America has no distinct criminal class. Except Congress. Posted by: Dale Franks
on Thursday, May 25, 2006
I can't think of any better way to put it than the editors of National Reviewexpressed it:
By nothing more than dumb luck, the Republican-controlled Congress—lambasted for the junkets, earmarks, and “culture of corruption” that have aligned to produce the lowest approval ratings in memory—was handed a shot at some desperately needed redemption. All its leaders had to do was make the right choice between condemning the rankest corruption and displaying an outsized arrogance. Guess which one they chose?
In an all-too-predictable showing of bipartisan political hackery, the Congressional leadership has roundly denounced the search warrant the FBI served on Rep. William J. "Dollar Bill" Jefferson (D-LA). Congress, they claim, has the perfectly legitimate right to serve the White House with hundreds of subpoenas every year, but no other branch of the government has any power to compel them to abide by the law. Further thay claim that the Constitution provides some sort of blanket immunity from investigation or arrest by other branches of the Government.
Such a claim has no basis in either fact, or the law. The only immunity the Constitution provides for Congressmen is:
The Senators and Representatives...shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
Bribery, however, is clearly a felony, and the Constitution expressly provides that Congressmen are not immune at all from felony arrest. The Constitution says nothing at all about searches incident to a criminal investigation, and it certainly provides no immunity from them. he only "immunity" the Constitution provides for Members is that they will not be hindered from attending a session of Congress for any reason except criminal acts. By contrast, both Republican and Democrat leaders in the House are asserting what appears to be a blanket grant of immunity, contrary to our Constitution and our laws.
This is not to say that separation of powers issues are inapplicable, but, as far as I can tell, the FBI bent over backwards to ensure the warrant was served in a respectful and appropriate manner.
In requesting the warrant, the Justice department appears to have exhibited extraordinary respect for Congress as a coequal branch of government. It designed elaborate procedures to ensure a narrowly targeted search. The agents and prosecutors responsible for the investigation were not allowed to participate. The search was instead conducted by independent teams, uninvolved in the corruption investigation, who carefully reviewed all seized items to make sure that materials having nothing to do with the alleged crimes were either left alone or quickly returned to the House of Representatives.
This is far more respect than the FBI will ever extend to you or I, my friends, in the unfortunate occasion that they ever execute a search warrant on us.
Rep. Jefferson was caught on tape, allegedly accepting a $100,000 bribe. Subsequently, the FBI searched his home and found $90,000 of it in his freezer. That was nearly a year ago, and the search of his office has been in the works since then. That's more than enough deference to Congress. They're elected officials, not imperial satraps, no matter how much they might like to pretend they are.
You know what I'd like? I'd like to see every incumbent Congressman turned out of office. I'd really like to see that. Luckily, my Congressman, Duke Cunningham, has already been convicted, so there won't be an incumbent on my ballot for Congress.
Congress had a chance to come out swinging against corruption—to demonstrate, amid a slew of tawdry scandals, its recognition that public officials are subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens. The Republican leadership in particular should have seen an opportunity to redirect attention from its caucus’s lapses to a Democrat’s crude criminality. They chose, instead, to rally around an apparent swindler. We can think of 100,000 reasons why this will be remembered as an unparalleled blunder.
Politically, it was just dumb. It's almost as if the Republicans want to throw the upcoming election. Well, more power to'em I say.
I’m with you Dale. My Congressman is Richard Pombo and he will be opposed in the Primaries by anti-war Republican Pete McClosky. I’m pro-war so Pombo is the only candidate with whom I agree on what I consider the most important issue. But, he is also an incumbant and has the taint of Abramhoff money, so I’m voting to give him the boot.