House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, after being briefed by FBI Director James Comey on the California shootings. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
One of the novel legal processes pioneered by the Obama Justice Department, other than the “sue and settle” process in which the government colluded with left-wing groups to cut out local governments and private citizens from policy decisions, was the funneling of funds from court settlements to left-wing groups. Jeff Sessions issued a memo forbidding this process but, in the past, this is how it worked:
When companies settle claims of wrongdoing, they are often compelled to pay for environmental or community development projects as well as pay fines and direct compensation to victims. Sometimes the third-party payments are only marginally related to the damages caused by the company’s actions.
To settle claims from the Gulf oil spill, BP was required to spend billions on coastal restoration projects that were not directly related to spill damage. Volkswagen is financing electric vehicle charging stations under its settlement of the diesel emissions cheating scandal. Duke Energy paid for soil restoration on federal land as part of its compensation for air pollution violations at some of its power plants in North Carolina.
Often settlement money was directed to non-profit groups. There are lots of problems with this, not the least of which is that it is an end-run around the power of Congress to appropriate funds. In the case of the recharging stations paid for by VW, the Obama administration had sought an appropriation for that activity and Congress said no. There was also the problem of winners and losers being chosen by government lawyers. How was it decided which non-profits were awarded settlement money? The answer, we now know, was exactly what one would have expected under the Obama administration: raw partisanship.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee claims he obtained a “smoking gun” email that proves the Obama Justice Department prevented settlement payouts from going to conservative-leaning organizations, even as liberal groups were awarded money and DOJ officials denied “picking and choosing” recipients.
“It is not every day in congressional investigations that we find a smoking gun,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said Tuesday. “Here, we have it.”
But internal Justice Department emails released Tuesday by Goodlatte indicated that not only were officials involved in determining what organizations would get the money, but also Justice Department officials may have intervened to make sure the settlements didn’t go to conservative groups.
In one such email in July 2014, a senior Justice Department official expressed “concerns” about what groups would receive settlement money from Citigroup — saying they didn’t want money going to a group that does “conservative property-rights legal services.”
“Concerns include: a) not allowing Citi to pick a statewide intermediary like the Pacific Legal Foundation (does conservative property-rights legal services),” the official, whose name is redacted in the email, wrote under the title of “Acting Senior Counselor for Access to Justice.”
The official added that “we are more likely to get the right result from a state bar association affiliated entity.”
This is surprising only if you were in a medically induced coma for the past eight years and woke up today under the illusion the rule of law had not been suspended. What you have here is Justice Department officials discussing who to reward with someone else’s money in order to maximize political gain. This is not just a kleptocracy, this is a kakistocracy.