Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Monday, December 13, 2004

What if the fraud is upon the Government?

All potential members of the Libertarian Party are asked to sign a pledge to avoid force (some pledges include "fraud") for social or political ends.

But what about the citizens against the government? Assuming as a given the Libertarian dogma that taxation is theft, is it ethical to defraud the government to get your money back?

I think not, and so do several states.

Olympia attorney Shawn Newman, who is not a Libertarian but should be, writes:

"Thirteen states, the District of Columbia and several local jurisdictions have false claim regulations. They are modeled after federal law which address false claims of entitlement to government money, property or services. These include: presenting a false claim for payment or approval; making or using a false record to get a claim paid or approved; conspiracy to get a false claim paid; delivering less property than shown on a receipt; delivering a receipt without knowing that the information is true (with intent to defraud); knowingly buying public property from a government officer who doesn’t have the right to sell it; or making or using a false record to decrease an obligation to the government."

"In Washington State, recent investigations by the State Auditor’s Office and others revealed:"

"- The State Liquor Control Board could not account for $421 million in sales and paid $839,706.90 to a vendor who submitted false billing records;"

"- DSHS mismanagement of the Medicaid program putting at risk as many as 155,000 children without health care options;"

"- Transportation cost overruns;"

"- Overstating public revenues from parking garages developed to benefit certain private interests (Spokane River Park Square development/Nordstoms);"

"- Overpaying businesses public relocation money (Tacoma’s convention center)"

Newman, and with some support from State Auditor Brian Sonntag, is proposing a Washington False Claims Act. The meat of the act would provide a mechanism for private citizens to report fraud on the government, and to receive a "bounty" for reports that lead to recoveries of falsely gotten gains.

This seems a good idea, perhaps as important as performance audits.


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