A bill Sen. Lisa Murkowski has championed for years has gained renewed importance in recent weeks – one that would help bring long overdue justice for victims of a wealthy and powerful child sex predator who escaped the serious jail time he deserved. It’s called the Inspector General Access Act, and Sen. Murkowski’s leadership is needed again to finish the job.
This bipartisan legislation would give the U.S. Justice Department’s Inspector General the authority to hold U.S. attorneys accountable for misconduct. Earlier this year, the Inspector General asked Congress for this authority so that he could conduct an independent and transparent investigation into the past actions of Alexander Acosta, President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Labor – and issue serious penalties where they are warranted.
Acosta needs to answer why, when he was a U.S. attorney in Florida, he was behind a lenient plea deal that allowed a politically-connected billionaire who was accused of sexually abusing more than 100 underage girls to get off with a slap on the wrist. Just last month, a federal judge ruled that Acosta broke the law by failing to disclose Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart deal to the victims and their families, a deal that many of the victims still fighting to overturn today.
Incredibly, Acosta insists he acted appropriately, even bragging during his confirmation hearing for Labor Secretary that he considered his handling of the case a “point of pride” and that the outcome was a “good thing.” I know many parents who might disagree.
The Inspector General Access Act, which Murkowski co-sponsored in 2015 and 2018, passed with bipartisan support in the U.S. House earlier this year and is currently collecting dust in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee’s Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has refused to act on it, perhaps because he’d rather give a Trump administration official a pass than get tough on someone who went soft on a serial child sex abuser.
When asked about the infamous case and why he’s sitting on the bill, Graham brushed it off. He claimed he only knew “what I’ve read in the paper” and that he’d “definitely look at it.” It’s been crickets ever since.
Here’s where Sen. Murkowski can turn up the heat, because Sen. Graham doesn’t seem to be feeling any. No Republican has taken to the floor of the Senate to call for consideration of this commonsense legislation. Who better than Sen. Murkowski to lead the charge as someone who’s stood in support of this bill time and again? The more attention she can help bring to this issue, the less Sen. Graham can pretend he doesn’t know anything about it.
Secretary Acosta is a glaring example of the two justice systems in America – one for the rich and powerful, and one for everyone else. He should not be serving the public in any capacity today. Acosta should have resigned the minute the federal judge ruled he broke the law, but he didn’t. And now that the White House PR machine is out there making excuses for him, there’s even less chance he’ll step aside. Given Acosta’s stunning lack of judgment, he has no business continuing to make decisions as Labor Secretary that could again let the powerful exploit the powerless, only on a national scale.
But if Acosta won’t resign, he should at least have to answer for his alleged crimes in a serious setting. The most immediate and meaningful way to deliver some overdue justice to the many victims in this case is to pass the Inspector General Access Act.
Kyle Herrig is a senior advisor to Allied Progress, a consumer advocacy organization, and previously served as an attorney both in the philanthropic sector and in private practice.
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