Is the False Claims Act an “abomination”? Are whistleblowers “bounty hunters”? That’s what Attorney General nominee William Barr said during in a 2001 interview conducted at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. Now, a group of advocates, academics and attorneys has asked U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to find out if Barr still feels that way after 18 years.
Committee hearings on Barr’s nomination begin on January 15.
A Reuters column quotes a source as saying Barr “will back down from that view,” at the hearing. The source notes that Barr support the Department of Justice’s current approach to the False Claims Act.”
A scholar from the Miller Center interviewed Barr as part of presidential oral history project. Quoting a transcript of the interview, members of the group – known as the Committee of Counsel and Scholars Supporting the False Claims Act — write that “General Barr referred to the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act as an “abomination” which he wanted to “attack” and he cited a “Mexican standoff” with the then Solicitor General who supported the provisions.”
The letter cites several cases and notes that well-settled Supreme Court precedent “has shown the nominee’s professed concerns regarding the False Claims Act and its qui tam provisions to be without basis.”
In addition to Vermont Agency of Natural Resources v. United States ex rel. Stevens, 529 US 765 (2000), “other Supreme Court decisions have rejected the very challenges to the statute articulated in his interview and Congress intentionally strengthened the False Claims Act and its qui tam provisions in 2009 and 2010 by enacting the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 (“FERA”) and Affordable Care Act (ACA).”
They ask that “General Barr be rigorously questioned on this matter; that the decision on his nomination reflect a commitment to all provisions of this important statute, and that he be called upon to commit the resources necessary at both the local and national levels to ensure vigorous and complete enforcement of the False Claims Act should he be confirmed.”
In a column from The Hill, NWC chair Stephen M. Kohn describes Barrs “troubling history with whistleblowers”