regain control of the House next year and is determined to circumvent the Constitutional role of Congress to fund his radical agenda. Settlement agreement payments should go to the victims, not fund Democrats’ partisan pet projects.”
The letter was written in response to the public comment period for the DOJ’s interim final rule published on May 10, 2022. The rule seeks to reverse regulations that protected victim compensation, restored confidence in the judicial process, and respected congressional spending power. If published as a final rule, this policy would mark the return of an Obama-era DOJ practice that allowed settling parties in a federal dispute to reduce their punishment by making “donations” to special interest groups of the DOJ’s choosing, which Republicans claim would be cultivating an environment ripe for corruption and abuse.
Tuberville previously introduced the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act to ensure that when the federal government settles a lawsuit, settlement funds will go only to the victims, injured parties in the dispute, or the U.S. Treasury. The bill would prohibit settling parties in a federal dispute from reducing their punishments by making “donations” to outside organizations. Representative Gooden introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The members of Congress wrote in the letter:
“Serious conflicts of interest arise and public trust is eroded when the DOJ requires defendants to donate to activist groups selected by the DOJ. What is even more alarming is the glaring lack of transparency; more than 11 years after the practice began, Congress and the American people still have no idea where or how the majority of funds directed to third parties, which amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars, was spent. By reviving this practice, President Biden is directly contradicting his promise to “usher in a new era of government transparency.” The American people should remain skeptical of the Biden Administration resuming this practice.
“We are adamantly opposed to the Biden Administration’s decision to reinstate the unethical and controversial practice of forcing defendants to pay settlement monies directly to unrelated third parties, circumventing the Treasury and Congress. When the DOJ settles a legal matter on behalf of the United States, all settlement funds should go to the victims or the Treasury–and not directed to politically connected third-party organizations. Restarting this practice would further the executive overreach of unaccountable bureaucrats picking winners and losers. Congress, and Congress alone, has the authority for directing federal dollars and we strongly reject any attempt of the executive branch to interfere with this responsibility.”
Senate signatories of the letter include Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
To see Tuberville speak about the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act click here.
Tuberville was elected in the 2020 election, unseating incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D-Alabama). Tuberville is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.
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