Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bribery and Separation of Powers

When the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives object to an FBI search of a Democratic congressman's office, I tend to be a little skeptical. So William Jefferson, a congressman from Louisiana, had his office searched and documents taken over the weekend. The FBI had issued a subpoena from the documents in August of 2005. Jefferson had refused to comply with a large part of the subpoena. It's worth noting that the subpoena was issued after the FBI recorded on videotape Jefferson taking a $100k bribe, searching his apartment, and finding $90k in the freezer.

Now what exactly would happen if I ignored, for more than eight months, a subpeona from the FBI. Hmmm. Maybe, just maybe, I would have my ass thrown in jail for contempt.

Earlier in the week, I was a little sympathetic to the argument advanced by members of Congress that the separation of powers should prevent the executive branch from searching the offices of the legislative branch. It makes some sense. Especially given that the executive branch is occupied by very partisan Republicans, and the search was carried out against a Democratic congressman from New Orleans, an area where the administration has recently suffered some embarassment, the potential for abuse here seems high. We don't want the congress constantly being intimidated by the President under threat of FBI harassment.

On the other hand, Congress's law enforcement, the Capital Police, seem to bungle a lot of stuff and even recently seemed to help cover up a potential drunk driving incident by a congressman. Furthermore, corruption in government is one of the leading causes of disillusionment with the system. People don't vote because they the one person/one vote ideal has been replaced by pay-as-you-go lobbying. Fighting corruption in government, in my mind, outweighs the separation of powers fear.

But the real question, I think, is, "Why is the Republican leadership in congress jumping all over this issue?" There are a couple possible answers that don't suggest corruption: distancing themselves from the president in an election year, for one. Maybe I'm a cynic, but my gut says there are a lot of filipino sex slaves hidden in the offices of congressmen.

2 Comments:

Blogger Matt said...

So in 1st amendment, we learned that the proper functioning of a democratic system is a main rationale for free speech. And yet we use free speech as a rationale for protecting the gross influx of money into our political system.

I think that congress is jumping on this issue because the Abramoff/DeLay/Cunningham scandals are in need of more investigating, and some of that could plausibly be done in congress.

Campaign finance reform - it has to happen.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Xeno said...

I favor anything that puts politicians in prision

7:50 PM  

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