SEPTEMBER 28, 2007
An embattled congressman is fighting a federal subpoena for records that could criminally link him to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, saying the Constitution forbids the executive branch from intervening in legislative affairs.
In its ongoing Abramoff influence-peddling investigation, the Department of Justice is aggressively seeking evidence that could tie numerous lawmakers to the high-powered Washington lobbyistâ??s corrupt dealings. Dozens have already been convicted in the scandal, including Ohio Republican Congressman Bob Ney.
Federal prosecutors now have their eye on California Republican John Doolittle, a close friend of Abramoffâ??s who stepped down from his House Appropriations Committee seat after his Virginia home was raided by the FBI earlier this year. Doolittle accepted hefty campaign donations from Abramoff and intervened on behalf of the lobbyistâ??s wealthy Indian tribe clients.
Now the Justice Department wants the congressman and his staff to turn over 11 years worth of legislative records. Claiming congressional independence, Doolittle has vowed to fight the request because he says the Justice Department has overstepped its authority.
Another corrupt lawmaker, busted with a $90,000 cash bribe in his freezer, recently used a similar argument after his office was raided by federal authorities. Louisiana Democrat William â??Dollarâ? Jefferson said the search was unconstitutional because it trampled on congressional independence and violated the constitutionality established separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
In Jeffersonâ??s case Judicial Watch filed and amicus curaie brief stating that the Constitutionâ??s Speech or Debate Clause, which protects members of Congress from â??intimidation by the executive and accountability before a possible hostile judiciary,â? did not make the search of his office unconstitutional.
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