Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...


Wednesday, November 05, 2003  

Where's the outrage about war profiteering? Last week, while I ruminated that Congress should put limits on the amounts companies make on war, Republicans were busily dismantling that very provision from the Iraq spending bill.

U.S. fraud statutes protect against waste of tax dollars at home, but none expressly prohibit war profiteering and none expressly confer extraterritorial jurisdiction overseas. The Leahy-Feinstein-Durbin amendment would criminalize "war profiteering" -- overcharging taxpayers for any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war or reconstruction efforts in Iraq. The bill also prohibits fraud and false statements in any matter involving a contract or the provision of goods or services in Iraq. These new crimes would be felonies, subject to criminal penalties of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million or twice the illegal gross profits of the crime. Leahy described it as "strong and focused sanctions" that are narrowly tailored to criminalize and create tough criminal penalties for fraud or excessive profiteering in contracts, here and abroad, related to the war or reconstruction efforts in Iraq.


It was a pretty clever game of hide and seek. The issue started when a bipartisan group of senators sent the provision to conference. There, of course, the House Republicans refused to consider it. But get this: they used as their cover the fact that the President wasn't giving them any advice on it. Imagine, an administration in which so many cabinet members, advisors, and--not insignificantly--the Vice President were recently in the employ of those very industries targeted by this legislation, and it has no public opinion. I'm absolutely shocked.

Without presidential oversight--well, the House Republicans didn't feel right passing it. And then the Senate Republicans, they just hung their heads and sighed, deeply saddened over their powerlessness in the face of House opposition. Said Pete Domenici: "If the House says no, we can’t do anything about it. We can’t dump the whole bill just because [a provision on profiteering] isn’t included."

So what we have is a deeply enmeshed administration stocked with corporate insiders who give secret contracts to companies for whom those very insiders used to work. And now Republicans, in killing anti-profiteering legislation, have effectively said to those companies: please rip off the American taxpayer.

I don't know if MoveOn.org takes requests or not, but I would love to see an action alert on this issue.

posted by Jeff | 9:35 AM |
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