Politics

Federal Agencies Collect $83 Billion In Fines, Avoid Congressional Oversight

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Ethan Barton Managing Editor
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Federal agencies increased their spending by collecting more than $83 billion worth from fines, penalties and settlements with individuals and corporations between 2010 and 2015, then spent the funds without prior congressional approval, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Republicans on the panel analyzed how 34 federal agencies collected and spent the money in a report titled “Restoring the Power of the Purse: Shining Light on Federal Agencies Billion Dollar Fines Collections.” The report was made public Wednesday.

Twenty-two of the 34 analyzed agencies kept fees they collected, while the remaining 12 sent such funds to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

“In pursuing these collections, the administration serves as the judge, jury and regulator,” committee Republicans, led by Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, wrote.

Seven agencies seized more than $1 billion between 2010 and 2015, according to the report. The Department of Justice (DOJ) collected nearly $64 billion of the $83 billion received.

“While the DOJ handles the bulk of enforcement activities, several other less well-known enforcement agencies are assessing substantial fines and penalties and negotiating settlements through administrative proceedings,” the report said.

The Justice Department has negotiated numerous multi-billion-dollar settlements with big banks in recent years. Bank of America, for example, settled with the agency for nearly $17 billion. (RELATED: Feds Divert MILLIONS To ‘Slush Fund’ That Fuels These Liberal Activist Groups)

“The DOJ routinely enters into multi-million and billion-dollar settlements on agencies’ behalf,” the report continued. “What is less understood, however, is what happens after the government obtains the money.”

Around 15 percent of the Justice Department’s budget “came from seven alternative sources of funding such as fines, fees, and penalties,” according to a Government Accountability Office report, committee Republicans cited.

“Further, some of this funding is not necessarily reviewed as part of the appropriations process, and as a result ‘may not be subject to the same scrutiny’ as other programs,” the committee report continued.

The report noted several other agencies that collected millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars for just a single fine or settlement.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example, raked in nearly $608 million, the committee found. The EPA collects and spends billions of dollars collected in more than 1,300 special bank accounts that are not readily available to Congress, Daily Caller News Foundation investigations have found. (RELATED: The EPA Stashes BILLIONS In Slush Fund-Like Accounts)

The committee suggested several fixes, including legislation requiring agencies to account publicly for funds collected.

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