As part of an ongoing series, Heritage’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies identifies a “Bill of the Week” which impacts overcriminalization in America.

The Contracting Oversight for Small Business Jobs Act of 2012 is a classic example of the overcriminalization of fraud.  Senior Legal Fellow Paul Larkin has gone in-depth on the topic before.  There are dozens of federal fraud laws on the books that are being enforced in every federal district court.  Even so, Congress keeps finding ways to customize fraud for particular special interests.  As Larkin quips, “If this were football, the referee would throw a penalty flag for unnecessary roughness” for the amount of overkill on federal fraud statutes.

In this bill, any business that “knowingly” is involved in a fraudulent claim as a small business for the purposes of government contracting.  A violation would be punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of the greater of 1) $1,000,000 or 2) a sum equal to twice the amount or value of goods or services under the government contract.

And unlike most bills in Congress, this one is on the fast track.  The House Judiciary Committee considered and marked up the bill only three days after it was proposed, and it has been reported to the full House.

The bill was proposed on March 19 and was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and the House Small Business Committee.

Presumably no one in Congress supports fraud, but it is already illegal.  Congress shouldn’t be passing new criminal laws to make conduct that is already a crime, a crime yet again.