Tuesday, January 03, 2006

L'affaire Abramoff and the Balance of Power

Talking Points Memo takes up a reader letter comparing Abscam to the l'affaire Abramoff.
There is a lesson to be learned from the "Abscam" investigations that should be applied to ... "The Abramoff Matter." (hereafter TAM). That lesson is that TAM exceeds the scope of the legal system and, specifically, the Justice Department. ... "Abscam" was a DOJ sting operation that offered bribes to congressmen. It turned out that it was a very successful sting and several members of Congress were prosecuted. But then the operation was terminated although ... there were more opportunities for success. ... DOJ determined that if they did continue then what began as a law enforcement project could alter the political balance within the Legislative branch. The DOJ decided ... that it was not their place to fundamentally alter that political balance.

And so it will be with TAM. At some point TAM will become a potent enough matter to be profoundly political in nature and those involved in the legal system will have to withdraw. To do otherwise would be to improperly engage the legal system in a political contest and undermine the foundational premise of an independent judiciary. This is the tightrope that Fitzgerald is walking in the Plame matter. So long as he is pursuing the violation of a particular Federal statute he is on solid ground. But were he to find himself standing on the threshold of something that, if pursued, could alter the political balance of power then he would have to retreat. ...

I disagree. Abscam was a sting. It is arguable whether the congressmen would have committed crimes without the opportunity provided by the sting. I think the DOJ finally realized that, and chose not to corrupt more and more congressmen by continuing it.

L'affaire Abramoff is discovery of committed crimes, involving a lobbyist who has admitted committing crimes all on his own, with the participation, apparently, of at least one congressman.

TPM's letter writer is wrong about there being a limit to how far the DOJ should go. Under that reasoning, suppose that the DOJ finds that laws were broken that enabled the Republicans to grasp more political power than they would have gained had they obeyed the law. Prosecuting those crimes might "alter the political balance of power" - back to where it "should" be. So the DOJ should back out of it?

That's nuts. Follow it to it's logical conclusion, and you have a dictatorship.


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