It seems that the FBI’s weekend raid of Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) congressional office has done what months and months of scandal could not: it has caused the leadership of the House to respond in a bi-partisan fashion.
Regrettably, the joint letter from House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was not a clarion call for members of Congress to clean up their act, nor was it a joint admission that the recently passed "reform" legislation doesn’t even begin to go far enough. Instead, it was a demand that the FBI immediately return all the files seized from Jefferson’s office. (See Corruption Headlines, below.)
This is not to say that there aren’t legitimate separation-of-powers questions here. But the raid would likely never have happened were it not for the rampant corruption which exists in Congress today, and the complicity of Congressional leadership, as they turn a blind eye with a nonexistent ethics process amid spreading allegations of wrongdoing.
ABC News has reported that Hastert is "in the mix" of the corruption probe, and certainly former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and his staff were at the center of the Abramoff scandal. And the House ethics committee just got around to announcing an investigation of Jeffersion this month, even though he’s been under a dark cloud of suspicion for more than year – the $90,000 stash in his freezer was discovered in a raid of his home last August.
It is also interesting to note that this Congress seems all too willing to allow the Bush administration’s questionable infringements on Americans’ civil rights, from the Patriot Act through the NSA wiretapping, yet when one of their own has his office raided, then stop the presses, it’s suddenly time to stand up for privacy rights. As Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) noted, the electorate "will come to one conclusion: that congressional leaders are trying to protect their own from valid investigations."
If members of Congress don’t want the FBI cleaning out their offices, maybe they should consider cleaning house themselves. Or will this be a task left for voters in November?