Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) late last week introduced the "Government Transparency and Recordkeeping Act," a bill which requires that all records of individual payments under 31 U.S.C. 1304, the Judgment Fund, are reported to Congress and made available to the public. As the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senator Inhofe has been requesting that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate how much the Judgment Fund has paid relating to the environmental statues under the jurisdiction of the committee, but over the past ten years even GAO has had difficulties obtaining complete records.
"Most Americans have a checking account where their transactions are recorded, yet there is no such record-keeping mechanism for the federal government's Judgment Fund - this makes no sense," Senator Inhofe said. "I have been working with GAO to investigate just how much the Judgment Fund has doled out relating to environmental statues, but in over the past ten years, even GAO has had trouble obtaining complete records. Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution states 'that a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts of all public money shall be published from time to time' - especially in the age of technology, there's no excuse for the government not keeping track of the transactions of the Judgment Fund.
"The Government Transparency and Recordkeeping Act corrects this problem by ensuring that any payments from the Judgment Fund are reported to Congress and fully accessible to the public in a transparent fashion. I am pleased to team up with Senator Vitter on this effort and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this important transparency legislation through the Senate."
The Judgment Fund was created in 1956 and is a permanent fund available to pay judgments against the government and settlements resulting from lawsuits. If the Federal Government is named as a defendant and the plaintiffs are successful then the plaintiffs may be awarded for certain attorney fees and costs through the Judgment Fund.