A Constitutional Right to Thievery and Deceit

All you need do is A) be a member of Congress and B) keep all the paperwork of your misdeeds in your Senate or House office, including the computer.

CongressionalofficeThe Black Hole of United States government, a legislator’s office. Perfect. Jack Abramoff’s mistake for his clients was to have an e-mail address outside those hallowed halls and thus a record of two-way communications. No more. It’s a bit more cumbersome, but selling legislation has just gone from the Internet to the back room.

Legislators are comfortable there. Back rooms most famously disappeared at National Conventions, where the guy (or gal) they committed to pretty much got there by way of State Primaries. But nearly all partisan legislation is based on midnight meetings of the select. So it’s not as if anyone in Congress has has to look very far to retrieve their talent for the clandestine.

Who would have guessed that, just when we needed it, another Jefferson would come along to uphold and support our sagging Constitution. This one is a crook, a ‘founding-father’ of another stripe, who ‘found’ a way to turn his fund of trust into a ‘trust-fund’ to support himself and his family by payoffs. This Jefferson has a freezer full of neat little packages of marked bills, marked by the FBI prior to an arranged payoff.

Repwilliamjefferson2The discouraging side of Representative William Jefferson is that he is probably truly ‘representative’ of the House to which he was elected. Congressional moral outrage is tinged by the obvious fear of what may be found in who’s desk drawer next. Compared to the dough tossed around by Abramoff, the petty scam of which Jefferson is accused is embarrassing. Who knew that votes could be bought so cheap?

Makes it tempting for the American Public to try to buy back the legislature it has lost to private money.

Jefferson had been duly served with a subpoena some nine months ago and flat-out refused to answer it. One can excuse the FBI for concern that he used those nine months to cover whatever tracks were coverable. There is a timliness to investigation and, just like the right to a speedy trial, there is a right to an answer short of nine months.

Repsensenbrenner2Rep. Senseless Sensenbrenner has come to the rescue. The good Representative from Wisconsin, Chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, has risen to use that power, not in the defense of the American public to which it answers (or doesn’t), but in defense of hiding the pay-off bottle of booze snugly in the paid-off desk drawer.

The Chairman said he wants the Attorney General and FBI Director "up here to tell us how they reached the conclusion." Presumably, a lesson can be learned from that, so other malfeasant congressmen can learn to be less clumsy.

This legislative ass, sitting as Chairman on one of the most powerful congressional committees, said the raid was "profoundly disturbing" on constitutional grounds. Not generally a source of profound thought, the chairman also said that his committee

"will be working promptly" to draft legislation that would clearly prohibit wide-ranging searches of lawmakers’ offices by federal officials pursuing criminal cases. (Washington Post, May 31)

Well, that’s just dandy. There isn’t even a thread of constitutional connection to this raid. The Constitution says House and Senate members "shall not be questioned for any Speech or Debate in either House." Jefferson (the current, not the original) isn’t being questioned about ‘speech or debate.’ He’s going to be grilled like a Gulf redfish about graft and corruption.

A ‘constitutional lawyer’ (sigh) testified that

"when it comes to documents, the only way you can search is to read everything. And when you read everything, you encroach on the ‘Speech or Debate’ clause."

Excuse me? This guy (Bruce Fein) is a constitutional attorney? No wonder we’re in such deep shit. How does reading documents, discarding the ones that are not pertinent and avoiding those that are part of ‘speech or debate’ in the Congress, bruise the Constitution?

What absolutely trashes that honored document is to pick and choose among its words to cloak legislative piracy within republican government. Jefferson is a Pirate. The man will follow Randy Cunningham into the pokey, proving once again that selling the voters down the river is a bipartisan, equal-opportunity priority within the Congress of the United States.

So, now we have another ‘gate’ to go with Watergate and Whitewatergate. The sad truth is that iGate and Jefferson’s clumsy handling of graft, shows just how cheaply government can be bought and that we’re unlikely to run out of bidders for the honor.

Stuff that in your constitutional law book.

For more comments on Washington at work, see my personal web site.

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