Lummis, Barrasso Fight Activist Lawsuits
Introduce legislation that shines light on organizations using taxpayer money to fund political agendas
May 25, 2011 -
Today, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Vice Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, and Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chairman of the Senate Western Caucus jointly introduced the Government Litigation Savings Act, legislation that prevents abuse of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) by large environmental groups and others who frequently challenge the federal government in court.
The Government Litigation Savings Act, authored by Lummis, will reduce the taxpayer’s burden to pay for attorney’s fees. The legislation also returns EAJA to its original intent by instituting targeted reforms on who is eligible to receive EAJA reimbursements, limiting repeated lawsuits, and reinstating tracking and reporting requirements to make EAJA more transparent. Under the Government Litigation Savings Act, veterans, social security claimants, individuals and small businesses will still enjoy full access to EAJA funds. The bill has been endorsed by over 85 agriculture, sportsmen, recreation, and energy groups.
“When the government stopped tracking EAJA payments in 1995, it was a dream come true for radical environmental groups. Lack of oversight has fueled the fire for these groups to grind the work of land management and other federal agencies to a halt -- and it does so on the taxpayer’s dime. Americans have unwittingly funded these obstructionist political agendas for far too long at the expense of individuals, small businesses, energy producers, farmers and ranchers who must pay out of their own pocket to defend the federal government against relentless litigation,” Lummis said. “This common sense legislation would help restore integrity to EAJA and return the program to the original intent of Congress.”
“For far too long, special interest groups have funded their anti-multiple use agenda with Americans’ hard earned taxpayer dollars,” said Barrasso. “It’s absolutely absurd that Washington pays outside groups to repeatedly sue our government. It’s time to halt the endless cycle of reckless lawsuits and fix this broken system. Our bill will protect taxpayer dollars and restore accountability and transparency.”
The bill is co-sponsored by the following members of both the Senate and House Western Caucuses: Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mike Lee (R-UT), John Thune (R-SD), James Risch (R-ID) and Representatives Rob Bishop (R-UT), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Mike Conaway (R-TX), Jeff Denham (R-CA), John Duncan (R-TN), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Wally Herger (R-CA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Kristi Noem (R-SD), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Steve Pearce (R-NM), Denny Rehberg (R-MT), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Don Young (R-AK).
EAJA was passed as a permanent appropriation in 1980 in order to help individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations with limited access to financial resources defend themselves against harmful government actions. EAJA allows for the reimbursement of attorney’s fees and costs associated with suing the federal government. When operating correctly, EAJA allows plaintiffs who sue the federal government to recover part of their attorney’s fees and costs if they “prevail” in the case.
Congress and the agencies halted tracking and reporting of payments made through EAJA in 1995.
According to research by a Wyoming law firm, 14 environmental groups have brought over 1200 federal cases in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and have collected over $37 million in taxpayer dollars through EAJA or other similar laws. Those numbers do not include settlements, and fees sealed from public view. An independent study from Virginia Tech University discovered similar findings as a result of a comprehensive Freedom of Information Act request of five Federal agencies. The Virginia Tech study also revealed that two of these agencies could provide absolutely no data on EAJA payments.