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Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott articulated his plan to expand local law enforcement funding via increased asset forfeiture prosecutions:

Calling it “the most significant vulnerability to the State of Texas,” Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott outlined last week a broad strategy to secure the Texas-Mexico border. In a telephone interview, Abbott said as governor he would work to put “more boots on the ground” at the border, improve communication and cooperation between state and local and federal agencies and increase the use of technology, all of which would be funded largely by seizures of illegal assets through aggressive prosecutions of money laundering operations.

“I believe our crackdown and taking of transnational gang and international drug cartel assets will fund a large part of the expansion of operations we need on the border,” he said. He cited several examples in which investigators in a unit within the Attorney General’s Office that focused on money laundering cases related to cartels seized assets worth millions of dollars from drug cartel members.

The effects of such investigations — almost always done in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies — are two-fold, he said. They provide funding for the law enforcement agencies that investigate them and they show cartels that “coming through Texas is a money-losing proposition,” he said. “If you cut off the lifeblood, they can’t live without it. The cost of doing business is just too high,” he added. Jacob Fischler, Abbott promises more funding for border security, The McAllen Monitor, 27 July 2013.

It is unclear whether AG Abbott hopes to accomplish increased forfeiture funding by weakening state asset forfeiture reforms (instituted after Texas’ many forfeiture-induced scandals), or, in the alternative, positioning local departments to chase more asset forfeiture dollars via the U.S. Department of Justice’s federal equitable sharing program. Both predict ruinous consequences for untold innocents. The latter, though, merits special mention because AG Abbott positions himself as a strong defender of 10th Amendment principles and Texas’ sovereignty. Indeed, it is a central platform plank:

“Texas’ greatest freedom enumerated in our Constitution is the Tenth Amendment.

This country is seeing a federal government that aggressively intrudes into our personal lives, our businesses, and our bank accounts—completely disregarding the powers delegated to the states by the United States Constitution.

To combat an overreaching federal government, Greg Abbott has filed 27 lawsuits against the Obama Administration to protect Texas’ sovereignty.

From the EPA to ObamaCare, Greg Abbott has challenged every attempt by the federal government to erode our states’ rights. He has led Texas to resounding legal victories that shield our state laws and ensure that our Tenth Amendment rights are not infringed upon.

Greg Abbott will relentlessly continue to make sure that Texas’ constitutional rights are never held hostage by the federal government.” [www.gregabbott.com/issues]

Yet, AG Abbott champions a policy that incentivizes local law enforcement departments to chase their budgets through what they seize (begetting those inevitable aggressive intrusions into our personal lives, businesses, and bank accounts) and, it seems, through a federal program whose very existence is bound up in circumventing state laws that protect local citizens from predatory forfeiture schemes. Indeed, for several states, local law enforcement near universally pursue federal adoption of their forfeitures so that forfeitures will pass through the DOJ’s equitable sharing program because the proceeds of forfeitures would otherwise go to the state’s education fund–as the local voters wanted.

Moreover, even in states that permit local law enforcement to directly profit in forfeitures, such as Texas, use of the federal equitable sharing program frustrates local autonomy by giving law enforcement the option of evading process and budget-discretion protections the local citizenry saw fit to enact.


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