Sequestration: Obama DOJ Spends Millions On Conferences – Threatens Release of Criminals

The Obama administration, in the midst of sequestration, is threatening to release more criminals into the general public, soliciting for nearly $35,000 worth of bagpipe and drum supplies (which has now been cancelled) and now the Justice Department comes under fire for wasteful spending, including $50 million on conferences and $11 million on luxury private jets, along with a special unit that helps Hollywood produce films and TV shows.

The Department of Homeland Security came under fire for releasing hundreds of aggravated felons earlier this year, blaming the sequester. Later they acknowledged they could have made cuts elsewhere to prevent their release.

DOJ officials were grilled on Wednesday over the wasteful spending. The House Judiciary Committee Republicans came down hard on them for not cutting their lavish spending in other areas.

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“Our review of DOJ spending show that tax dollars are also used at the department to pay for event planners at elaborate conferences, pizza parties and $12 cups of coffee, and to provide cars for Washington bureaucrats to simply commute between their homes and the office,” said committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). “This is not money wisely spent.”

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The FBI boasts on its website that its “Office of Public Affairs is a small staff that spends a portion of its time working with domestic and international screenwriters, producers, authors, and other industry personnel associated with TV programs, documentaries, made-for-TV movies, books, and motion pictures.” The unit is also the “same one that manages national and international publicity for wanted fugitives (including the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives”), Most Wanted Terrorists, and missing children, and it also coordinates other proactive initiatives.” And the cost to taxpayers of this Hollywood helper unit is $1.5 million per year.

What I found almost laughable is that the Republicans were addressing DOJ officials about this FBI expense that actually helped produce movies like ‘Fast and Furious.’ These are the same DOJ officials who signed off on Operation Fast and Furious, the gun walking scandal that provided nearly 2,500 arms to Mexican drug cartels which led to the murder of at least two federal agents and hundreds of Mexicans.

All of this comes front and center as Attorney General Eric Holder gave warning that thousands of criminals could be set free due to $100 million in budget cuts.

In a five page letter, Holder wrote to Maryland Democrat Senator Barbara Mikulski that “Using data on average number of cases handled per attorney in FY 2012, the [U.S. attorneys] would handle 2,600 fewer cases in FY 2013 than in FY 2012 comprised of an estimated 1,600 fewer civil cases and 1,000 fewer criminal cases. Criminals that should be held accountable for their actions will not be held accountable, and violators of our civil laws may go unpunished.”

I actually want to interject here about the criminal activity that has taken place in Holder’s own department concerning contempt and obstructing justice in the ongoing scandal of Fast and Furious, but to stay on point, the fact is that nothing is being done about the waste of millions of taxpayer dollars on things that are not even constitutional by various agencies under the Executive Branch.

Holder said that sequestration would bring funding levels down to 2009 levels. When asked by Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) whether criminals were freed in 2009 due to the lack of financial capacity to prosecute them, Inspector General Michael Horowitz replied, “I am not aware of criminals being let go. I wasn’t in the Justice Department at the time.”

Gowdy also asked Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofhus if lawyers that work pro bono for the DOJ in order to gain experience could be able to assist in taking on cases due to budget cuts. Lofhus agreed that could be done.

However, one has to wonder if real cuts are being made in the first place. I’ve often said that when it comes to Washington, there is no such thing as a “real cut.”

Take the DOJ, for instance. In 2009 the DOJ spent $73 million on conferences. In 2010, they spent $93 million. They spent $54 million on conferences. No doubt elaborate conferences could be stricken and cut to the bone. In fact, instead of going out of the office for these conferences, they could do like people who actually adhere to a budget and order simple sandwiches or even have people attending the conferences bring their own lunch and have the conference in the office space they already pay for. Republicans pointed out the wasteful spending at taxpayer’s expense at these conferences of $5.50 canned sodas and $12 coffees! That makes my blood boil!

In Holder’s letter he stated that “A March 1, 2013, sequestration would cut over $1.6 billion from the Department’s current funding level, which would have severe consequences for the administration of justice and serious consequences for our communities across the nation.”

Holder also listed several divisions which would see cuts along with the FBI ($550 million) due to sequestration, such as the ATF ($60 million), Federal Bureau of Prisons ($338 million), the U.S. Marshals Service ($60 million), U.S . Attorneys ($100 million), Civil Division ($14 million), and the Executive Office for Immigration Review ($15 million). Even with this, Holder claims “More discretionary and flexible programs, such as grants, will likely be required to “donate” via transfer authority to components facing serious life safety or security issues, such as BOP, which faces a shortfall of more than $200 million even after furloughs of headquarters and regional staff, reductions in non-personnel spending, and the use of available balances from funds appropriated in prior years.” According to Holder, the DOJ employees some 115,000 people across the country.

While the resources he speaks of may be necessary, the wasteful spending he doesn’t address is not. Lavish conferences and expensive drinks, meals, and hotels are not. Frankly neither is “discretionary and flexible programs” spending. Congress should fund only what is allotted in the enumerated powers of the Constitution and nothing more. The Justice Department would then be forced to live within their means, after all it’s our money, not theirs.

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