Kyle Loeber

Seizing Civil Asset Forfeiture from the Feds

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Posted by Kyle Loeber on Thursday, August 3rd, 2017, 10:07 AM PERMALINK

Legislators are creating solutions for a persisting problem: civil asset forfeiture. This practice jeopardizes the financial security of law-abiding citizens by allowing law enforcement to confiscate their property. Americans for Tax Reform joins six other conservative organizations in a coalition letter that addresses the problem of civil asset forfeiture:

“Civil forfeiture is a process that allows property to be seized and forfeited without ever charging, much less convicting, its owner of a crime. Often, these seizures are justified by mere suspicion with little, if any, actual evidence tying property or currency to an illicit act. At this point, property owners must navigate a tortuous, skewed legal landscape that requires them to prove, in essence, their own innocence.”

In opposition to this policy, Americans for Tax Reform supports current efforts moving through the House of Representatives such as the DUE PROCESS Act and RESPECT Act. These proposals would increase the system’s transparency and raise the burden of proof to a “clear and convincing” standard, and make it harder for the IRS to steal money from innocent people’s bank accounts.

Authored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the DUE PROCESS Act is especially keen on protecting accused citizens. The bill focuses on the government’s responsibility to prove wrong doing and enforces recent policy changes at the Internal Revenue Service that would restrict their ability to seize assets without clear evidence.

The Respect Act, introduced by Rep. Pete Roscam (R-Ill.) speeds up the recovery process for assets taken when they have no relation to the allegations.

Ultimately, the federal government should be working towards criminal asset forfeiture procedures to protect Americans that have not been convicted of, or even charged with, any crime.

The legislation moving through Congress does not serve as a final solution, but certainly takes a step in the right direction. ATR encourages lawmakers to support these bills and other smart-on-crime approaches that defend our constitutional values by improving or enhancing existing statutes, while also saving money.

Read the full letter here 

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RESPECT Act Suspects the IRS isn't Playing Fair

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Posted by Kyle Loeber on Tuesday, July 18th, 2017, 12:03 PM PERMALINK

Imagine running a small, cash-only business for 40 years when Internal Revenue Service agents arrive at the door one morning. They inform you of $33,000 seized from your accounts due to the agency’s suspicion that a crime occurred.

Carole Hinders experienced this first hand and many other law abiding citizens are fighting IRS civil asset forfeiture policies right now. This practice allows law enforcement to take money from individuals who have not been convicted of a crime. Last week, however, major legislation unanimously passed through the Ways & Means Subcommittee that will mark a significant shift in the way the IRS can abuse civil asset forfeiture.

In order to combat IRS overreach, Rep. Roskam (R-IL) and Rep. Crowley (D-NY) introduced the Restraining Excessive Seizure of Property through the Exploitation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Tools, or RESPECT Act. The legislation “revises the authority and procedures that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses to seize property that has been structured to avoid Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reporting requirements.” It also requires the IRS to find individuals who were affected and make them aware of their rights.

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist has come out in support of this legislation. According to Norquist, “HR 1843 [RESPECT Act] would bar the IRS from performing these seizures unless they have a real underlying crime to justify their actions.”

Under authority of the IRS Criminal Investigation unit (CI), the federal government seized $17.1 million in 2016. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) also asserted that “current law does not require that the funds have an illegal source” to be eligible for forfeiture. Highlighted on page three of the above TIGTA report, findings show there has been a serious mishandling of civil asset forfeiture policy.

There are clear implications with laws that simply do not conform to the constitution. Americans have a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Taking assets from citizens without sufficient evidence creates a slippery slope in which the government places the onus on law abiding taxpayers and business owners. Reporting from the New York Times in 2014 unveiled “the government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.” The IRS holds unilateral power to employ civil asset forfeiture under current law and the RESPECT Act aims to curb this exploitation of average Americans.

For too long the IRS has disregarded the financial realities of everyday small businesses. Eliminating explicit overreach through legislation is the least Congressional leaders can commit to for those that lay the foundation of the American economy. Americans for Tax Reform encourages lawmakers to support the RESPECT Act as a first step towards defending vital constitutional rights.

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Bipartisan Lawmakers Introduce Audit the Pentagon Act of 2017

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Posted by Kyle Loeber on Monday, July 17th, 2017, 10:24 AM PERMALINK

ATR president Grover Norquist and a team of bipartisan lawmakers have introduced the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2017. The legislation calls for a clean audit of the Department of Defense, aiming to bring its finances in line with the rest of the federal government.

At a press conference on June 27th, the bipartisan group called for government accountability while expressing their full support of the armed services. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said in a statement, “No one can justify wasting the dollars that should be spent on our men and women in uniform, and the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2017 will ensure that we are able to efficiently and effectively support our military at home and abroad.”

Last week Norquist and Rep. Burgess have released an op-ed in USA Today explaining the situation facing the DOD. With a budget of $600 billion, the American people deserve to know where their taxpayer dollars are going. This new legislation will ensure government commitment to military readiness while also providing answers to the public.

Efforts to audit the Pentagon have seen renewed enthusiasm after the 2016 election. DOD’s new Undersecretary of Defense, David Norquist, testified in his Senate confirmation hearing that he supports a full audit.

 

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California Endures a Spike in Correctional Costs

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Posted by Kyle Loeber on Thursday, July 6th, 2017, 10:41 AM PERMALINK

California faces a crisis of rising costs inside the state’s correctional facilities. Estimates now show that the average price to house one inmate for the year has climbed to nearly $76,000.

The United States’ typical price per inmate hovers around $32,000. At well over double the national average, California risks falling even deeper into debt. The state’s troubling trend puts not only the 130,000 inmates at risk but the entire public as well.

A series of federal court orders in response to prison overcrowding can be attributed to the failure to relocate correctional staff in proportion to their shrinking inmate numbers. Right On Crime correctly notes that “many states can learn from the California experience and take pro-active steps to avoid federal court intervention that removes the issue from the democratic process and can impose costs beyond the ability of policymakers to manage.”

California’s new spot as the most costly correctional system in the nation has been a mounting problem since 2005. Costs have doubled in the last decade and the state now tops New York in dollars per inmate. Federal government intervention has cornered the state into programs and initiatives that have proved inefficient.

State Sen. Jim Nielsen, a Republican from the 4th District, blames the unforeseen expenditures on a series of misleading statements during the reform process. A “prison dividend” would have been paid out from savings in other areas to offset the skyrocketing costs, but the legislature has failed to effectively establish these programs according to Nielsen. According to a 2012 study by the National Institute of Corrections, taxpayers in California are confronted with a near 50% increase in inmate costs when compared to other states.

States approaching justice and sentencing reform initiatives should take proactive measures hands while looking closely at California to prevent similar problems in local communities.

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Louisiana's Criminal Justice Reform Success Story

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Posted by Kyle Loeber on Wednesday, June 14th, 2017, 2:36 PM PERMALINK

Louisiana’s legislature has finally worked out a deal to address their enormous incarceration rate and mounting expenditures. The state’s correctional institutions have surpassed the point of diminishing returns with respects to its incarceration rate. This is causing a major headache for communities and taxpayers.

Working with the Sheriffs Association and District Attorneys Association, lawmakers in both the State House and Senate sent a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system to the governor for his signature this afternoon. Legislators constructed and finalized a comprehensive package before last Thursday’s deadline. Some notable achievements included in this reform range from decreasing the prison population by 10% to generating $78 million in taxpayer savings over the next decade.

Ideas for bipartisan justice reform have been tossed around in the last few years, but serious pushes have consistently been shot down as prison populations shot up. Louisiana is now confronting their highest-in-the-nation incarceration rate, alleviating the burden that communities have been increasingly marred by.

According to American Press, “the bills would reduce mandatory minimum sentences; expand parole eligibility; relieve inmates of financial burdens when they are released; and guarantee victim notification when inmates are considered for probation and parole.” Initiatives like these have been shown to improve reintegration into society and save money for taxpayers.

The passage of this package through both state chambers cements Louisiana as a leader in comprehensive criminal justice reform. Other states with growing deficits and prison populations should take note of work getting done to improve the lives of residents. Watch the bill signing ceremony here this afternoon.

 

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Louisiana Passes Partial Justice Reform, Urged to Pass Full Package

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Posted by Kyle Loeber on Friday, June 2nd, 2017, 5:22 PM PERMALINK

This week, the Louisiana State Legislature passed a justice reform package that has garnered support from both sides of the isle. The ten bill package is a monument of collaborative efforts from not only legislators, but District Attorneys, law enforcement, and reform advocates. Louisiana’s Republican-led lawmakers systematically addressed concerns from all parties involved to create reform that is comprehensive and lasting. 

The legislation will have a major impact on Louisiana’s prison population and state budget, lowering the incarceration rate by 10% and saving an estimated $262 million in taxpayer dollars over the next decade. Lawmakers have assured the public that 70% of these funds will go back into rehabilitative programs for offenders to help them reintegrate into society instead of turning back to crime.

In addition to fiscal advantages, the reform package aligns Louisiana’s criminal justice system with the conservative approach that other states such as Texas, South Carolina, and Georgia have been implementing. These states have slashed costs while making neighborhoods safer, and Louisiana hopes to see the same success.

The bills passed on Wednesday will reduce penalties, expand parole opportunities, and overhaul structured sentencing. Courts will also have more flexibility when dealing with juvenile offenders, hopefully derailing the school-to-prison pipeline that many communities deal with every day. Efforts such as these have seen success across the country and Louisiana will be the latest state to reap the benefits.

Louisiana’s citizens have scored a major win with the passage of the ten bill reform package. However, there are still portions that are being debated in the State Legislature. With little time left in this session, Louisiana’s lawmakers must work out the details to these other bills that could alter the lives of non-violent offenders and potentially save tax payers even more money in the long run.

 

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