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May 26, 2006
Does Congress Even Read What They Pass Into Law?

I'm doing a little lunchtime browsing, and this story almost made me spit out my sandwich. The Wall Street Journal reports on the hysteria brewing in the halls of Congress over the raid on Rep. William Jefferson's office, rehashing mostly what we already know. Later in the article, however, Jeanne Cummings and Brody Mullens tie the story to the expansion of the FBI's public integrity unit to underscore the discomfort members of Congress feel right now. The report quotes a Republican close to the House caucus that apparently reveals a strain of illiteracy among our elected representatives:

Frustration between the House and the Justice Department stems in part from the probe of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Mr. Abramoff in January pleaded guilty to trying to bribe members of Congress, and has been cooperating with federal investigators. Much of the evidence that has emerged suggests Mr. Abramoff curried favor with lawmakers by shoving cash from his clients into their campaign accounts, providing flashy accommodations for fund-raisers, such as his own downtown restaurant or skyboxes for football or basketball games, and paying for expensive trips abroad.

For many lawmakers, the investigation seems to be moving from the most egregious practices of a few members to criminalizing some basic fund-raising and lobbying techniques. "There is widespread belief on the Hill that the Justice Department is out of control with this idea that campaign contributions equals bribery," noted one Republican close to the caucus. [emphasis mine -- CE]

Thus far, government attorneys haven't made such a claim in a case against a lawmaker. But several have been forced to publicly explain how campaign donations didn't affect their official acts and to turn over documents to the FBI to prove it.

Congressmen are shocked, shocked! to discover that the FBI equates campaign contributions with bribery! Where could they have gotten this idea?

Er ... perhaps here?

On March 27, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), Public Law No. 107-155. The BCRA contains many substantial and technical changes to the federal campaign finance law.

You could have fooled us, too. We thought political speech was protected by the First Amendment, but the same boobs who profess such shock at the DoJ's interpretation of campaign contributions as potential bribes made political speech equivalent to campaign contributions.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 26, 2006 12:30 PM

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» NSA leak/Jefferson/Congress, Whaaa? from The Anchoress
Okay, this is just getting too interesting…or too confusing, I can’t decide which. Here’s Mac’s Mind, this morning: (Quoting CNN) The FBI wants to interview top members of Congress from both parties about the leak to The New ... [Read More]

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Tracked on May 26, 2006 5:58 PM


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