Murkowski Makes Push to Improve Accountability, Transparency at Justice Department

Senator Co-Sponsors Inspector General Improvement Act

Senator Lisa Murkowski joined her colleagues Mike Lee (R-UT) and John Tester (D-MT) to introduce legislation to boost transparency and accountability within the Department of Justice.  The Inspector General Empowerment Act would make an important internal change within the DOJ: currently, allegations of attorney misconduct are investigated by an agency that reports directly to the Attorney General rather than the autonomous Office of the Inspector General.    The bill would remove this obvious conflict of interest and widen the jurisdiction to also include the independent Office of the Inspector General for reviewing possible offenses.

For example, Senator Lisa Murkowski had many questions about the trial of Senator Ted Stevens and the possible pursuit of charges against Bill Allen and attempted to direct them to the Office of the Inspector General.  Instead, her concerns were passed along to the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) – which has developed a reputation as being an ineffective black hole in the system.  A report just released by the Project on Government Oversight revealed that the OPR – overseen by the Attorney General – documented more than 650 instances of misconduct, yet details on if and how these cases were handled are not available to the public.

“Thousands of Alaskans are still coming to terms with the injustices within the Justice Department’s treatment of Ted Stevens. Americans pledge to seek and protect ’Liberty and Justice for all,’ not ‘Liberty and Justice for Most,’ -- and those enforcing the law themselves cannot break the rules to get convictions; everyone in America must be held equally accountable,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski.  “I’m proud to co-sponsor the Inspector General Empowerment Act because it does just that: it gives the men and women charged with judging the actions of attorneys the power to mete out justice within the Justice Department.”

This is just the most recent example of Senator Murkowski’s attempts to create a greater degree of transparency within the Department of Justice.  In the previous Congressional session, she also introduced the bipartisan Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act.  (Click here for a PBS story surrounding the introduction of that bill.)