Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are joining Senators Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to introduce the Judgment Fund Transparency Act. The Judgment Fund is available for court judgments and compromise settlements for lawsuits against the federal government and is paid directly through the U.S. Treasury. However, current law doesn't require the Treasury Department to publicly report these payouts. As a result, few public details exist about where these funds are going and why, and that information is only accessible at the Administration's discretion.
The Judgment Fund Transparency Act would establish binding disclosure requirements concerning the following:
- The Federal Agency whose actions gave rise to the claim;
- The claimant and claimant's counsel;
- The amount paid;
- A brief description of the case;
- A copy of the complaint and answer;
- A copy of the final action regarding the claim;
- The name of the agency that submitted the claim;
- In order to facilitate convenient public access, this legislation would require the Secretary of the Treasury to develop a website in which to publish these categories of information.
"Congress and the American people deserve to know who and for what this money is being used," noted Crapo. "With our ballooning debt and deficit, we must put further checks and balances in place to prevent waste, fraud and abuse. Due to the recent revelations out of the IRS, it is clear that government programs, like the Judgment Fund, require proper oversight."
"This legislation will provide the transparency that was promised to us by this administration," said Risch. "It is a shame that Congress has to enact a law to fulfill this promise for the administration. This transparency will shine a light on those outside groups that frequently tie up land management decisions via litigation and will hopefully bring balance between conservation and use on our public lands."
Before the Fund was established, claims against the government were assigned to a Congressional Committee to appropriate funds to pay liability, attorneys' fees, and other costs associated with a successful claim against the federal government. Today, if a government agency fails to use its own annual budget to cover this cost via EAJA, the U.S. Treasury pays the bill out of the Fund. In recent years, Treasury has paid the following via the Fund: FY 2012--$2.9 billion, FY 2011--$2.2 billion, FY 2010--$1.1 billion, FY 2009--$2.3 billion, FY 2008--$790 million, FY 2007--$1 billion, and FY 2006--$628 million.
Congressman Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) has introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.