03 August 2007

Quick Thoughts

Three quick thoughts:

1) I'm going out of town for the weekend, but since I haven't posted all week you'll barely notice that I'm gone. I'll be better about it soon, I promise, but it's just very busy.

2) Some of you may have heard about a disastrous episode with a dishwasher. Let me assure you the whole story has not yet been told. It's funny though, and it's not as if it isn't my fault. But, suffice to say, the Smitty household has three new members: new washer (it's oh-so-quiet), new dryer (it dries things like a pro), and a new dishwasher! Yaay, new dishwasher! Unfortunately, I didn't have any dishes to wash this afternoon so I haven't actually used it yet.

3) Congressman Bill Jefferson, D-Louisiana, has apparently won a nice victory at his appeal this morning. This is the fellow who had $90k in his office freezer, allegedly bribe money from Nigerian businessmen. Now, apart from the sheer humor value of this being just another Nigerian scam, the issue here was not that Jefferson was a corrupt scumbag; this is assumed, since he's from New Orleans. But his office--his Congressional office, not his home or his insurance office (or whatever it is he does, I just made up the insurance part), but his Congressional office, which is an extension of Congress--was raided by FBI agents. The FBI is an executive agency, under the President. Jefferson sued the FBI: he claimed the executive branch (in the guise of the FBI) had no oversight over legislative branch activities. Ergo, constitutionally, the FBI had no right to raid his Congressional office. (Dummies; they should have just gone to his home.) He didn't claim he was innocent (although he did claim the money came from the FBI... which doesn't help his case, since he was still taking a bribe whether it was a sting or not), he claimed the FBI had no jurisdiction.
Well, today, an appeals court ruled Jefferson was right. The FBI had no business raiding his congressional office. Now, let's not lose sight of this fact: Jefferson is a filthy corrupt scumpile who is trying to get off on a technicality but should be thrown out of Congress. However, at first glance I have to say this was a good ruling. Basically, the FBI came in and took files out of Jefferson's office. They were looking for examples of dirty deeds; the case in fact had nothing to do with the 90 large. Because the FBI, an executive agency, took stuff from Congressman Jefferson, a legislative actor, they violated the constitutional separation of the powers. I like the notion that the legislative branch should not be able to be "intimidated" by the executive branch. As far as I'm concerned this is a victory. The current White House likes to think it's running a dictatorship with a rubber-stamp parliament, but in fact the legislative is co-equal with the executive. The two must police themselves, not each other. This is why Congress can hold all the hearings it wants to regarding executive doings, but unless an impeachment is warranted Congress' hearings are little more than the airing of dirty laundry until the executive branch designates a special prosecutor to bring charges within itself. Congress can't charge the executive with wrongdoing (apart from contempt and perjury in Congress' action as an investigative body). Congress can't raid the Vice President's office and take the documents they want, they have to ask nicely. Or subpoena. Either way.
In any event, a good show I think, but Congress would do well to censure Mr. Jefferson or, at least, designate its own investigative committee to look at the very papers the FBI tried to take. Democrats can't claim to be the party of clean government as long as Mr. Jefferson is hanging around the Capitol with his Nigerian buddies.

See you next week.

No comments: