Special Prosecutor Needed (Rep. Michael Burgess)

In the past few months, Congress has passed bailouts and so-called “economic stimulus” packages to the tune of trillions of taxpayers’ money. I have consistently voted against every single one of them because I don’t believe our children and grandchildren should have to pay for these mistakes.

We are in uncharted waters, and our economy is under duress, with no sign of respite on the horizon. Our nation faces a financial crisis unlike anything we have ever seen, so we must take special and necessary measures to avoid allowing this to happen again.

To that end, on Thursday I sent a letter to President Obama, and I sent a similar one to President Bush last October, requesting the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute those responsible for this financial crisis.

Washington is on an unprecedented spending spree, and using your hard-earned money to do it. This, coupled with the recent AIG bonuses, demands a thorough and unbiased investigation of the root causes of the problems so we can begin to restore accountability to the federal government.

These bailouts and stimulus packages were written and passed quickly behind closed doors without the American public or members of Congress given the opportunity to read the legislation. This is evident by the AIG bonuses. The administration and Democratic congressional leaders have harshly criticized the bonuses, yet they are the same individuals who insisted that time was limited and we must pass the bailouts and economic rescues quickly.

President Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said that the president believes the issue of the AIG bonuses is a “big distraction.” I completely disagree. I think it underscores this fact: These are difficult times that call for tough decisions, but that does not excuse the federal government from the numerous mistakes that have already been made.

I have been concerned for some time about the decisions made at AIG. If you recall, in October we learned about company executives jet-setting to a posh resort in California for a “retreat” — and using almost $500,000 in taxpayer-funded bailout funds to do so. After joining several of my colleagues in sending a letter to government officials inquiring about this, I received a letter back from AIG CEO Ed Liddy.

In his letter to me, Mr. Liddy stated, “We are also scrutinizing all actions and expenditures so that every dollar spent goes to building a stronger company.” I hardly consider giving retention bonuses to the very individuals who ran the company into the ground an act that will help build a “stronger company.”

In the case of the bonuses, I am aware of two last-minute, behind-the-scenes dealings that may have ultimately disabled the federal government from preventing them.

First, a bipartisan amendment was successfully added to the stimulus package that would penalize companies receiving bailout money who pay large bonuses to executives. However, that provision was stripped out during final negotiations.

Secondly, it has been stated that Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, successfully inserted language exempting AIG from the aforementioned provision regulating bonuses at companies receiving bailout money. Sen. Dodd, however, claims the Treasury Department requested the AIG exemption.

I want to know why the provision was included in the first place, regardless of whose idea it was.

Politics aside, it raises serious questions about the behind-the-scenes negotiations that took place. What other “deals” are being made that Americans will only discover when the chance for a remedy has passed? This is exactly why I am calling for the administration to appoint an independent special prosecutor.

At this time, the federal government’s lack of accountability is unparalleled. Americans are tired of Congress passing bailout after bailout with no regard for responsibility. I have voted against every single bailout and the so-called “economic stimulus” package for several reasons, an important one being that I believe these bills were rushed through the system with little to no accountability or oversight.

It is clear to me that there is a dire need to take additional measures to ensure that the federal government is spending American taxpayers’ money wisely.

If we expect the American people to trust the decisions we are making with their hard-earned money, Congress must first be held accountable.

One thing is for certain, though: the federal government has foregone fundamental accountability standards and lost the trust of the American people. Now is the time to begin building that trust.

Cross-post from Dentonrc.com.

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