Those fines that the Department of Justice collected from big banks that were supposed to provide restitution to people injured by the crimes. Well, the Administration has decided there is a much better use for them: funding new spending.
Since the fund’s creation in 1984 by the Victims of Crime Act, it has gathered money from fines imposed on criminals and set it aside to pay for services for crime victims.
But during the Obama administration, as major banks and corporations paid large sums to settle Justice Department investigations, the fund ballooned from about $3 billion to nearly $12 billion at the end of the 2014 budget year, according to the department.
Then, in 2015 alone, the Justice Department struck deals that will result in payments to the fund totaling over $5 billion, according to figures compiled by an association of state officials who run victim-assistance programs.
Victims’ advocates say the move could set a dangerous precedent and encourage lawmakers to keep dipping into a pot of money intended to help crime victims, not to pay government bills.
“It’s a threat to the integrity of the fund,’’ said Steve Derene, executive director of the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators, a group of state and local officials who oversee crime victim programs. Mr. Derene said he was concerned about the long-term implications of using crime victim money for general government spending.
Two years ago, the fund distributed about $745 million for victims services. That jumped last year to almost $2.4 billion, most in grants to state and local groups that provide counseling, aid or other services.
The proposed White House budget for fiscal 2016, which started Oct. 1, would give $1 billion to victim-services groups. Budget officials said it was a coincidence that the proposed reduction from last year’s $2.4 billion is about the same as the amount to be transferred out of the fund to general spending.
I am truly agnostic about whether a consolidated victims compensation fund run by the federal government is non-stupid idea. It seems to me that a better solution is to handle this on a case by case basis rather than setting up a federal bureaucracy to re-abuse the victims and creating an irresistible honey-pot for politicians. But, if we do set one up. the administration should have the integrity (hahahahaha!) to ensure it is dedicated to its intended purpose.