Steven Greenhut: How Forfeiture Laws Turn Public Officials Into Profiteers


The federal agents who cracked down on the illegal distribution of alcoholic beverages traditionally were called "revenuers." It is a simple, honest term, given that the main goal of the revenuers was, as the name implied, to track down moonshining scofflaws who didn't pay their taxes. Federal agents long-ago shed that title, but sometimes it seems as if federal law is more about collecting revenues than anything more ennobling. As Steven Greenhut shows, the lure of revenues has distorted police priorities as money-hungry agencies think more about grabbing property than about fairly applying the law.