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NTU supports the many pro-taxpayer aspects of the “Clean Up Government Act of 2011.”
A letter to the Honorable Lamar Smith and the Honorable John Conyers.
November 22, 2011
The Honorable Lamar Smith, Chairman The Honorable John Conyers, Ranking Member Committee on the Judiciary United States House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Conyers, and Members of the Committee:
On behalf of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I write to offer praise for the many pro-taxpayer aspects of H.R. 2572, the “Clean Up Government Act of 2011,” which has been scheduled for full Committee markup on December 1. This legislation, introduced by Representative Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Representative Quigley (D-IL), would help to reinforce laws that protect taxpayers from suffering due to the criminal behavior of public officials. NTU urges you and your colleagues to give the Committee’s strong support for the bill.
Although NTU proudly takes its place among many citizen groups on various points of the ideological spectrum in support of honest, accountable government, H.R. 2572 also has important connections to fiscal policy. Whether they involve huge gifts in consideration of contracts, padding payrolls with political allies, or consuming public property for personal purposes, most corruption scandals are tied in some manner to tax dollars. Amid the massive expansion of government’s powers and resources over the past century, the opportunities to commit breaches of the public trust (and the public purse) have increased dramatically as well.
While the best defense against such breaches begins with the integrity of those serving, government (like any other institution) must have systemic safeguards to encourage oversight and protect against bad actors. Toward such ends, H.R. 2572 would provide a welcome boost to federal anti-corruption statutes, by strengthening the definition of “official acts” covered by the law, increasing applicable prison terms, and clarifying and lengthening the statute of limitations on bribery, extortion, and “honest services fraud” cases.
Aside from the obvious effect of policing and deterring acts from public officials that could harm taxpayers, the Clean Up Government Act carries with it another, more direct fiscal advantage. Owing to citizens’ outrage over convicted former officeholders receiving large retirement packages, elected leaders (including Members of Congress) have been forced to enact reforms ensuring that taxpayers do not underwrite such ill-deserved compensation. Unfortunately, many of these laws (especially the one governing Congress) tend to be narrowly written, requiring a conviction from a strictly limited list of offenses to be applicable. Since public corruption cases are often “pled down” in order to ensure at least some punishment is obtained, disgraced officials are able to skate around pension-deprivation laws.
According to a recent NTU analysis, federal lawmakers convicted of various crimes are currently drawing a combined pension benefit of more than $800,000 per year. H.R. 2572 would improve the future chances that Members of Congress and those serving in other elected posts are convicted of an offense that is commensurate to the full measure of their illegal act, thereby increasing the likelihood that taxpayers can be shielded from subsidizing their retirements. Its enactment would be an excellent complement to another piece of legislation NTU supports, the Congressional Integrity and Pension Forfeiture Act (S. 1261/H.R. 2162).
For these reasons, passage of the Clean Up Government Act would be a helpful step not only for the overall cause of “good government” but also for the well-being of taxpayers. Accordingly, roll call votes on H.R. 2572 will be significantly weighted in NTU’s annual Rating of Congress. We look forward to the legislation’s swift passage.
Sincerely,Pete Sepp Executive Vice President