Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Criminalization of Politics

Conservatives are more than criticizing Speaker Pelosi regarding her trip to Syria, they are saying that her trip was illegal. See here a local Oklahoma conservative website: Did Nancy Pelosi Violate the Logan Act?

Conservatives have been trying to criminalize all sorts of activities that are in opposition to their power. The use of the criminal justice system on political opponents is becoming part of a pattern of abuse of power that is more evident every day. It is not enough that you disagree with their political ideas, now it is important to criminally prosecute them for holding -- and expressing -- opposing views. As for the Logan Act, most legal scholars hold the opinion that it is unconstitutional. But even if it is not, there is precedent that an elected Speaker of the House has the authority to visit foreign leaders and discuss the effects of that foreign leader's actions on the United States. See this discussion on a legal blog.

The US Attorney scandal is just another part this overall picture. The ability to obtain a criminal conviction that will withstand judicial scrutiny is unimportant. It is only important that a political opponent's voice is quashed and that their ability to effectively campaign is quelled. Here is what the appeals court said about the evidence presented by a US Attorney appointed by President Bush against an associate of a Democratic political candidate in Wisconsin last year:

A Bush-nominated U.S. Attorney launches a corruption case during an election year that implicates the Democratic governor. He pushes the case, which targets an obscure state bureaucrat and obtains a conviction in June; she's sentenced to 18 months in prison in late September. The case is featured prominently by Republicans in attack ads against the governor.

But when the case is appealed (after the election), the circuit court, in a remarkable reversal, rejects the conviction out of hand, saying that the evidence against the bureaucrat "is beyond thin." Says one of the three circuit judges, "I'm not sure what your actual theory in this case is."

The court's opinion was a very strong rebuke. This apparently politically-motivated prosecution is not the kind of thing we expect from our judicial system. This criminalization of politics has got to stop. It is apparent that political strategists have discovered that the threat or use of prosecutions can help tip elections in their favor. That still doesn't give them the right to exploit the power that prosecutors have in an attempt to win elections. It is important that we can have faith in the independent judgment of those who serve as US Attorneys and that they will be serving the interest of Justice rather than a that of political strategists.


The Sacramento Bee reports:

Nothing was done in secret. State Department officials briefed Pelosi before her meetings with foreign leaders and were present in the meetings.

Kinda hard to argue that Pelosi was acting outside the law when the State Department was in the room.

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