Washington, D.C.— House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced the bipartisan Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017 (H.R. 522) with the support of every Republican Member of the House Judiciary Committee as an original cosponsor.
This bill bars the Department of Justice (DOJ), and all other government agencies, from requiring defendants to donate money to outside groups as part of their settlement agreements with the federal government.
Need for this legislation arose after an extended House Judiciary Committee investigation found that DOJ had engaged in a “pattern or practice” of systematically subverting Congress’ budget authority by using settlements from financial institutions to funnel money to left-wing activist groups. This bill would end this practice and restore accountability to the appropriations process.
Chairman Goodlatte released the following statement upon the introduction of the bill.
Chairman Goodlatte: “This bill is oversight and action. Congress must not tolerate Justice Department political appointees using settlements to funnel money to their liberal friends.
“This is also an institutional issue. Once direct victims have been compensated, deciding what to do with additional funds recovered from defendants becomes a policy question properly decided by elected representatives in Congress, not agency bureaucrats or prosecutors.”
- The Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017 prohibits DOJ settlements that require or provide for payments to non-victim third-parties. It states explicitly that payments to provide restitution for actual harm directly caused, including harm to the environment, are permissible.
- An investigation by the House Judiciary and Financial Services Committees reveals that, in approximately just the last two years, DOJ has used mandatory donations to direct nearly a billion dollars to activist groups.
- These payments occur entirely outside of the Congressional appropriations and oversight process.
- The House Judiciary Committee held two hearings, in February 2015 and May 2015, to question DOJ officials regarding these troubling settlement practices.
- The Committees also sent multiple oversight letters including two to DOJ (in November 2014and May 2015) seeking documents and answers.
- What information has been provided confirms that activist groups which stood to gain from mandatory donation provisions were involved in placing those provisions in the settlements.
- This bill is identical to the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2016. A legislative hearing on that bill was held on May 28, 2016 within the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.
- The Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2016 (H.R. 5063) passed the House by a vote of 241-174.
- The House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the DOJ on January 11, 2017, requesting a preservation of all documents related to DOJ’s settlement practices.
- The investigation is ongoing.