Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Searching Congressional offices

Truth be told, this brouhaha surprised me. House Speaker Denny Hastert’s initial position seemed untenable, and he’s come close to conceding as much. The best analysis I’ve seen is here and here.

Discussions - 4 Comments

It makes Congress look bad. They allow the President to "search" people’s phone conversation, and the records of such, which may/may not be in violation of the 4th amendment without much resistence, but when it comes to searching Congressional offices, he has gone too far. It makes it look like there is one rule concerning searches for officals and another concerning searches for ordinary citizens. I know legal arguments could be made that there are two different rules for the two groups of people, but that is what people’s first impressions will be.

Newt Gingrich led the Republicans into the majority in Congress based in part on the public’s outrage over congressmen who displayed bad ethics and exempted themselves from the laws they passed. So in 2006, when a congressman has been caught on video taking cash from investigators, Speaker Hastert has taken the position that the executive branch, HAVING OBTAINED A WARRANT FROM THE JUCICIAL BRANCH, has no right to search the office of a corrupt colleague. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss..."

Since he cannot possibly be even remotely serious about the "merits" of this legal argument- we are a nation of laws, not congressmen - I wonder what utility there is in taking this position? I am sure Hastert is not attacking the Justice Department so he can cover for a Democrat Louisiana congressmen - even Pelosi has washed her hands of him. Is this risible legal argument meant to provide a layer of protection when Hastert’s own office is raided? Is the speaker protecting the papers of Ohio’s corrupt Republican Congressmen who is, I should guess, a year from indictment and two from the pen?

I am voting in state and local elections only this November. Unfortunately, there may be some civic hygene in a narrow Democrat majority. The self-promoting time-serving ear markers will lose a great deal of power should the Republicans go into minority status. Many of them will retire rather than face a reduction in their ability to rob Peter in order to name things after themselves in their districts. Having purged the poison of self serving parasitical lifers and enemies of the people like Hastert, Cunningham, Ney, Don Young, and Jim Leach, the party could come back stronger. I know the first rule of politics is you do not lose today to win tommorrow, but I am not sure we are winning....

The arguments in Mr. Knippenberg’s second "here," representing the The Volokh Conspiracy, are really excellent. There is link to the previous post has many comments worth reading by a fellow signing himself Medis.

He defused my outrage. Of course, maybe you do not want to have your outrage blunted.

I do not accept any part of the argument. The guy has been stuffing wads of cash into his freezer. He has been asked by his own party to relinquish his committee positions. You cannot convince me that there is any legislative business going on in the Louisiana Congressman’s office at all. Even if there was, a warant has been obtained based on a sting in which the crook in question has practically convicted himself - on tape - of corruption. Hastert wants to interfere in this investigation because when Bob Ney’s time comes, or when someone else we can only guess at is indicted, this precedent will exist to shield the crook in question from an effective prosecution.

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