In 2018, Elise J. Bean released her newest work titled Financial Exposure: Carl Levin’s Senate Investigations into Finance and Tax Abuse. Bean, who served as Senator Levin’s (D-MI) staff director and chief counsel on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), intimately details how the former senator partnered with his Republican colleagues to investigate money laundering, accounting fraud, and high-risk trades by some of the world’s largest financial institutions.
While Bean’s book details her past work with PSI, she is continuing the fight for good governance and accountability today, alongside others. She currently serves as the Washington Co-Director of the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law Center. The Levin Center trains attorneys, leaders, and public figures to promote government transparency, while holding public and private institutions to high ethical standards. To carry out this effort, the Center takes a variety of actions, including offering academic coursework, training programs, and symposia, reaching individuals and groups from around the world. In addition to Bean, the Center hosts a deeply experienced staff that is dedicated to promoting ethics and effectiveness in government. Robert Ackerman, Director of the Levin Center, was the Wayne Law School Dean from 2008-2012, before which he served as a Professor at Penn State University’s School of Law. Linda Gustitus is currently acting as the Washington Co-Director alongside Bean. Gustitus worked on Sen. Levin’s staff for 24 years, eventually becoming his Chief of Staff in 2001. She pioneered oversight investigations into the Social Security Disability Program, IRS seizure policy, and gasoline pricing.
Since its foundation in 2015, the Levin Center has acted both domestically and internationally to train public officials, government figures, and others on the elements key to implementing and upholding government transparency.
In December 2015, the Levin Center traveled to Kiev, Ukraine for their first foreign training session. The Levin Center partnered with the Ukrainian Parliament’s Committee on Corruption Prevention, as well as the Anti-Corruption Action Center – a Ukrainian NGO – to offer Ukrainian Parliamentary staffers guidance on how to carry out oversight investigations. The session offered in-depth guidance on elements key to conducting an oversight investigation, stressing the facts-based, multi-party approach that staffers must take in their efforts. Alongside the training workshop, Bean gave two presentations in Kiev. Her first, which focused on driving change through oversight investigations, took place at the Open University of Reforms. The latter, which emphasized combatting corruption, occurred at the America House and received the U.S. Embassy’s sponsorship. The State Department not only sponsored one of Bean’s presentations – they provided funding for the workshop, emphasizing the importance with which they viewed the effort.
In October 2016, the Levin Center carried out a two-day training session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. The Center spoke to more than 55 Members and their staff, all of whom came from the Parliament’s “Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance, and tax evasion.” The committee was formed to investigate the release of the Panama Papers. Attendees came from seven of the Parliament’s eight political parties, signifying the Center’s bipartisan reach. The workshop analyzed the four stages of a committee investigation: investigating facts, collecting results, holding a hearing, and confronting identified problems. The Levin Center eventually split the attendees into multi-party teams, where they tested their ability to execute the four stages of an investigation. As a result, the workshop not only educated staffers on how to effectively conduct an investigation, but provided them a space to practice working together, improving their ability to do both in the future.
Since then, the Levin Center has hosted a variety of events that focused on promoting governmental transparency. In March 2018, the Center held a Symposium titled “Congressional Oversight in the 21st Century,” which united scholars from across the country to consider the relationship between oversight and the judicial branch. That June, in light of the Inspectors General Act’s 40th anniversary, they hosted a panel to discuss role of the Inspectors General in oversight efforts. The Levin Center has multiple events planned for the near future as well, all of which will consider government oversight from a unique perspective.
After serving in the Senate for 36 years, Carl Levin best exemplified how policy makers in the U.S. and around the world may tackle financial crimes like money laundering, tax abuse, and accountability fraud. Furthermore, his dedication to acting in a bipartisan manner, continually crossing party lines to create change through compromise, should serve as an inspiration to those seeking to drive change now. The Levin Center is helping to foster that change. By partnering with government workers, public figures, academics, and students, the Levin Center constantly strives to promote the importance of open, honest, and transparent government to the generations of today and tomorrow. The work that Sen. Levin began over 40 years ago upon his election to the Senate continues today through the Levin Center. The training of parliamentary officials in Ukraine and Brussels illustrates how other foreign officials are accessing good practices in accountability