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Attorney General THORNBURGH. Absolutely.
Senator METZENBAUM. I would hope you might say not only the President and the Attorney General, but a number of us in Congress really are anxious, because it sends the wrong message to the people of this country.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. I agree, and I think that the Congress has contributed substantially in, for example, the increased penalties and the extension of the statute of limitations as part of the savings and loan bill that was passed last year.
We not only got the resources, but some clout in terms of increased sentences and the ability to extend these extremely complicated and difficult cases and not lose them to the statute of limitations.
Senator METZENBAUM. Along the same line, our corporate penalties are not sufficient to deter white collar crime. Large international banks like BCCI, a tremendous, tremendous institution, pled guilty to laundering drug money for Noriega and the Medellin cartel, and got fined a mere $15 million. BCCI paid the money and did not miss a single day of business.
Multibillion-dollar defense contractors like Northrop plead guilty to falsifying tests on defense weapons systems, and a lot of contractors have been involved in defense contract fraud. They pay $17 million, which is a lot of money to all of us, but not much money to that kind of a corporate operation, and they get to continue their lucrative defense business with the Pentagon.
What do you think we can do, in addition?
Attorney General THORNBURGH. Well, I think the trend is in the right direction. Both those cases you cite represent the largest fines of their type ever assessed in those kinds of cases, and we continue to try to maximize the financial impact on the businesses, as well as the securing of appropriate jail sentences for any individuals that are involved.
In the BCCI case, the $15 million fine forfeiture-it wasn't really a fine; it was a forfeiture-represented the largest forfeiture of its kind in a money laundering case. Money laundering cases are things that are very much in our focus now because of the recognition that it is one of the weak links in the chain of the drug trafficker's empire.
With regard to Northrop, that $17 million fine was the largest of its kind in that kind of proceeding. We had a civil recovery of $34 million against a Japanese firm that had engaged in fraudulent customs practices; a $128 million recovery from Sunstrand Corp. with regard to these fraudulent activities.
So through a combination of criminal fines and civil recoveries, we are hoping to ratchet up the cost of doing business in an illegal manner on the part of these white collar criminals. They are an absolute high priority of this Department, and we are going to pursue them just as diligently as we can and exact the maximum penalties that we can.
Senator METZENBAUM. One other question. When you appeared before this committee-a different subject entirely-for your confirmation hearing less than 2 years ago, I asked for your view on a 7day waiting period prior to the purchase of handguns, and you replied, quote, “We have a waiting period in Pennsylvania, as I told you, Senator, and I think it is an appropriate tool to utilize in giving law enforcement agencies the opportunity to maximize their chances of keeping these weapons out of the hands of individuals who show a propensity toward violent crime," end of quote. When I asked you directly, would you support the concept of a 1-week waiting period, you replied, yes, yes.
Now, last November in a report to Congress, you called for research into a system for immediate identification of purchasers at the counter, knowing that it would be years before any such system could ever be in place. At the same time, you reversed your earlier position and rejected the option of a waiting period.
Would you share with us why you changed your position-up for confirmation, yes-
Attorney General THORNBURGH. I don't think I changed my position. That is what I was stating. You had asked about State laws, and I felt that it was appropriate for the States to undertake such a waiting period.
The report that we rendered last year has already begun to be implemented in terms of upgrading and improving the criminal justice records at the State and Federal level and in securing additional Federal funding to aid in that process.
One of the major shortcomings that was noted in our study of the processes necessary to verify
the status of an individual seeking to purchase a firearm at a retail establishment was that there wasn't a sufficiently reliable storehouse of records with regard to convictions.
Oftentimes, arrest records are noted without ultimate disposition being noted. Oftentimes, the arrest and disposition records themselves are spotty or inaccurate or overlapping, and I think one of the enormous, positive byproducts of this whole exercise will be to aid the States and local governments, as well as the Federal Government, in creating a storehouse of information that can be used to ensure that persons who have engaged in criminal activities are not given the opportunity to pursue that further.
Senator METZENBAUM. In your answer you didn't limit it to States and, frankly, the 22 States that now have waiting periods have found them highly successful, as you know-California, 1,800 picked up; 2,470 convicted felons picked up in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Indiana.
I would hope that somehow, Mr. Attorney General, you might reconsider because I think that we could save many police officers' lives, many individuals' lives, if we had a national law. I would be happy to work with you, but I think we need it now and I think we are paying a price by not having it now.
My time has expired.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR KOHL Senator KOHL. Good morning, Mr. Attorney General. As a former businessman, I, and I am sure you, believe that our Nation needs vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws. Unlawful business deals hurt consumers and they weaken the economy.
I recognize that you want more money for the Antitrust Division, and I appreciate that commitment. But even with the additional funds, the division will not come close to having the level of resources it had in the late 1970's; in real dollars, that is. The antitrust budget has gone down by more than a third since 1980.
Given your limited resources, can you still do an effective job? And let me just read you something from my predecessor, Senator Proxmire, who headed the Banking Committee. Eight months ago Senator Proxmire said, quote, “The Antitrust Division is a shadow of its former self. At a time of unparalleled mergers, its staff has been cut in half. The mighty financial interests are winning,” unquote.
How would you respond?
Attorney General THORNBURGH. I would never take on Senator Proxmire, I think, on rhetoric, but let me state to you that in this year's budget that we have presented to the Congress we have sought a 15-percent increase in the funding for the Antitrust Division based on Assistant Attorney General Rill's appraisal of what the needs are in that operation.
We have focused particularly on criminal cases that involve predatory practices, price-fixing, bid-rigging, and the like, and have begun to accelerate our concern in the merger area within the last year, addressing the case involving USAir and the available spaces at the Philadelphia International Airport, the proposed merger of the reservation systems of two airlines, the resolution of a proposed merger and acquisition by Westinghouse and, most recently, the Gillette proposed acquisition.
These, I mention not because they are pelts to be hung on the wall, but they are, I think, evidence of the fact that this Department recognizes that there are mergers that can be anticompetitive and anticonsumer, and at the same time recognizes, through the legislation that the President has supported to provide for joint ventures in the production of advanced technology products, that we live in a world where competition is no longer circumscribed by the community or the State, but transcends often international borders.
And the adjustments that have been made in our merger policy during the 1980's are designed in large part to take into account the fact that most American companies, even some of the smaller businesses, are dealing in an international market and have to gear up to compete in that market in ways that were not necessary back in the 1940's, the 1930's, or at the turn of the century when the antitrust laws were enacted.
So our policy with respect to mergers is one that attempts to balance the obvious interests of the consumer in ensuring competition, lowering of prices and raising of quality through that process, and a recognition that most of these companies must compete not just in the United States where they are subject to the antitrust laws, but with other countries where those antitrust laws either do not apply or are not vigorously enforced.
It is a difficult balance to strike, but I am confident that Mr. Rill and Ms. Steiger at the Federal Trade Commission have an approach that strikes that balance, and I expect that the kind of action that I outlined for you that has taken place within the last year will continue.
Senator KOHL. OK. To move on, Mr. Attorney General, in the drug bill that was passed last fall, the Senate passed my amendment to create a program in Justice that would dispense seed money to community antidrug coalitions. The amendment would give the Bureau of Justice Assistance more money-$15 million more in 1990—to help coalitions develop comprehensive antidrug programs. This very same amendment is now part of Chairman Biden's crime bill, S. 1972.
Recently, your department expressed its opposition. In a letter to Chairman Biden dated March 19, Bruce Navarro said that BJA already has enough authority to make discretionary grants. He also said that community funding is coming through the
Department of Health and Human Services.
While I am very pleased that HHS will give out $50 million this year to community coalitions, wouldn't it also make sense to let BJA grant grassroots assistance money?
Attorney General THORNBURGH. I have spoken to a number of those groups, most recently in Memphis, TN, and in Spokane, WA and in Senator Grassley's State of Iowa. They perform a very important function of galvanizing community activity at the grassroots level to try to change the values of a society that became permissive with regard to a drug-dependent lifestyle.
And I am pleased to have seen in observing the plans of the 50 States for using the Federal funding that has been made available in greatly increased amounts during this fiscal year an emphasis on aiding and assisting in those types of programs of getting communities involved in solving their own efforts.
I believe, however, that the approach the administration has taken in making those funds available to the States has permitted the States to establish the priorities that are peculiar to their own needs rather than having us in Washington direct by specific amount or program how they should address what oftentimes is a problem that has peculiar community characteristics.
I am more comfortable with that, I guess, as a former governor, feeling that the governors and their advisers in the drug area can better fashion a program that is responsive to the needs of a particular State than those of us who are somewhat removed from those problems.
Senator KOHL. I would like to shift gears for a minute and discuss a problem we have in Wisconsin. In my hometown of Milwaukee, the U.S. marshals, who are under your control—and this is the same topic that you discussed with Senator Specter—the marshals have to bring about 90 prisoners to the Federal courthouse each day, but jails near Milwaukee do not have enough room to house Federal prisoners awaiting trial. Consequently, the marshals keep some prisoners in Chicago at the Metropolitan Corrections Center.
At least 3 days a week, the marshals in Milwaukee have to take a van and go back and forth to Chicago. It is a five-hour round trip. It is costly; it is ineffective, inconvenient, perhaps even unsafe. You have discussed it with Senator Specter. I guess my question
I to you is whether or not your department is prepared to work with us in Milwaukee to come up with a solution that makes more sense than the present way in which we handle it.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. Certainly, we are, Senator, and I wish there were an easy answer to this dilemma. It is another illustration of how we become victims of our own success. We are prosecuting and arresting more and more drug defendants. They must be housed temporarily pending trial and permanently following conviction in facilities that simply, at present, can't accept the strain.
The marshals service today has in custody an average of 13,000 prisoners. That is about twice the level that it was 4 years ago, and clearly we have not yet caught up with the jail needs any more than we have caught up with the prison needs; that is, pretrial and posttrial incarceration.
The Congress recognized and moved in the right direction last year with $1.4 billion, an unprecedented amount, for prison construction. We are hoping to use some of the facilities that are authorized there to alleviate this problem, but it becomes a zero sum game. You can't take away from one aspect of the problem to deal with another without paying a price.
So we will be delighted to work with you in that regard, and I will refer, in particular, to the task force that was created at my direction by the marshals, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to come up with some recommendations as to how those three agencies, each of which has these problems, can deal with them more effectively. And I will be sure to direct them to Wisconsin as a priority, in view of your particular interest.
Senator KOHL. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. General, Senator Thurmond and I have a few more questions, as does the-and we won't keep you much longer, but let me ask you a question. Is it possible--although we truly
appreciate your 3 hours you have given us, is it possible between now and June for you to come back up to the committee to pursue some of the many questions that still remain?
Every one of my colleagues has indicated they have additional questions they would like to ask you. Would you be able to find it in your schedule between now and June, in the next 2 months, to come back to this committee before the authorization-
Attorney General THORNBURGH. I certainly hope so.
The CHAIRMAN. That is a State Department answer, General. [Laughter.]
I am used to that from the Foreign Relations Committee. You are a tough talking prosecutor. Will you come up or won't you come up between now and June? Attorney General THORNBURGH. Certainly.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. Now, I have a few followup questions here. Two weeks ago when the Assistant FBI Director testified before this committee about
budget reshuffling—this notion of the original proposal to cut 433 FBI agents, a lot of criticism