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Leahy Introduces War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007

Soon after the American people booted the GOP from Congress in the midterm elections, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) spoke at his alma mater, Georgetown Law School, and talked about, amongst many other pressing issues to come before his Senate Judiciary Committee, war profiteers.

And because prosecuting criminal cases against war profiteering is difficult under current law and has to overcome jurisdictional legal defenses, we also will renew our efforts to enact the War Profiteering Prevention Act.  I have repeatedly offered this bill, and it has passed the Senate, only to die in a Republican-controlled conference committee.

On January 4, the first day of the new Democratic Congress, Senator Leahy made good on those words when he introduced the War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007. The legislation group of bills includes the Effective Corruptions Prosecutions Act of 2007. (Read his remarks on war profiteering prevention and on effective prosecutions.)

From the senator's press release:

“Americans want the culture of corruption to end.  From war profiteers and corrupt officials in Iraq, to convicted Administration officials, to influence-peddling lobbyists and, regrettably, even members of Congress, too many supposed public servants have been serving their own interests, rather than the public interest,” said Leahy.

Senator Leahy said that the American people "staged an intervention" in November, alluding to the corporations binging on the U.S. Federal Treasury like addicts.

“The American people staged an intervention during the November elections and made it clear that they would not stand for it any longer. They expect the Congress to take action, and these bills are a good first step toward meeting that call,” Leahy said.  “We need to restore the people’s trust by acting to clean up the people’s government.”

Here's what it will do:

War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007

§ Criminalizes war profiteering, which is defined as materially overvaluing any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war and relief or reconstruction activities

§ Statute would strengthen the tools available to federal prosecutors to combat war profiteering by providing clear authority for the Government to seek criminal penalties and to recover excessive profits for war profiteering overseas.

§ Prohibits any fraud against the United States, Iraq, or any other foreign country involving a contract for the provision of any goods or services in connection with a war, military action, or relief or reconstruction activities.

§ Subjects violators to up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed the greater of $1,000,000 or twice the amount of any illegal gross profits, or both.

§ Prohibits making a false statement in any matter involving a contract for the provision of any goods or services in connection with a war, military action, or relief or reconstruction activities.

§ Subjects violators of this provision to up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed the greater of $1,000,000, or twice the amount of any illegal gross profits, or both.

§ Creates extraterritorial jurisdiction over offenses committed overseas, and covers any person in the United States or abroad who violates its provisions.

If the legislation passes, and I'm sure it will, the 110th Congress will have exceeded the GOP-controlled Congress, in cracking down on profiteers, by leaps and bounds.

Dave Johnson, writing at Seeing the Forest, says that President Bush will "certainly veto this one" because it would "ruin the retirement plans of so many of his buddies."

I say, "bring it on." Pass the legislation and dare President Bush to veto it.

The Nation's Chuck Collins answers Rep. Henry Waxman's dilemma of what to tackle first. War profiteering ranks second.

And CBS News asks the the absurd question: "Is U.S. Wasting Money on Iraq Contracts?" The article should be one word: "YES!!!"

The U.S. has currently spent at least $437 billion on the Iraq war, according to the Congressional Research Service. An estimated $100 billion will be spent in 2007. Much of that money is going to 60,000 civilian contractors involved in reconstruction and providing services to the troops.

It's actually 100,000 contractors, according to the Pentagon, but really, who's counting?

A document — part of a whistleblower lawsuit obtained by CBS News — alleges a blueprint of contractor abuse in Iraq, detailing how the government was billed 10 times more than it should have been when U.S. troops used a recreation facility in Iraq.

That's because they were not billed once per visit, but rather billed repeatedly, every time a soldier used:

  • a computer
  • a phone
  • ping pong equipment or pool equipment
  • a towel
  • a bottle of water.
  • The contractor in question, Kellogg Brown and Root, denies any wrongdoing. 

    Says Senator Leahy:

    "Eventually we're going to have a bill for about $1 trillion, and people are not going to be able to account for a very, very large part of it," says Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

    CBS continued:

    The Pentagon and Congress are investigating about 80 cases of alleged contractor waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq. To date, 26 have been referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.

    So far a few individuals have been charged, most from a single case, and a few million dollars has been paid back. After 3 1/2 years of war, not a single criminal case has been filed against any large corporation doing work in Iraq. 

    The Leahy legislation is a much needed first step in fighting profiteers and politically-connected corruption. However, the main event — Congressional crackdowns on known profiteers — has yet to come.

    [Matt Ortega writes at SOTUblog and The Right's Field, a group blog focusing on the Repulican field of candidates for 2008.]

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