Mr. Speaker, in the early days of 1984, Congress came up with a unique idea: with Congress’ support, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Victims of Crime Act, otherwise known as VOCA. This law established the Crime Victims Fund, with the sole purpose of supporting crime victims throughout the United States.
But instead of using taxpayer money for the fund, Congress came up with a novel idea: Why not force the criminals, the traffickers, the abusers, the scourges on society, to pay for the restitution to their victims? They inflicted pain and suffering on innocent people, so they should be the ones, literally, to pay for their crimes.
Because of the new law, convicted felons in Federal court who are assessed fines and fees pay into the Crime Victims Fund. The money in the fund is used for a wide range of victims’ services: It pays for domestic violence shelters where spouses can recover from their abusers; It funds rape crisis coalition centers; It funds children’s assessment centers like the one in my hometown of Houston; It sends money to victim advocates throughout the United States who go to court with victims of crime; It gives victims restitution and pays for critical medical and mental health programs.
It is a really good idea, Mr. Speaker. Over the years, because our Federal judges have continued to fine and assess greater and greater penalties to the criminals, the VOCA fund currently holds—get this, Mr. Speaker— $12 billion.
And let me make it clear: This is not taxpayer money; it is money that criminals have paid into the system. Criminals are paying the rent on the courthouse, paying for the system that they have created.
So what is the problem? Here is the problem, Mr. Speaker: The fund, every year, is robbed by the bureaucrats to offset other Federal projects that are completely unrelated to crime victims.
For example, about $800,000 is spent out of the fund, which has $12 billion in money, and over the years, it continues to have more and more money because less of it is being spent. In my opinion, these bureaucrats are literally stealing money from the Victims Fund and throwing it into the abyss of the Federal Treasury.
That money does not belong to the Federal Government; it belongs to crime victims. Victims do not have, Mr. Speaker, high-dollar lobbyists up here in Washington, D.C., advocating on their behalf.
They expect us, Members of Congress, to be their lobbyists, to be their voice. As a former prosecutor and a former judge in Texas, I take that duty very seriously.
It is the first responsibility of government to actually protect the people. We must stop the robber bureaucrats from stealing money out of the Crime Victims Fund and make sure that victims have access to the resources they need to become survivors.
To achieve this goal, my friend, Representative JIM COSTA from California, my cochair in the Victims’ Rights Caucus, and I have introduced the Crime Victims Fund Preservation Act. The bill is very simple.
It creates a lockbox to make sure that the money in the fund cannot be used for anything other than victims’ programs under the Victims of Crime Act. The Crime Victims Fund becomes an especially attractive target for offsets at this time when our government faces any sort of a deficit.
That is why Congress must safeguard the fund to make sure the money is protected. The bill uses the money paid by criminals to help rescue and restore victims and ensure that it is safe from the sticky, pilfering hands of bureaucrats—and does so forever.
So let the victims of crime keep the money and not send it to other programs in the Federal departments throughout the Nation.
And that is just the way it is.