“What I Wanna Know” is a new series from CJR, in which we invite outside experts to propose questions about the ongoing economic crisis and the many efforts to mitigate it, in the hope that journalists find them thought-provoking and helpful as they cover this sprawling story.
Scott Harshbarger is the former attorney general of Massachusetts, and a past president and CEO of Common Cause. He is currently senior counsel at Proskauer Rose, in Boston.
1) To Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: The first 350 billion of TARP bailout funds went out to giant financial institutions without any clear and public process, nor contemporaneous oversight or conditions, nor demonstrable measurable results or outcomes. Could you please describe in detail how, if at all, that will be remedied—before the fact—with the second $350 billion just authorized?”
2) To Geithner and Attorney General Eric Holder: The TARP oversight board has issued at least two reports highly critical of the process and the “secrecy” of the administration of TARP, and the lack of responsiveness of the Treasury (let alone the recipients of the TARP funds) to their detailed criticisms. Why has the Treasury Secretary not been forthcoming, and does the Attorney General—as the chief law officer of the executive branch—plan to play any role in overseeing the TARP funds and the Treasury’s performance? (A quick follow-up question: why is this effort to hold treasury and TARP recipients accountable being left solely to state attorneys general?)
3) To Holder: Congress has appropriated nearly $800 billion in stimulus funds, which the President hopes and expects federal agencies and state governors to not only “spend” expeditiously but also efficiently and effectively. Given the secrecy of TARP, and the waste, fraud, abuse, and scandals uncovered with contracts/appropriations for Iraq funding, and state examples like Katrina and the Big Dig, what steps are federal law enforcement officials taking, independent of Inspector General Devaney, to prevent similar kinds of fraud in the awarding and performance of stimulus contracts?