Hart: Trump administration ends government shakedown practices

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2015 file photo a giant logo of the German car manufacturer Volkswagen is pictured on top of a company's factory building in Wolfsburg, Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, file)

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Buried in all micro-drama distractions of the Trump administration are many of the good things it has done. One of the many under-reported accomplishments occurred in June, when Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions said the Department of Justice would reverse one of the sleazy practices of the Obama administration: allowing prosecutors to cut deals with corporate targets to direct payment of settlements to their pet political causes.

These "slush funds," created from DOJ prosecutions of American corporations, allowed the hyper-political Obama administration to direct settlement money to politically favored causes. Settlements were sent to the likes of the National Council of La Raza, a Democrat activist group, and other "community redevelopment" and nonprofit "legal aid" organizations. You know, the folks who showed up at all those work-week, midday Obama rallies who happened to be in matching T-shirts.

When a company like Volkswagen runs afoul of myriad regulations and laws (never mind that no one noticed for years), the DOJ swoops in and shakes the company down for money - some of it sent to pet Democrat causes.

As expected, the CEO of Volkswagen capitulates. He says this is the most humiliating moment in his company's history. Keep in mind, Volkswagen was founded by Hitler. Hitler was too early with VW. Had he waited and teamed up with Samsung, he'd have been able to blow up Americans. Then VW reaches a $15 billion settlement. Democrat friends in the plaintiff lawyers' bar rake in billions, and the DOJ sends stacks of money to liberal allies and various like-minded activist groups. And VW owners, the supposed "victims" of increased horsepower and performance all those years? Well, they get a $25 gift card they can use on their next purchase of a VW.

Companies see this and, instead of opening another plant in Shakedownville, USA, they build a plant in Mexico. There they only have to bribe local cops. Jobs and revenues go overseas. Trump points this out and becomes president.

Government can do this because it creates all the myriad laws no one understands. In 2010 alone, 81,405 laws and regulations were created. I suggest you try to read them. If it gets boring, stick with it; it gets real interesting after page 79,205. And if you do not want to read all this, you can watch the movie "Atlas Shrugged."

Washington knows we will not read all of its rules or even notice. Most Americans care about and understand the infield fly rule better.

Per the National Review, "Under Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, the Justice Department regularly designed legal settlements in which well-heeled defendants were encouraged (read: forced) to donate money to third parties with no legal connection to the case being adjudicated."

So why did this work? The Government Accountability Office said that the practice was legal because the money was provided "voluntarily." Yeah, much like you "volunteer" your wallet and watch to a robber who has a gun on you.

This dubious practice under Obama needs to be examined. Loretta Lynch would not investigate Eric Holder or any Democrat. Yes, companies have constitutional rights to fight this practice but, according to the Obama doctrine, nothing says it has to be a fair fight. They know they are trying companies in the judicial system and the court of public opinion, and they settle.

The BP settlement was so big. Any time you put more oil on birds than Colonel Sanders ever did, you're vulnerable. I really would like to see who all got anything beyond lawyers, bureaucrats and environmental groups.

Other cases involved Uber settling on various charges, seemingly weekly. There have been so many settlements, Uber just delivers the money each time - as you would expect - in a white Kia, five minutes later than they say they'd be there. Ticketmaster settled a suit for $9 million, but only paid $3 million after its "servicing fee."

LinkedIn paid $7 million in settlements to employees. But the company knew it would never have to pay, because it sent notifications to "victims" on how to get paid in emails from LinkedIn, and then kept deleting them.

Contact Ron Hart, a syndicated op-ed humorist, author and TV/radio commentator, at Ron@RonaldHart.com or Twitter @RonaldHart.