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Friday, April 4, 2014

Jason Chaffetz rips USAID over 'slush fund' to Afghan government -- By Michael Conger, The Washington Examiner

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah., gestures as he speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)A U.S. House member from Utah expressed shock Thursday over what he called "lobbying money" paid to the government of Afghanistan in exchange for laws or programs the U.S. government wants but the Afghan government wouldn't otherwise enact.

Last year, the U.S. Agency for International Development paid $15 million out of its "incentive fund" in return for the Afghan Parliament passing a law on violence against women, which was "unpalatable" to parliament without the incentive, a USAID witness told the House Oversight subcommittee.

"That is the very essence of corruption, and we're funding that?" said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security.

Donald "Larry" Sampler, assistant to the administrator of the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs for USAID, said he didn't think "lobbying money" or "slush fund" were accurate ways to describe the payment. Instead, he said, the funds help get policies and programs passed that are a higher priority to the U.S. than to Afghanistan. The incentive fund was budgeted at $75 million in 2013, and increased to $100 million this year.

"It sounds like a bonus, it sounds like a slush fund, it sounds like a lot of very negative things," Chaffetz said, arguing that such a system would be against the law in the U.S.

Sampler was in the hot seat for most of the hearing, taking heat from both the subcommittee and the other witness, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko.

Subcommittee members grilled Sampler on embarrassing information withheld from USAID assessments of Afghan ministries given to the committee, arguing that the redactions amounted to hiding information from Congress.

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