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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Sensenbrenner released the following statement congratulating friend and colleague Paul Ryan on being reelected by the House of Representatives to serve a second term as Speaker: 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Paul Ryan is a conservative leader whose unwavering work ethic, measured legislative instincts, and unfailing optimism make him an effective and capable Speaker of the House. During his first term as Speaker, Paul demonstrated a structured and cohesive approach to legislating that was inclusive, innovative, and inspired. Under his leadership, House Republicans have coalesced under the Better Way agenda and will move forward to enact meaningful reforms on behalf of the American people. As we begin this new Congress, I look forward to continuing to work with Speaker Ryan and my colleagues in the House to give America a better way forward.”
 
The Christmas season is a good time to reflect on the things that really matter; family, friends, charity, and good will. These are the things that guide my work every day. 

When you peel back the layers of Congress – the partisan battles, the constant war of words; the minutia of Washington, D.C., what you’re left with is a group of men and women who want to do what’s best for the people they represent. They want to ensure their families and friends are safe and have every opportunity for a better life. They want to give a hand up to those in need and provide them with the tools necessary to be successful. They want to make a positive impact for everyone in their communities, states, and nationwide during their congressional tenures, and rest assured that on their last days in office, they leave this country a little better than when they began. This has always been my mission and I keep it in mind with every bill I introduce and every vote I take. 

During this time of year, the arguments grow quieter, the partisan divide becomes smaller, and we can all agree that despite our differences, we have one great thing in common – love of country.

I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas. I pray for everyone struggling this season – for those coping with the loss of family members and friends, for those struggling through addiction, illness, homelessness, or unemployment, for the police officers and firefighters keeping our communities safe, and for our service members and their families, who sacrifice so much to give us a safe and Merry Christmas. 

From me and my family to you and yours, Merry Christmas. 
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging her and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to reform civil asset forfeiture and protect Americans’ private property. The letter also calls into question the DOJ’s guidelines and restrictions on the equitable sharing program:

Dear Attorney General Lynch,

I continue to worry about conflicts of interest with federal forfeiture and the equitable sharing program.  Forfeiture is a valuable law enforcement tool, but you don’t have to be Adam Smith to recognize that allowing law enforcement to profit from seizing goods provides a strong incentive for them to seize private property.  

This incentive, coupled with procedural protections best described as embarrassing for a constitutional democracy, have led to an outright assault on private property rights.  My former colleague Henry Hyde described civil asset forfeiture as an “unrelenting government assault on property rights, fueled by a dangerous and emotional vigilante mentality that sanctions shredding the U.S. Constitution into meaningless confetti.”  I’ll add that the equitable sharing program reads like a thoughtful and earnest attempt to institutionalize corruption.  It is no wonder that the Cato Institute recently found that 84% of Americans are opposed to civil forfeiture. 

I agree that forfeiture, when utilized appropriately, can be a useful tool, and that its proponents are dedicated public servants fighting to protect Americans. I have fought my entire career to defend law enforcement and will continue to do so in the future. My efforts to reform forfeiture are not an attack on law enforcement, but rather an honest effort to square the forfeiture program with constitutionally guaranteed property rights and public expectations. A program opposed by 84% of Americans is not one that can survive long term and failure to reform it jeopardizes the forfeiture tool itself.    

In the Department of Justice’s Guide to Equitable Sharing, the Department expressly forbids the use of equitable sharing funds to pay the salaries of law enforcement personnel. According to the Department, the purpose of the rule is to “protect the integrity of the Asset Forfeiture and Equitable Sharing Programs so that the prospect of receiving equitable sharing funds does not influence, or appear to influence, law enforcement decisions.” 

Clearly, the Department worries that if law enforcement salaries depended upon forfeiture, then the incentive to participate in forfeitures would negatively affect property rights.  But if, as the Department acknowledges, using forfeiture funds to pay salaries would create an actual or apparent conflict of interest, then the fact that money is fungible ensures that it is in fact creating an actual or apparent conflict of interest.  

Worse still, the Department appears to brief state and local law enforcement on ways to avoid the restriction on using forfeiture to pay law enforcement salaries.  The attached PowerPoint presentation first describes the restrictions, but later spells out how to avoid them.  The Department advises:

“Your agency has appropriated funds for fleet maintenance, but wishes to increase your salary payments.  Because increasing salaries is not permitted but fleet maintenance is, you can increase salaries with appropriated funds and the[n] maintain the fleet with sharing funds, so long as your overall budget does not decrease.”

The questions this advice raises are obvious, but I would nonetheless appreciate a response before the end of the year.

1. Does the equitable sharing program create incentives to seize property that risk private property rights?
2. Are the Department’s guidelines and restrictions on the program sufficient to combat these incentives?
3. If using forfeiture funds to pay salaries creates problems, should the Department not only allow, but expressly encourage local and state law enforcement to eschew the restriction?

I appreciate your response by December 29, 2016.  

Sincerely, 

F. James Sensenbrenner
Chairman Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations
House Judiciary Committee
 
Our country has seen unprecedented overregulation under the Obama administration. Since his first day in office, President Obama has approved countless new regulations through federal agencies, which have slowed our economic growth, harmed our small businesses, and weakened our ability to compete overseas. One of the worst offenders is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Under the President’s direction, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and her staff pushed forward oppressive regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP), handed to them by liberal lobbyists and activists that prioritized extreme carbon-trading schemes and a war on fossil fuel. 

Among other things, CPP saddled American businesses with onerous regulations on carbon emissions while providing allowances for wind and solar companies. This has led to less production at higher costs, resulting in fewer jobs, and an overall disadvantage in the global marketplace. Pricing carbon could especially be detrimental to a state like Wisconsin, where the manufacturing sector plays an outsized role in the state’s economy. Manufacturers in our state already pay more per kilowatt-hour than many of our Midwestern neighbors. And since the production of goods is often energy-intensive, the industrial sector must always keep its eyes on energy prices.

In other words, through the Clean Power Plan, President Obama and his EPA chose winners and losers rather than acting in the best interest of the nation. However, under a newly unified Republican government, there is a new opportunity to roll back the gross overregulations of the Obama administration.  

In preparation for the new Congress, House Republicans have begun drafting a comprehensive list of more than 200 regulations, and counting, that President-elect Donald Trump can repeal on day one. Many of these include EPA initiatives that, once removed, will provide a hand up to American businesses and manufacturers, help spur economic growth, and ensure the United States is globally competitive and is energy independent.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the CATO Institute and YouGov released a survey that found 84 percent of Americans across the political and societal spectrums oppose the practice of civil asset forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture is a tool law enforcement officials and departments use to seize property that they believe has been involved in criminal activity. It isn’t necessary for individuals to be found guilty of a crime before their property is seized. Rather, asset forfeiture proceedings charge the individual’s property, such as a car, home, or money, of criminal involvement. The process to regain seized property is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. 

According to the survey, 86 percent of African Americans, 84 percent of whites, and 80 percent of Hispanics oppose the practice. Further, 87 percent of Independents, 86 percent of Democrats, and 76 percent of Republicans oppose civil asset forfeiture. 

Earlier this year, Congressman Sensenbrenner introduced the DUE PROCESS Act, legislation that builds upon changes made in the 2000 Civil Action Forfeiture Reform Act by increasing transparency in the civil asset forfeiture process, adding protections for innocent property owners, and implementing additional protections to ensure property owners have the opportunity to contest seizures. The legislation would also improve the notice that the government must give property owners and makes it easier for them to be heard by a judge.

Additionally, the DUE PROCESS Act entitles property owners to an initial hearing, where they can retrieve confiscated property immediately if it was not seized according to the law. It increases the availability of attorney fees for innocent owners, and places a higher burden of proof on the government.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Forfeiture is a critical tool in the fight against crime, but it is also vulnerable to abuse. The results found in the CATO Institute/YouGov survey express the broad dissatisfaction with our current system, and highlight the need for meaningful reform. Congress must address civil asset forfeiture in the upcoming session and move forward to enact purposeful and significant changes to curb abuse, restore confidence in law enforcement, and help citizens protect their property rights.”
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today marks the last legislative work day of the 114th Congress. As Congress closes out its current session, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner ranks among the most active and influential Members in the House of Representatives.

Over the course of the 114th Congress, Congressman Sensenbrenner held more than 250 individual town hall meetings and offices hours throughout the communities of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District. He attended more than 150 community events, personally responded to more than 300,000 constituent letters and emails, and continued his quarterly district newsletters, providing further information about his work in Congress and promoting government transparency. 

Further, Congressman Sensenbrenner kept his promise to constituents to remain vigilant in providing federal agency oversight. During the 114th Congress, he sent 15 oversight letters to various agencies, defending the best interests of the American taxpayers by holding unelected bureaucrats accountable.

Serving as one of the most effective Members in the House of Representatives, Congressman Sensenbrenner introduced an impressive 38 bills this Congress, two of which were signed into law by President Barack Obama, including the Judicial Redress Act of 2015 and the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I’m extremely proud to represent the people of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District, and of the work I’ve done on their behalf. As the current Congress comes to an end, it’s important to reflect upon successes, as well as examine and improve initiatives for the upcoming Congress. I look forward to the beginning of the next session under a newly unified government, and to continue serving the Fifth District with ardor, integrity, and effective legislating.” 

Complete list of bills introduced in the 114th Congress:
H.R. 21; to provide for a comprehensive assessment of the scientific and technical research on the implications of the use of mid-level ethanol blends, and for other purposes 
H.R. 320; the Rapid DNA Act of 2015
H.R. 390; Moving Obstructed Trains In-between Openings Now (MOTION) Act
H.R. 885; the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015
H.R. 953; the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act of 2015
H.R. 1056; Nuclear Terrorism Conventions Implementation and Safety of Maritime Navigation Act of 2015
H.R. 1087; the Wireless Telecommunications Tax and Fee Collection Fairness Act of 2015
H.R. 1329; the ATF Elimination Act 
H.R. 1426; the Public Access to Public Science Act 
H.R. 1428; the Judicial Redress Act of 2015
H.R. 1516; the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act of 2015
H.R. 1593; the United States Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs Act of 2015
H.R. 1791; the Grace Period Restoration Act of 2015
H.R. 1861; the Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act 
H.R. 2048; the Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring (USA FREEDOM) Act of 2015
H.R. 2311; the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2015
H.R. 2679; the Tibetan Refugee Assistance Act of 2015
H.R. 2864; To prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from extending the renewable fuel program past 2022 if the Administrator waives applicable volume requirements in prior years
H.R. 2944; the Sensenbrenner-Scott Over-Criminalization Task Force Safe, Accountable, Fair, Effective Justice Reinvestment Act of 2015
H.R. 3013; the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2015
H.R. 3171; To amend the Public Health Service Act to prohibit certain research on the transplantation of human fetal tissue obtained pursuant to an abortion
H.R. 3228; To require that until a comprehensive study is completed, the volume of cellulosic biofuel mandated under the renewable fuel program be limited to what is commercially available, and for other purposes
H.R.3406; the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015
H.R. 3407; To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to remove the deduction for charitable contributions from the overall limitation on itemized deductions 
H.R. 3511; the National Scenic Trails Parity Act
H.R. 3729; the Safe RESEARCH Act
H.R. 3730; To authorize unused visas numbers made available under section 101(a)(15)E(iii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to be made available to nationals of Ireland, and for other purposes 
H.R. 4002; the Criminal Code Improvement Act of 2015
H.R. 4259; To prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from establishing, implementing, or enforcing any limit on the aggregate emissions of carbon dioxide from a State or any category or subcategory of sources within a State
H.R. 4357; the Volatility and Losses Undermining Earnings Act of 2016
H.R. 5046; the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016
H.R. 5283; the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures (DUE PROCESS) Act of 2016
H.R. 5893; the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2016
H.R. 5971; To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase the amount excludable from gross income for dependent care assistance and dependent care flexible spending arrangements and to provide for a carryover of unused dependent care benefits in dependent care flexible spending arrangements 
H.R. 6042; To nullify certain proposed regulations relating to restrictions on liquidation of an interest with respect to estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes
H.R. 6133; the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016
H. Res. 218; Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the conditions for the United States becoming a signatory to an international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 
H. Res. 302; Observing the 100th birthday of the late Les Paul, the “Wizard of Waukesha”, and honoring his contributions to the American music industry 
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner signed on to the following letter to National Guard Bureau Chief General Joseph L. Lengyel and Air National Guard Director Lieutenant General Leon Scott Rice, urging them to maintain RC-26B aircraft at Truax Field Air National Guard Base located in Madison, Wisconsin:

Dear General Lengyel and Lieutenant General Rice:

We write again to express our strong support for the current posture and location of the RC-26B in each of our communities. As you know, the RC-26B has proven itself a remarkable asset for the Air National Guard (ANG). This versatile aircraft has been utilized to assist law enforcements’ response to natural disasters, counterdrug missions, and special operations missions abroad.

Given the RC-26B’s role as the ANG’s only manned, domestic Incident Awareness and Assessment aircraft, we believe it is vital to maintain its current posture in order to ensure its efficacy domestically. The ability of this aircraft to support a variety of missions throughout the country is in large part a result of its current basing strategy. Keeping the RC-26B located in Alabama, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin ensures the West Coast, South, Midwest, and East Coast will have this asset available to respond quickly to natural disasters, hurricanes, wildfires, missing persons, and terrorist attacks. Currently, the aircraft is engaged in counter-cartel operations on the southern border, a mission likely to be in play long into the future.   

For example, the RC-26B provided critical support in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Several ANG units from the region flew 10-12 hour missions daily on a total of six aircraft. The unique capabilities of the RC-26B mission system were instrumental in the success of search and rescue.  Moreover, after the September 11th attacks, the aircraft’s mission expanded to provide support for a wide array of missions – including presidential support and humanitarian missions. 

While we understand there are discussions underway to consolidate the RC-26B away from the current basing strategy, we believe any consolidation that does not consider our ability to respond quickly to natural disasters and other domestic missions would be detrimental to its efficacy as a first responder to disaster-related events. In light of this, we urge the Air National Guard Bureau to keep the current RC-26B basing strategy. 

Thank you for your continued leadership of the National Guard and Air National Guard, and for your consideration of this matter.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent the following letter to President-elect Donald Trump, urging him to meet with the Dalai Lama and continue the United States’ strong relationship with Tibet once in office: 

Dear President-elect Trump: 

As you meet with various world leaders in preparation for assuming your role as President, I would like to take the opportunity to suggest that you meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In 2008, I had the honor of meeting the Dalai lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader and historic head of State. Since his exile from Tibet 57 years ago, the Dalai Lama has been a strong and persistent advocate for a peaceful resolution to the tension between Tibet and China.

In 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in furthering the peaceful protest of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. In 2007, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush. These awards are just a small bit of recognition for the unwavering commitment to peaceful Tibetan independence that the Dalai Lama has demonstrated throughout his time as Tibet’s spiritual leader.

Tibetans have the right to preserve their culture, heritage, language, and religion. Over the years, the Tibetan people have undergone a constant struggle to free themselves from the Chinese government and to preserve these basic freedoms. However, the People’s Republic of China continues to refuse to acknowledge the autonomy of the Tibetan people, and have cracked down on protests and demonstrations by Tibetans.

Throughout the course of the last half-century, America has had a strong and stable relationship with the people and government of Tibet. I hope you will continue this strong relationship with Tibet, as well as promote peace between Tibet and the People’s Republic of China.

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. 
Member of Congress
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Sensenbrenner released his weekly column regarding intellectual property rights and fairness in music licensing:

Intellectual property rights are critical to our nation’s unsurpassed creativity and cultural development. I’ve long been an advocate for intellectual property rights because individuals deserve to be compensated for their work. However, the process in which artists receive payment has become opaque. This is largely due to performing rights organizations (PROs), which operate in a complex manner. The music licensing system in which artists are compensated must be clear and transparent for the good of artists, consumers, and bar and restaurant owners.

Fairness in music licensing was brought to my attention in the early 1990s, when bar and restaurant owners from the Fifth District contacted me about being harassed in their places of business by representatives from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) — one of the three PROs in the U.S. While seeking payments from the small-business owners, ASCAP representatives were unnecessarily aggressive and combative.

Bar and restaurant owners frequently complained that these organizations exploited bureaucratic complexities to demand increasingly high payments. Worse, small businesses were often unclear about what exactly they were paying for. I became involved to enact meaningful reforms, and as I dove deeper into the complexities of the issue, the extent of the problems became clear. The Copyright Act of 1976 granted copyright owners the exclusive right to perform, or to authorize others to perform their works publicly. When establishments, such as restaurants or bars, turn on a radio or television for the benefit of customers, or feature live music, that constitutes a public performance of copyrighted works under current law. Unless an exemption applies, the copyright owner of a work publicly performed has the right to receive compensation.

To comply with the law, business owners pay licensing fees to PROs. However, each PRO represents different intellectual property, essentially forcing businesses to pay fees to every PRO to ensure compliance.

In response to this problem, I introduced the Fairness in Music Licensing Act. Despite strong opposition from PROs, the legislation was signed into law after having been attached as an amendment to the Copyright Term Extension Act. 

Studies have concluded that the act exempts roughly 70 percent of eating and drinking establishments, making it easier for small-business owners to operate and serve consumers. The Copyright Act of 1976 has helped; yet problems still exist, including the tactics used by PROs and the method in which they determine which spaces within small businesses are determined public or private — an important distinction when considering where music licensing is necessary.

Establishment owners should not be forced to conduct business with every licensing society demanding a fee. There needs to be transparency in how establishments are billed, and we need to ensure that when a business pays a music licensing fee, it knows what it is buying. There can be no fair long-term marketplace outcomes when the playing field is weighted in favor of performance rights groups.

Music, film, literature and all other forms of intellectual property represent the soul of the American people. It’s vital we protect them, but there needs to be balance and fairness in the process. When that balance is lopsided, it’s the duty of Congress to take legislative action to ensure it is restored for the benefit of both the creators and consumers of intellectual property.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 heads to President Obama to be signed into law after passing both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Among other things, the Act will provide a pay raise to active duty service members, funding for military readiness and ongoing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Europe, and encourage advancement of military technology and innovation.

Also included in the bill is a Sensenbrenner provision to encourage the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) to expand the use of electronic quality management systems to help the agency conduct thorough and timely audits. This good government provision will help ensure defense contracts aren’t needlessly delayed, costs are kept in check, and errors are caught and addressed in a timely fashion to produce better results

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Keeping this nation safe is Congress’ number one priority – this bipartisan, bicameral bill does exactly that while simultaneously helping our military service members get the benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”

The NDAA passed the House of Representatives 375-34 and the U.S. Senate 92-7.