Tone Deaf About Ethics In Congress

Unfortunately for the Democrats, who wanted the election to be about the supposed Republican, “culture of corruption,” they’ve actually got a guy in office who’s so crooked that he makes a circle look straight. Yes, good old William Jefferson. It’s bad enough that he managed to get caught on tape taking money from an FBI informant, but what’s even worse, from a Democratic perspective, is that by sticking the money in a freezer, he gave the American public a hook that makes it particularly easy to remember his malfeasance.

So, what has been the reaction in Congress to this outrageous ethics lapse by Jefferson? Believe it or not, leaders of both parties have incessantly complained about the fact that the FBI raided Jefferson’s office.

“House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told President Bush yesterday that he is concerned the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) congressional office over the weekend was a direct violation of the Constitution.

Hastert raised concerns that the FBI’s unannounced seizure of congressional documents during a raid of Jefferson’s Rayburn office Saturday night violated the separation of powers between the two branches of government as they are defined by the Constitution.

…Calling the Saturday-night raid an “invasion of the legislative branch,” House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted the case would eventually be resolved in the Supreme Court and hinted that Congress would take further action. The majority leader said Hastert would take the lead on the issue because he is the chief constitutional officer in the House.

…“No member of Congress is above the law,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters yesterday. “I am concerned about the unprecedented exercising of authority over a separate branch of government and the execution of a search warrant without any communication with the leadership of this House.””

Know what the average American must be thinking after reading all this? “Gee, I wonder what’s going on in their offices that they don’t want the FBI to know about?”

Moreover, trying to use the Constitution as a shield in this case is pure bunk. If you look at Article 6, Section 1 of the Constitution, it says:

“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.”

Even if you very liberally interpret that clause to mean that it prevents their offices from being searched, bribery is a felony and wouldn’t be covered.

So, Steny Hoyer? He was right that, “No member of Congress is above the law,” but he should have stopped right there. The FBI had a warrant, they were going after a Congressman who looks to have taken a bribe, and they were absolutely right to search his office if they believed relevant evidence was there. You shouldn’t be allowed to have a “Get out of Jail” card if you hide your evidence in your Congressional office and the “leadership” of both parties in Washington should stop asking for it.

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