Magazine article Insight on the News

Waste & Abuse

Magazine article Insight on the News

Waste & Abuse

Article excerpt

DOJ's Antitrust Division Not Too Effective

Government trustbusters have been in the news as they pursue juicy targets such as Microsoft. But some are questioning whether the Department of Justice's antitrust division is cost-effective; indeed, some are suggesting Justice's antitrust bulldogs have been less than open in detailing their own finances.

Some free-market economists, of course, argue that the activism of the Department of Justice, or DO J, may not be justified, given today's high level of business competition and corresponding low prices. However, a citizens' watchdog group is maintaining that whatever one's opinion of trustbusting, the DOJ's trustbusting unit has been spending tax money too freely.

In a Sept. 28 letter to the fiscal 2000 Commerce Justice State Appropriations conference committee, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, or CCAGW, urged conferees to freeze the budget for the DOJ's antitrust division. The antitrust division got $98 million in 1999.

"DOJ has been less than forthcoming about the activities of the antitrust division" says CCAGW President Thomas Schatz. "Without full disclosure, how can Congress justify any increase in expenses for the antitrust division?"

CCAGW is the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government. For nearly a year, CCAGW has attempted to get the antitrust division to disclose the cost of DOJ's lawsuit against Microsoft. CCAGW places the cost of the lawsuit at $30 million to $60 million.

Taxpayers are slated to spend $4.9 million to $11.8 million on the DOJ's antitrust division in the next year alone. Reports indicate that the House version of the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill would increase the antitrust-division budget by 5 percent. The Senate would boost this increase to 12 percent.

When the Feathers Hit the Fan

It's always interesting when otherwise-simpatico special interests suddenly come to loggerheads -- as in California, where the save-the-condor crowd is squaring off with the wind-power people over a plan to erect zephyr-propelled turbines in the Tehachapi Mountains north of Los Angeles.

The giant pinwheels, spinning 200 feet above the ground, threaten to make mincemeat of endangered California condors, according to the National Audubon Society, which is fighting any plans to build the turbines in the Tehachapies.

"It is hard to imagine a worse idea than putting a condor Cuisinart next door to critical condor habitat" said David Beard, an Audubon Society spokesman. …

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