Free Dartmouth
4/19/2006 12:01:00 PM | Justin

Bush Invents The Executive Filibuster (link)

I've been wondering why we've heard so little recently of Halliburton, and other companies that we're told overcharged the US government by billions for their contracts in Iraq. I think this is the answer. The Bush administration has been exploiting an obscure loophole in the law to keep any of these cases from going to trial for years. The procedure for The False Claims Act says that for any case to go to trial, the president must decide whether or not he will get on board. Past presidents have often declined such offers, but this president is the first to simply refuse to make a decision. Scores of cases against Halliburton and other alleged defrauders of taxpayer dollars have been languishing for years while the president exploits this legal loophole.

It's ironic how this administration has taken such a public stand in opposition to the idea of the filibuster, claiming it is somehow unethical for their judicial nominees not to receive an up or down vote. But when it comes to protecting Halliburton, they have no problem using the same tactice to stall the legal process, and thereby deflect criticism of how they chose to spend money in Iraq.

The reason this has made news today is that the one case that The Bush Administration did let through has just resulted in the court ordering Custer Battles LLC pay back $10 million of funds fraudulently collected from the US government. If this case is any metric of the others, then it looks like there will be quite a windfall of backpay, and scandal if the Bush Administration ever ends its filibuster on the court system.

How they get away with this without it becoming big news is beyond me. But one interesting question is how these sort of loopholes make their way into the law, whether they're intentional, and how their discovered. Apparently, the False Claims Act was initially introduced by Republican Senator Charles Grassley in 1985. Grassley is still in office, and he's still republican (and pro-Iraq war). I can't help but wonder whether he didn't intentionally embed this loophole in there, then advise the Bush Administration to use it. It wouldn't have been a bad strategy.

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