Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Congressmen Who Need To Take A Class In Basic Principles of Government

Repeat after me: Separation of powers does not mean immunity.

How preposterous can Congress get? This time, the hubub is about Democratic Representative William Jefferson, whose House office was raided on warrant executed by FBI agents this past weekend. According to the New York Times (among other sources), various Congressional Representatives of both parties have raised the specter of the doctrine of "separation of powers," claiming that the FBI's execution of a valid warrant issued by a federal judge was somehow a Constitutional violation.

Separation of powers does not imply immunity of any sort. To put separation of powers as simply as possible, the doctrine refers to the notion that the three branches of government all have separate spheres of authority. The legislature passes laws, the executive branch enforces and implements the law, and the judicial branch adjudicates questions of law. As any student of administrative law can tell you, these distinctions are not absolute.

Once again, what we have here is the FBI executing a valid judicial warrant as part of a bribery investigation. Maybe this issue would be simpler if this was a murder investigation. Say for instance, a murder victim was found in a Congressional office- would the executive branch be barred from investigating the murder because it occurred in a Congressional office building? Obviously not. The difficult part of all of this is to understand why the executive branch (in this case the FBI) should be barred from performing its traditional investigative function, especially when they were granted a warrant by the judicial branch!

If you are one of those who believe this is motivated by partisan concerns, so be it, but don't raise a quite obviously inapplicable doctrine.

On a side note, Democrats have been very vocal about the culture of corruption in the Republican Party. The real culture of corruption is not one that fits in to partisan boundaries, but an overall culture of Congressional corruption. Why else do you think that members of both parties are making such a big deal of this?


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