Supposed Grown-Ups Running Amok

What happens when you let a federal agency keep the fines it levies?  Bad things.  Posted at the American Thinker today is a chronicle of abuses of power by NOAA (The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) in their oversight of the fishing industry.  NOAA’s OLE (Office of Law Enforcement) has purchased 22 vessels at a cost of $2.7M using funds from fines and seizures.  The vessels are used for random boardings of working fishing boats.  Probable cause?  How quaint.  According to the article, fishermen’s fines paid for some $600K of international travel expenses, $500K of which was not covered by NOAA’s OLE policy.

The article states:

“Backup is provided in a scathing July 2010 Inspector General (IG) report on the NOAA law enforcement Asset Forfeiture Fund (AFF), made up of the money realized by fines and forfeitures from fishermen.  From January 2005 through June 2009, the AFF received some $96M, spent $49M, and had a balance of $8.4M.  My arithmetic suggests $40M is missing.  The IG’s report describes NOAA’s management of the AFF as an “abstract concept” and as “susceptible to both error and abuse.”  You think?”


I am not sure what the outcome of this investigation will be.  The article further points out: 

“Obama’s anointed head of NOAA, Dr. Lubchenco, asked the IG to investigate the problem at the behest of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation.  NOAA has stated that they take the IG reports seriously and are looking forward, not backwards.  This translates into no plans for disciplining the overly zealous enforcers and no plans for redress of the victims.  The fines drive fishermen out of business and that is consistent with Dr. Lubchenco’s goal of industry consolidation.”

This is an example of the federal government seriously overstepping its bounds.  We need to elect a Congress in November that will not only investigate the problem, but also deal with it.  I commend the Massachusetts delegation for at least asking for the investigation, but what is Congress willing to do to solve the problem?  Generations of honest, hard-working fishermen are being driven out of business by a government that is out of control.  That should not happen in a democracy.  Let’s elect people in November who respect the U. S. Constitution!