More FBI agents required to investigate political corruption Posted by: McQ
on Thursday, May 25, 2006
The Jefferson raid may only be the tip of the iceberg according to The Hill. And then there's the on-again-off-again Hastert story. Bottom line - the FBI sees a reason to beef up its staff investigating campaign finance and other election related crimes:
Federal law-enforcement officials say they witnessed a dramatic jump in campaign-finance and other election-related crimes in the 2004 presidential election year and are determined to beef up their policing of candidates running for federal and local office around the country this year.
Illegal fundraising schemes appear to have grown in number and sophistication as candidates have needed to raise more and more money to be competitive. Several members of Congress have recently found themselves caught up in fundraising controversies.
In the past year and a half, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has reassigned nearly 200 agents to the problem of public corruption, bringing to 600 the total number of agents working on public-integrity cases.
While the Justice Department’s increased focus on public corruption has been talked about in Washington, the FBI’s elevation of such crimes among its priorities is less known. Even less noticed has been the FBI’s new focus on violations of election law, which for years law-enforcement officials considered minor crimes, lawyers specializing in the field said.
We're back to son of McCain-Feingold. Politics runs on money. Always has, always will. Again, as we've often said about government and politics, the idea is to make it as transparant as possible. M-F doesn't really do that at all. And the limits it imposes on fundraising are simply silly.
To prepare, the FBI has trained 60 agents spread throughout all 56 field offices in campaign-finance and election law. Two members of the Federal Election Commission helped instruct the agents. So did Kenneth Gross, a prominent Washington-based campaign-finance lawyer, who gave them insight into the strategies and perspectives of defense lawyers.
“We’ll put as many agents as we need to on these cases,” Burrus said. He added that public-corruption crimes are now fourth among the FBI’s priorities, after terrorism, counterintelligence and computer crimes, such as Internet fraud and identity theft. Burrus said the effort is not a reaction to the high-profile scandal involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe public officials.
At a minimum, 60 agents who could be used elsewhere will be policing campaign-finance laws.
Why not, instead, if there must be a law, insist that every contribution received be listed by donor and amount on the web within 24 hours of receiving it? You don't think political watchdog outfits won't pass along where it came from? Screw "hard money" and "soft money". List all money and its source. And if they don't, then investigate and jail as necessary.
Where I'd prefer they use their time is in areas where election fraud is alleged. Frankly I'm tired of the "they stole the election" meme ... from both sides. A little attention there during federal elections is warranted if only to shut the complainers up.
Burrus said that the bureau had previously designated “two or three agents” 30 days before Election Day to respond to allegations of voter fraud. Often, these agents couldn’t do much before the election for fear of being accused of interfering in the election.
“We always seemed to be chasing the problem instead of getting ahead of it,” he said. “Now we have agents looking for this stuff every day,” instead of waiting until late September or October.
Interestingly, the cases which have involved the FBI and election fraud haven't been that great in number:
In 2000, when George W. Bush and Al Gore squared off for the White House, the FBI opened only eight election-law-related cases. Two years later, during the 2002 midterm election, the bureau opened 19 such cases. But in 2004 the FBI investigated 68 potential violations of election law, according to statistics provided by the agency.
The number of cases opened in 2005 dropped to 21, but law-enforcement officials are anticipating another surge this year.
Meanwhile we have a crying need for more FBI agents in the field doing real law enforcement work and instead are diverting assets to "campaign finance" investigations.
I’ve always thought a blind pass through entity should be setup for handling political donations.
Only law would be you must be a US Citizen to donate. Otherwise, a person would send the money to the entity with who it is going to designated. The entity then cuts a check every week or so to the designated candidates or party.
Limit donations to real humans who are registered within the pols district. No corporations, no unions, no entities. Then lift the donation limits and require the name, address of the donor be listed on the net within 24 hours of the check being presented to the bank but in no event more than 48 hours after receipt by the pol (should probably have a hard copy available at the national and local campaign office as well). No advertising by corps, unions or entities either. Real people would be able to advertise but would have to disclose who they were (partially within the ad and fully on net before ad aired)name, address etc.