Activists have grown rich by suing the government and reaping billions of taxpayers’ dollars – and all in secret. The U.S. Department of Interior, however, has issued an order to curb this abuse of basic, democratic processes and to open backroom deals to public scrutiny. AFBF applauds this overdue action.
Interior alone paid out more than $4.4 billion in monetary awards under terms of 460 settlement agreements and consent decrees between Jan. 1, 2012, and Jan. 19, 2017. In other words, Interior paid out an average of more than $800 million a year while keeping key aspects of litigation secret.
It’s easy to see why so many outside observers fear an unaccountable bureaucracy cutting deals with activists. “The Department of Interior is shining light on a corner of government most people don’t even know exists,” AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen said. “Basic transparency demands that citizens know what their government is doing. When activists sue, they can tie up the government with dozens of frivolous claims but still recover attorneys’ fees if a judge upholds even one, solitary claim.