NEW YORK, New York — The H.R 402: CROOK Act was introduced in the House on January 21, 2021, and ordered to be reported by voice vote on April 21. This act would work to promote international efforts in combating corruption and kleptocracy through several innovations, such as the creation of an anti-corruption action fund. The “Anti Corruption Action Fund” would be part of the United States Treasury. It would strengthen foreign states in preventing public corruption and assist foreign states in developing rule of law-based structures. This would include an accountable police force as well as judicial and prosecutorial institutions.
The H.R 402: CROOK Act
The act would not only establish the Anti-Corruption Action Fund but also the Interagency Anti-Corruption Task Force. This would work to improve the coordination among Federal departments working to combat corruption by evaluating the effectiveness of current foreign assistance programs and identifying and enhancing areas where improvements are needed.
Furthermore, the proposed CROOK Act would assist foreign powers in closing loopholes in their government structure that are enabling kleptocracy and illicit finances. It would also work to prosecute corrupt leaders, specifically within the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the People’s Republic of China. Additionally, the act will assist in the recovery of stolen assets for victims of kleptocracy and strengthen collective financial defense.
Such an act has become necessary because current foreign authoritarian leaders often abuse their power. They use it to enrich themselves at the expense of their countries’ economic development and solidify their power for the future. An example of such a government, as stated by Congress, is the Government of the Russian Federation. The Government of the Russian Federation uses state-sanctioned corruption to consolidate their authoritarian rule and erode democratic institutions.
Government Corruption in Russia
Considering Putin’s government in Russia, there is an evident economic disparity among its citizens. In fact, the top “10% of the population control a staggering 85% of the wealth in Russia” as of 2014. The same study estimates that the other “83% of the population has less than $10,000 in personal wealth.” Furthermore, according to an OPORA (a Russian business association) survey, 90% of entrepreneurs have dealt with at least one account of corruption, claiming the government takes more from their earnings than they should.
The oil industry largely fuels the economic disparity in Russia. Regions that specialize in the production of oil, gas and minerals have incomes on average at least one-third higher than the rest of the country. Such an unequal distribution of wealth makes it difficult for citizens to succeed if they are not involved in these industries or included in the top 10% of citizens. This leaves them among a middle class that is vast and financially vulnerable.
Reducing Foreign Corruption
As the government takes advantage of its economic disparity and use it to benefit itself and the wealthiest citizens, the conditions in Russia have worsened and need global attention. Kleptocracy and governmental corruption have become the custom in several countries. Change requires the assistance of democratic powers, such as the U.S, to handle the issue. The CROOK Act would provide the necessary attention to global corruption. As a result, it would help the struggling lower and middle classes of these foreign countries.
– Juan Vargas