Rep. Stewart Introduces Bill to Improve Government Transparency
Washington, D.C. – This week, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) introduced legislation to increase transparency and accountability for taxpayer funds used in the Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund. The Judgment Fund Transparency Act of 2017 would require a public accounting of all money paid to those who win lawsuits against the federal government.
The Treasury Department currently manages the Judgment Fund, which is used to pay for court expenses and settlements against the federal government. In the past few years it has unfortunately been used as a slush fund, providing billions of dollars to Iran and attempting to bailout insurance companies losing money on the Obamacare exchanges.
Unfortunately, this fund is not subject to the annual appropriations process, has lax reporting requirements, and any available information is offered only at the discretion of the President.
“There’s absolutely no reason for this information to be secret,” Stewart said. “The federal government should always be transparent about how it uses tax dollars. This bill is a critical fix that will show us who the government is paying and how much when it settles or loses lawsuits, and it will prevent the fund from being used as a slush fund for political purposes.”
The Judgment Fund Transparency Act of 2017 does the following:
- Prevents Judgment Fund payments to State Sponsors of Terrorism
- Increases government transparency by requiring the Treasury Department to publicly disclose the following information about Judgment Fund Settlements:
- Names of government agencies involved in the lawsuit
- Names of plaintiffs and counsels
- The amounts awarded in the settlements
- A brief description of the facts of the claim
- If payments are made to foreign governments, the Treasury Department must also publicly disclose:
- The method of payment
- Currency denominations used
- The name and location of each financial institution that is controlling the payment
Examples of recent Judgment Fund misuse:
- The Obama Administration’s $1.7 billion payment to Iran in 2016.
- In 2013, the New York Times reported on a billion dollar payout to thousands of minority farmers who never even sued the government and some may not have been farmers.
- In 2016, The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services sought to use the Judgment Fund to bailout Obamacare insurance companies.
Background on the Judgment Fund:
The Judgment Fund was originally set up to provide a mechanism for the federal government to pay damages to parties, in a timely manner, who have been harmed by the federal government. The purpose of the Judgment Fund is thus a good one, but the administration of it must be more transparent.
A similar bill sponsored by Congressman Stewart was marked-up and adopted by the House Judiciary Committee in November 2016.