The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association voiced their support of the Judgment Fund Transparency Act, introduced Friday in the House of Representatives.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., seeks to provide increased oversight and transparency of the Treasury Department Judgment Fund.
The fund, established in 1956, is used to pay court judgments and settlements in cases brought against the federal government, if those costs are not otherwise covered by appropriated agency budgets. NCBA and PLC say that currently, the Treasury has no reporting requirements or accountability to Congress or taxpayers, despite payouts having totaled more than $5 billion over the past three years. The transfer of funds is not currently subject to the approval of members of Congress or the public, and is not part of public record.
The legislation would require the Treasury to issue a public report describing funds allocated, a brief description of facts surrounding the agency request and an identification of the recipient of those funds. The legislation targets abuse of the fund by groups that consistently challenge the federal government in court and receive reimbursement.
"The livestock industry fully supports Rep. Gardner's introduction of the Judgment Fund Transparency Act, a good-governance transparency bill which will serve as a major step forward in the effort to track currently unaccounted-for tax dollars being used to put our producers out of business," said PLC Executive Director and NCBA Federal Lands Director Dustin Van Liew.
Van Liew asserted the bill would have a significant impact on the pervasive anti-agriculture lawsuits facing the government and livestock producers.
"Predatory litigators have made a cottage industry of bringing process-based lawsuits against the federal government in cases that affect livestock producers, which allows them to advance their anti-livestock agenda at taxpayers' expense," he said. "Our members, in order to defend their businesses, often end up paying out-of-pocket for personal attorneys at the same time that their tax dollars are being funneled to their opponents."