Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Congressional corruption

Cross posted at Liberty Zone and Just Citizens.

Apparently, William Jefferson (D-La.)who is under investigation for bribery said Monday he would not resign, even though he was videotaped accepting $100,000 from an informant last year.

Democratic Rep. William Jefferson, who has not been charged, called an FBI search of his Capitol office “an outrageous intrusion,” telling reporters: “There are two sides to every story. There are certainly two sides to this story.”

At the risk of sounding sarcastic and acrimonious, I'd like to really hear what kind of absurd reason Jefferson can possibly come up with for being caught on tape accepting a bribe and stashing the cash in a freezer. Was it too hot in his taxpayer funded digs? Did the air conditioner not work? Was he afraid the money, which he was going to use to help small, starving children in Africa get food and medicine, would get sweaty or burst into flames?

And we must remember, it's not like this is a wild goose chase that involved shoddy detective work and resulted in retaliatory persecution of an innocent man! According to Wikipedia, Jefferson has been under investigation by the FBI for suspected corruption since March of 2005; since that time, he's been named in two guilty pleas of associates.

On August 3, 2005, FBI agents raided Jefferson's home in Northeast Washington and, as noted in an 83-page affidavit filed to support a subsequent raid on his Congressional office that they found $90,000 of the cash in the freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers!

This is the same guy who -- in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- allegedly used National Guard troops to check on his New Orleans property and rescue his junk from his barely flooded house, while other -- not so privileged New Orleans residents -- were busy trying to save their own LIVES!

On Sept. 2 — five days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast — Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was allowed through the military blockades set up around the city to reach the Superdome, where thousands of evacuees had been taken.

Military sources tells ABC News that Jefferson, an eight-term Democratic congressman, asked the National Guard that night to take him on a tour of the flooded portions of his congressional district. A five-ton military truck and a half dozen military police were dispatched.

Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News that during the tour, Jefferson asked that the truck take him to his home on Marengo Street, in the affluent uptown neighborhood in his congressional district. According to Schneider, this was not part of Jefferson's initial request.

Jefferson defended the expedition, saying he set out to see how residents were coping at the Superdome and in his neighborhood. He also insisted that he did not ask the National Guard to transport him.

Yeah, he set out to see how his constituents were doing and figured, "Hey! Since I'm here at my house, I might as well load my stuff onto the truck... since it's here and all..."

Now, whom do you think I'm going to believe - an obviously corrupt politician who was caught on tape taking a bribe, or members of the Louisiana National Guard who confirm he misused their resources for personal gain?

Additionally, according to a report released by another organization called CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

...federal agents are investigating whether Rep. Jefferson illegally pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars of investors' money from business transactions. According to sources who spoke with The Washington Post, a high-tech company that was starting up in northern Virginia agreed to cooperate with the FBI and conversations with Rep. Jefferson were secretly recorded. Rep. Jefferson allegedly agreed to invest in the start-up company and use his congressional influence to bring in business.

But I digress...

The real shocker to me is that this obviously corrupt politician is claiming the search of his Congressional office to be "an outrageous intrusion into separation of powers between the executive branch and the congressional branch, and no one has seen this in all the time of the life of the Congress."

That's right. Notice he's not commenting on whether or not he accepted a bribe. He's not confirming or denying any wrongdoing on his part. But he's outraged that somehow the FBI's search of his Capitol Hill office violates the separation of powers between the executive and congressional branches!


The Founding Fathers of this nation imposed the political doctrine we know as "separation of powers" to keep any one branch of the government from getting too powerful and ruling with an iron fist, so to speak. Further, be aware that the phrase "separation of powers" never appears in the actual text of the Constitution. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself.

Yes, the concept is implied in the governmental structure created by the Founders -- three separate branches vested with certain powers, with the ability to check one another's power. Congress may make the law, but the President can veto it. The Court can judge the law to be unconstitutional, but Congress can sign a constitutional amendment. However, nowhere in the Constitution or in historical writings do I see a law enforcement investigation of an allegedly corrupt politician falling under the concept of "checks and balances" or "separation of powers," for that matter.

What's worse is that Jefferson's fellow politicians are lining up to protect one of their own!

House Speaker Dennis Hastert questioned whether the raid of the congressman’s office, believed the first in history, overstepped constitutional limitations on executive powers.

“Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years,” the Illinois Republican said in a statement.

Notice that partisanship doesn't play a role in Hastert's defense of his obviously corrupt colleague. His argument centers on the fact that the FBI has apparently never raided the office of a sitting Congressman before. Well, there's a good reason to ignore the wrongdoing -- apparently this has never been done before! Well, I'm sure there was a time when fingerprinting had never been used! I'm also sure there was a time DNA evidence wasn't even on our radar screens, and yet both techniques have been used time and time again to solve crimes in the present -- and even clear those innocents, who had previously been judged guilty!

So because there is no historical precedence for the FBI ever having searched a Capitol Hill office of a suspected corrupt politician, the evidence of wrongdoing should be ignored? Is that the way our elected representatives want justice to work in this nation?

There was no "intrusion" of the separation of powers. The principle doesn't imply that a law enforcement agency under one branch cannot investigate criminal wrongdoing by members of another branch! It ensures that ultimate power cannot be held by one person or governmental entity! And anyone who reads this nation's founding documents is aware of this fact!

Meanwhile, Jefferson's colleagues are lining up behind him, trying to save his sorry hide -- not by proclaiming his innocence, but by trotting out the excuse that there was no historical precedent for the search of Jefferson's office!

Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is hopping mad! Not at the Congressman's alleged corruption, but because the law enforcement authorities did their jobs!

"There is no excuse for the FBI for the first time in history searching a congressional office and apparently doing so in total [dis]regard of due process as it relates to the legislative branch," former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., wrote Sunday night in an e-mail to several members and aides obtained by CongressDaily. Gingrich was particularly critical of what he described as the executive branch trampling constitutional lines of authority.

Disregard for due process? They had a warrant, Newt! They had attorneys oversee the search to ensure it was done properly! Obviously there was a judge somewhere that thought the thousands found in Jefferson's freezer warranted further searches!

Gingrich continued:

"The protection of the legislative branch from the executive branch's policing powers is a fundamental principle which goes all the way back to the English Civil War," he added, describing the incident as "the most blatant violation of the constitutional separation of powers in my lifetime."

Oh really, Newt? Please show us where in the Constitution it says that criminals, who just happen to be politicians, are exempt from criminal investigations by a law enforcement agency that just happens to be part of the executive branch! I'll give you a clue: IT'S NOWHERE IN THERE!

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