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Ernst, Grassley Demand Corrective Action for ATF’s Illegal Scheme to Misclassify Law Enforcement and Fleece Taxpayers

U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are calling for accountability and a full review of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ (ATF’s) unlawful misclassification of administrative positions as “law enforcement.” Not only was this decades-long practice illegal, but it also wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.  

For years, the ATF turned a blind eye to classification errors, even after whistleblowers brought it to management’s attention as early as 2018. This maladministration resulted in up to $20 million in overpayments to at least 91 employees who erroneously received enhanced law enforcement salaries and benefits while performing human resources, administrative, and other non-law enforcement duties. 

After the ATF recently regained the authority to classify positions as “law enforcement” following a 2020 suspension due to its unlawful human resources practices, Ernst and Grassley urged the ATF and Department of Justice to hold accountable the ATF managers who allowed the misclassifications.

“Appropriate corrective action must be taken in regards to all employees that allowed taxpayer dollars to be wasted after notification of the aforementioned misconduct,” the senators wrote. “The American public must know ATF will not revert to its previous impropriety after the restoration of its classification authority.” 

In the letter, the senators also raised concerns of alleged agency retaliation against the whistleblowers who brought ATF’s wrongdoing to light. In response to whistleblower disclosures claiming hundreds of additional ATF employees may have been misclassified – and millions more taxpayer dollars misspent – the senators requested an expanded evaluation of ATF’s classification procedures. 


Ernst and Grassley have also worked to correct harmful ATF practices by grilling the agency for inappropriately targeting federal firearms license (FFL) holders and stifling Second Amendment rights by abusing its federal regulatory powers.


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