|Dean of the U.S. House|
John Conyers, Jr.
While the purpose of H.R. 1669, the “Judgment Fund Transparency Act of 2016,” is ostensibly to promote greater transparency in government, I fear that its real purpose is to once again attack the Obama Administration’s integrity.While the purpose of H.R. 1669, the “Judgment Fund Transparency Act of 2016,” is ostensibly to promote greater transparency in government, I fear that its real purpose is to once again attack the Obama Administration’s integrity.
The bill would require the Treasury Department to publicly disclose via the Internet various details about payments it makes on claims paid out of the Judgment Fund, most of which is already available on the Department’s website.
I question the impetus for this bill, which seems to be assertions by some that the Obama Administration’s payment of money to Iran to settle longstanding pre-revolutionary legal claims was somehow illegitimate.
If that is the case, I reject such a premise.
To begin with, no one can dispute that the Administration’s use of the Judgment Fund to settle Iranian claims against the U.S. earlier this year was perfectly legal.
The State Department negotiated a $1.7 billion deal to settle claims between the U.S. and pre-revolutionary Iran, which included $1.3 billion in interest paid out of the Judgment Fund.
A 1989 Justice Department opinion makes clear that the State Department may seek payment from the Judgment Fund to pay claims or settlements stemming from matters before the U.S.-Iran Claims Tribunal, as was the case here.
Indeed, Professor Paul Figley, the Majority’s own witness, acknowledged that “the Obama Administration had the authority under the Judgment Fund statute to pay and settle the Iranian claim with interest.”
In addition to being perfectly legal, the Obama Administration’s action actually saved American taxpayers billions of dollars.
I know that $1.3 billion sounds like a large sum for interest payments.
The U.S., however, could have owed Iran billions more for over 30 years’ worth of interest on the principal owed to Iran if we had not settled those claims.
The Iran payments demonstrate that the Obama Administration acted prudentially to protect American taxpayers.
Finally, contrary to what critics claim, the Administration has been fully transparent.
The Iran payments were disclosed to the public at the time they were made.
The Obama Administration announced the Iran payments when they were made in January 2016, and there is no doubt that the Administration made no effort to hide them.
And there is no support for characterizing these payments as “ransom.”
While the Obama Administration has acknowledged that it withheld payments to ensure the Iranians followed through on the release of 4 American prisoners, these negotiations were carried out by separate teams and were unrelated.
In short, the Obama Administration’s actions regarding the Iran payments, by themselves, do not justify additional scrutiny of the Judgment Fund.
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