Politics is about money and power. It takes money to seize power, and power makes it much easier to raise money to maintain power and to seize more. It’s an issue I addressed back in September of 2011 for PJ Media:
Perhaps the most egregious example of everything wrong with our federal bureaucracies resides with the Environmental Protection Agency. John Merline, writing in Investor’s Business Daily, tells a tale of EPA abuse of power and squandering of taxpayer monies that ought to cause the American public to demonstrate in righteous rage. I have never seen a more compelling argument for the immediate abolishment of a federal agency.
The EPA is using taxpayer money to encourage environmentalist groups to sue … the EPA. This has continued for decades.
The EPA has paid one of these groups to produce a do-it-yourself guide to suing the EPA.
The EPA frequently enters into consent decrees to settle the suits. Even when the EPA doesn’t hand out megadollar settlements — your money — to the litigious loons, it commonly pays their attorney’s fees.
Why would the EPA do something so obviously crazy?
High-level EPA bureaucrats commonly support the leftist environmentalist beliefs of these groups, as do a great many of the career employees of the agency. They look to serve the leftist groups, not their employers.
Generally speaking, Congress has not authorized the EPA to do most of the things such people live to do, things such as regulating and litigating energy producers, small businesses, and large corporations out of existence. But EPA bureaucrats tend not to like such small-minded, non-nuanced strictures, so they encourage their fellow travelers in the environmentalist movement to sue the EPA. The hope is that the courts can force the EPA to do what the EPA wanted to do in the first place. Rather than erecting a vigorous defense to frivolous environmentalist lawsuits, the EPA simply caves.
It’s very simple: EPA environmentalist bureaucrats want to mandate something they have neither the lawful power nor the means to accomplish, so they enlist friends–always progressive organizations of some kind–to sue the EPA. Rather than actually oppose these lawsuits, they settle them, entering into agreements that “force” the EPA to do whatever it wanted to do in the first place. Leftist judges can always be found to play along with the scam. A significant part of such settlements is always forking over mountains of taxpayer cash to the groups that sued the EPA. The EPA gets to ignore the law, assume powers it was never given, end run around Congress, and enrich its political allies at the same time.
The EPA has not been the only governmental agency to engage in such destructive political subterfuge, but it is certainly among the most experienced at it, particularly during the age of Obama when it was given essentially free reign to impose a stridently progressive agenda on America.
There has been, again, particularly during the Age of Obama, considerable corruption in the Department of Justice, something Attorney General Jeff Sessions is laboring to reform, a bit at a time. Fox News reports on his attempt to bring to an end a similar scam:
The Justice Department announced Wednesday it will no longer allow prosecutors to strike settlement agreements with big companies directing them to make payouts to outside groups, ending an Obama-era practice that Republicans decried as a “slush fund” that padded the accounts of liberal interest groups.
In a memo sent to 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices early Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would end the practice that allowed companies to meet settlement burdens by giving money to groups that were neither victims nor parties to the case.
Sessions said the money should, instead, go to the Treasury Department or victims.
Do you see the scam, gentle readers? The DOJ pursues a company, and enters into a settlement for a substantial sum of money, but rather than giving that money to a victim or to the federal
treasury, the DOJ forces the entity they pursued to give the money to a progressive organization having nothing to do with the case. The DOJ’s pursuit can be lawful and legitimate, or entirely lawless, like it’s pursuit of Howard Root and Vascular Solutions Inc. What matters is some unrelated progressive ally of DOJ attorneys and their political masters would gain megabucks they should never have had. The scam was a grotesque perversion of justice and it happened all the time under Barack Obama, in fact, it began under his rule.
When the federal government settles a case against a corporate wrongdoer, any settlement funds should go first to the victims and then to the American people—not to bankroll third-party special interest groups or the political friends of whoever is in power,’ Sessions said in a statement.
This, gentle readers, is one reason progressives so hate Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions. They are cutting off illicit progressive funding sources and trying to return America to the rule of law. Some in Congress have tried to pass legislation to ban the practice, but as always, Congress works with the speed of snails. One would think such a gross abuse of power would be easily outlawed. One would need to think again.
Paul Larkin, a senior legal research fellow at The Federalist Society, described the practice as ‘improper and unlawful.’ He also said the practices were barred by the Appropriations Clause, Antideficiency Act, and the Miscellaneous Receipts Act. ‘No private lawyer could give away a client’s settlement money, and no government lawyer may do so either. It is time for this unlawful practice to end,’ Larkin wrote in 2016. ‘
‘Unfortunately, in recent years the Department of Justice has sometimes required or encouraged defendants to make these payments to third parties as a condition of settlement,’ Sessions added. ‘With this directive, we are ending this practice and ensuring that settlement funds are only used to compensate victims, redress harm, and punish and deter unlawful conduct.
Does this sound rational? Lawful? That’s why the Obamites did the opposite for eight long years. One victim was Bank of America:
Bank of America, for example, was required to pay nonprofit organizations as part of a record $17 billion settlement to resolve an investigation into its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis. The agreement was struck under then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department.
The receiving groups included organizations that provide housing counseling, foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment assistance.
Gibson Guitar Corp. also had to contribute to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to resolve a criminal investigation into allegations it illegally imported exotic wood.
The Gibson case was particularly egregious. Gibson was accused of violating the export laws of another nation, not American law, and huge amounts of the woods it needed to stay in business were seized and held hostage. It was settle or go out of business. It’s also interesting to note that the Martin Company, which uses precisely the same woods obtained from the same places and in the same ways, was not pursued by the government. What’s the difference? The CEO of Gibson donated to Republicans. The CEO of Martin, to Democrats.
Sessions will, of course, have to keep a close eye on the 94 US attorneys and their subordinates. A great many of them are leftist radicals hired under Obama for the express purpose of keeping control of the DOJ regardless of who was in the White House. PJ Media’s J. Christian Adams, a former DOJ attorney, wrote a series–Every Single One–documenting the outrageously leftist beliefs and actions of lawyers hired under Obama. They will not give up easily, and Congress will likely do little or nothing.
Souring an unlawful progressive slush fund: just another significant accomplishment of the Trump Administration the media will never tell you about.