Tuesday, 23 May, 2006

Congress Fears Investigation

It comes as no surprise to anybody familiar with our illustrious members of Congress to find out that yet another Congressman is under investigation for corruption.  In this latest case it's Louisiana Representative William Jefferson.  It seems that the not-so-Honorable Mr. Jefferson was taped collecting money that he was supposed to use as a bribe to Nigerian officials.  An FBI raid on his house turned up $90,000 of the $100,000 bribe money stuffed in his freezer.  Rep. Jefferson, of course, denies any wrongdoing, despite statements from former staffers and some constituents.

The FBI took the unprecedented step of searching Jefferson's office, which has members of Congress on both sides of the aisle up in arms.  The House Majority Leader said, "I clearly have serious concerns about what happened and whether people at the Justice Department have looked at the Constitution lately."

The No. 2 Democrat in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer from Maryland, apparently said that it was another example of the Bush administration's disregard for limits on its power:  "No member is above the law, but the institution has a right to protect itself against the executive department going into our offices."

Senator Trent Lott said, "There's a right way and a wrong way to do everything.  We don't want a situation where the FBI just shows up at will and starts rummaging around here." 

Our elected "leaders" can't agree on much, but they all band together when they're in fear of getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar.  Searching a Representative's home is one thing, but apparently their offices are sacrosanct.  Considering their reactions, if I were a member of the Justice Department, I'd be pretty keen on searching offices in all further investigations.

What these and other Congressional scare-mongers are not telling you is that the FBI and the Justice Department in general normally treat them with kid gloves during investigations.  They usually negotiate the surrender of evidence and keep it all out of the papers until there's something definite to report.  The FBI does not want to embarrass Congress needlessly.  It's only when a member of Congress refuses to cooperate that the FBI has to do things like get search warrants, which ends up becoming a matter of public record.

Those who think that the Bush Administration has overstepped its bounds here need to think again.  Yes, there is a separation of powers.  In general, each branch of the government is balanced by the other two.  In this particular case, the Executive branch and the Judiciary investigates wrongdoing on a Congressional level.  If Congress is unwilling to cooperate in these investigations, then the Executive branch, in the guise of the Justice Department, must obtain a search warrant from the Judiciary in order to fulfill its responsibilities.  If anybody needs to re-read the Constitution, it's those members of Congress who think that their offices are somehow immune from the laws of this country.