Category Archives: Oversight

Grassley Seeks Inspector General for the Judicial Branch

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has introduced legislation today to “create an Inspector General for the Judicial Branch,” according to a press release from his office. It’s called the Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act.

His bill would allow for oversight of federal and appellate courts as well as the Supreme Court. It would “put in place safeguards so inspectors general do not interfere with judicial decisions.”

A similar House bill introduced by Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) would only cover federal and appellate courts.


  • Establishes the Office of Inspector General for the Judicial Branch, who shall be appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for a specific term of service of four years.  Gives the Chief Justice express authority to remove the Inspector General from office.
  • Specifies duties of the Inspector General, which include (1) to conduct investigations of alleged misconduct of judges in the judicial branch (Senate version includes the Supreme Court), that may require oversight or other action by Congress; (2) to conduct and supervise audits and investigations; (3) to prevent and detect waste, fraud and abuse; and (4) to recommend changes in laws or regulations governing the Judicial Branch.
  • Provides powers for the Inspector General, which include (1) to make investigations and reports; (2) to obtain information or assistance from any Federal, State or local agency, or other entity, or unit thereof, including all information kept in the course of business by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the judicial council of circuits, the administrative office of United States courts, and the United States Sentencing Commission; (3) to require, by subpoena or otherwise, the attendance for the taking of testimony of any witnesses and the production of any documents, which shall be enforceable by civil action; (4) to administer or to take an oath or affirmation from any person; (5) to employ officers and employees; (6) to obtain all necessary services; and (7) to enter into contracts or other arrangements to obtain services as needed.
  • Requires the Inspector General to (1) to provide the Chief Justice and Congress with an annual report on the Inspector General’s operations; (2) to make prompt reports to the Chief Justice and to Congress on matters which may require further action; and (3) to refer to the Department of Justice any matter that may constitute a criminal violation.
  • Prohibits the Inspector General from investigating or reviewing the merits of a judicial decision.  The investigatory powers of the Inspector General are limited to only alleged misconduct under the “Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980.”
  • Requires the Inspector General to commence an investigation only after the judiciary has conducted its review of an ethical complaint under the 1980 Act.
  • Establishes whistleblower protections for individuals within the Judicial Branch.

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Filed under Courts, Judges, Oversight, Supreme Court

Grassley Tells Orszag to Prepare for ‘Intensive Oversight’

Office of Management and Budget “director Peter Orszag today got the letter that no one wants to receive from Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley: ‘I will be conducting intensive oversight now and in the coming months…,’” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Grassley, a self-styled one-man watchdog from his seat as ranking Republican of the Senate Finance Committee, says he’s turning his attention to the administration of the $787 economic stimulus plan and what he calls an attitude of “spend now, chase later.”

He’s already earned himself a fearsome reputation among the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical industry, as well as the Internal Revenue Service.

In his first questions to Orszag about the stimulus, Grassley raises concerns about contradictory statements from agencies and the administration about how much money they have spent, and the number of jobs it’s created or saved.

(credit image – getty)

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Filed under Budget, Oversight, White House

Bond Calls for Oversight Hearing on Van Jones

Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), “ranking member of the Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today called for a Congressional oversight hearing probing the fitness of a senior White House official,” according to a press release.

In his letter to Senator Sanders, Bond wrote, “Today, news outlets are reporting that Van Jones signed a petition from the so-called ‘Truther’ movement which suggests that the Bush administration ‘may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext to war.’  I can imagine few sentiments more repulsive to our brave fighting soldiers and the victims of the 9/11 terror tragedy than to think the U.S. government deliberately allowed the events of 9/11 to occur.  Of course Mr. Jones in hindsight is embarrassed by the public disclosure of his participation in the petition drive and now asserts he did not read the fine print of the petition.  But can the American people trust a senior White House official that is so cavalier in his association with such radical and repugnant sentiments?”

Mr. Van Jones “is responsible for directing administration policy and spending on tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding regarding environmental policy and green jobs programs,” according to the release.

His specific title is Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Update (9/6): Mr. Van Jones “resigned as the White House’s environmental jobs ‘czar’ late Saturday night,” the New York Times reports.


Filed under Oversight, White House

Feinstein, Snowe Introduce Bill to Establish Oversight over New Carbon Markets

A bill (S. 1399) introduced yesterday by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) would “give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission full authority over markets that buy and sell pollution permits issued to companies as part of a climate change plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions,” Reuters reports.

It’s called the Carbon Market Oversight Act.

Under the proposed climate change legislation, “companies that use cleaner-burning fuel and take steps to cut their emissions could sell their permits to investors or other companies that spew more emissions.”

A press release issued on the bill states that it “is designed to prevent Enron-like fraud, manipulation and excessive speculation in the new federal, state and regional carbon markets that will be established by such a system.”

A summary of the bill’s provisions from the release:

  • Carbon market trading would be transparent, cleared and electronically monitored.
  • Requires all trading of carbon allowances and standardized allowance derivatives to occur through “registered carbon trading facilities” and to be cleared by CFTC regulated clearinghouses.
  • Requires “registered carbon trading facilities” to:
    • Create a “central limit order book” so that every trade is recorded in real time with the Commission.
    • Publish trading data on at least a daily basis.
    • Maintain records.
  • Manipulation, fraud, and excessive speculation would be prohibited, and violations would be severely punished.
  • Requires “registered carbon trading facilities” to:
    • Monitor for manipulation, using electronic tools.
    • Establish and enforce rules to assure fair trading.
    • Enforce aggregate position limits.
    • Utilize emergency authority to force traders to reduce positions.
  • Grants CFTC the authority to bring cases, open investigations, and use subpoena power to protect the marketplace.
  • Establishes professional standards for all registered carbon market traders, dealers, and brokers.
    • Traders cannot be felons, may not have been stripped of a financial license, must submit to a background check, must complete at least 20 hours of pre-registration education on trading ethics, rules and laws, and must pass a test approved by CFTC.

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Filed under Climate Change, Oversight

Report States that Government Overpaid for Failing Bank Assets

A bailout watchdog group has “warned that the Treasury Department overpaid as much as $78 billion for assets it got from ailing financial institutions in exchange for billions of dollars in government money,” Congressional Quarterly reports.

But a valuation study by the Congressional Oversight Panel — a watchdog created by the bailout law (PL 110-343) — found that the Treasury Department “paid substantially more for the assets it purchased under the TARP than their then-current market value,” the study said.

The study was released Thursday, with publication of it embargoed until midnight.

Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren, chairwoman of the panel, testified Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee and offered an early look at the study’s top-line findings.

“At various points, Treasury has articulated policy objectives which could result in a program involved in paying substantially more for investments than they appear to have been worth at the time of the transaction,” Warren said.

But the panel also noted that Treasury may have had sound public policy reasons for paying above-market rates for the preferred shares and warrants.

“Treasury may have determined that granting the subsidies described above to a group of banks, regardless of their condition, on essentially the same terms was necessary, for one or more reasons, to preserve the integrity of the financial system,” the report said.

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Filed under Economy, Finance, Oversight