With Halloween only a few days away, unfortunately American taxpayers were greeted with the wrong kind of ‘tricks’ this week. On Tuesday, it was uncovered that the Department of Justice under then Attorney General Eric Holder was picking and choosing what organizations to make settlement payments to, based on if they were liberal or conservative. That’s right, more rouge agency heads and bureaucrats picking winners and losers to award your tax dollars to based on if they were liberal enough to align with the administration’s political views. This shouldn’t be the case.

In the House of Representatives this week, we passed legislation to stop this practice, to end these Obama-Holder behind closed door deals and to add transparency to what the government does with your tax dollars. The appropriately named Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act makes sure that the government can no longer settle disputes behind closed doors with your tax dollars. Your government cannot operate in a shroud of secrecy – the public must be involved. The government is accountable to the taxpayer, and it should be as open and transparent as possible. That is why I have supported efforts to audit things like the Federal Reserve and require agencies to institute reforms to cut down on unnecessary waste and abuse while explicitly detailing how they use each tax dollar.

The efforts in the U.S. House this week were accompanied by an announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they would be ending the practice of “sue and settle.” “Sue and settle” agreements occur when a federal agency like the EPA accepts a lawsuit from an outside radical group and then, rather than defend itself, settles the lawsuit out of court in a closed-door agreement. These agreements involve the U.S. taxpayer paying attorney fees for the radical organization as well as accepting the implementation of new bureaucratic regulations harmful to American consumers.

Ending the practice of “sue and settle” is something I have spearheaded in the U.S. House for several years and have advanced legislation with bipartisan support each Congress to end it. Under the Obama Administration, these lawsuits resulted in more than 100 new regulations and tens of millions of tax dollars spent on compliance costs. This change from the Obama Administration’s EPA to the Trump White House will now prevent radical liberal groups from taking Missourians’ tax dollars and imposing burdensome government regulations. Upon announcing the change, President Trump’s EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, said, “The days of regulation through litigation are over… I’d like to thank the President and acknowledge others, including Rep. Jason Smith, who have worked with us to bring this corruption to light.”

It is the responsibility of your government to be an unbiased, good steward of taxpayer resources, not treating them as their slush fund piggy bank to award whatever cause most aligns with their own political agenda. I am glad we took action this week to prevent this practice from occurring and am hopeful that the United States Senate will advance the Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act. It is also encouraging to see agencies under this new administration proactively ending this payout practice even without legislation. That is the kind of change I support and the type of cultural change which Washington needs.

Jason Smith represents Missouri’s 8th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Contact him at 573-335-0101 or visit https://jasonsmith.house.gov

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