Saturday, May 27, 2006

The culture of corruption starts with the corrupt

The line in the sand concerning records taken from the Congressional office of Jefferson has escalated to threats from top Justice Department members that they would resign rather than return documents taken during the search. It's been stated that Jefferson ignored a subpoena request for eight months. So as the full fury of some in Congress appears to be focused on the unconstitutionality of the search. A larger issue is ignored...

The public perception of this is that Congress is protecting their own, while I'm sure we all agree that everyone should be innocent until proven guilty, there has been some very troubling information released about Jefferson and some of his behavior, including being caught on video tape accepting a $100,000.00 bribe. What would happen to one of us who refused to cooperate with a subpoena? Would we be allowed to wait for that long of a time period? Of course not, a warrant would be executed.

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was quoted in the Washington Post as saying:

"Justice Department investigations must be conducted in accordance with Constitutional protections and historical precedent."

Exactly how far does that protection go? It's okay for Congressional members to ignore subpoenas? That whatever is within a Congressional Office is off limits?

I tend to agree with Viet D. Dinh, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush administration who is now a Georgetown University law professor, also quoted by the Washington Post:

The constitutional privilege for lawmakers does not "expand to insulate everything that goes on in a congressional office, especially if there's allegations of abuse of process or bribery," Dinh said. ". . . The fine line is whether or not it relates to a legislative process or not, not whether they've raided his office."

If we look at the actual Constitution, this is what it states under Article 1, Section 6:

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They 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.

While I'm not going to claim to be an expert on Constitutional Law, I fail to see how that protects someone from ignoring a subponea or having their offices searched for documents pertaining to a criminal case. I further think that if Congress is interested in having the majority of the public believe that they are not just worried about the Justice Department coming into their offices since several others are also under investigation they should focus on doing a much better job of policiing and removing members who act unethically. That perhaps rather than the Democrats trying to figure out how to best capitalize on Republican corruption and Republicans trying to figure out how to best capitalize on Democratic corruption that both sides actually rid all of Congress of corruption.

Then some real progress would be made to end this "culture of corruption".

(crossposted at Watchblog)