Congress

Off Limits

An appellate court decision on the constitutionality of a search of Rep. William Jefferson's office in connection with a bribery investigation may significantly hamper investigations into other members of Congress. The court's ruling may prevent the future use of wiretapping, staff interviews, and office searches.

In question is the "speech or debate" clause:


Pinpointing the Problem

An article in The Seattle Times on earmarks for defense spending and its correlation to campaign contributions received by Washington legislators has touched a nerve for readers and sparked this point/counterpoint in the letters to the editor section about the need to address this problem via full public financing of campaigns.

Jefferson Heads to Court

Hey, let's check in with Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) shall we? The embattled legislator has a trial coming up on conspiracy and bribery charges stemming from a scheme that sounds like it was copied all or in part from the text of Nigerian email scams. And the courtroom drama begins...now!

Next Norman?

NPR's Marketplace picked up the story of Bill Allen, the VECO Inc. CEO who admitted using campaign contributions to win influence with Congress, and $200 million in contracts. The report notes Allen's plan for VECO and its employess to direct donations to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in particular Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). Most of the money hasn't been returned.

Some Circumstantial Evidence Is Strong

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post speculates, via strategically-placed parentheses, about the interest of certain members of Congress in holding Blackwater and other defense contractors accountable for their actions in Iraq. Are the contributions lining their campaign coffers causing some legislators to look the other way?

 

Bottom of the Heap

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has released its list of the 22 most corrupt members of Congress. The third annual iteration of this report, called "Beyond DeLay" includes scandal summaries for each of the 22 members cited (and two more to watch out for). California leads the tally with five members listed but Alaska enjoys the distinction of having its entire congressional delegation on the list. Perhaps they'll get jackets made.

Ethics Bill Becomes Law

On Friday, President Bush signed into law the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (S. 1)--one of the most sweeping ethics and lobbying reform bills in decades. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) said the bill was "the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate."

 

From One Branch to Another

If members of Congress can't take lobbyist funded trips, argues the Orlando Sentinel, then neither should members of the Executive Branch and President Bush should sign an executive order banning the practice before his branch of government has a Jack Abramoff all their own.

Power Sharing

Arnold Hiatt, the former CEO of StrideRite and a prolific campaign donor, wants to decrease his own influence on elections. In this editorial for the Boston Globe he urges support of the Fair Elections Now Act in the Senate, and its companion bill in the House to create a public financing option for congressional races.

Ciao for Now

There's only so long a Representative can be the subject of an FBI investigation into a shady land deal with a former business partner and campaign donor before he gets the urge to hang up his spurs and seek out a more private life. Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) has announced he won't seek re-election in 2008.