The Floor Debate on the McDade-Murtha Bill

Printed in the American Almanac, August, 1998.

End of Page Table of Contents Site Map Overview PageHome Page

The Aug. 5 floor debate, excerpted below, erupted over an attempt by three former prosecutors, to eliminate the McDade-Murtha Citzens Protection Act as an amendment (title VIII) to the Commerce, State and Justice Appropriations bill. The Hutchinson-Barr-Bryant amendment was defeated in a landslide, and a resounding victory for justice. Leading up to the debate was an in-depth mobilization by the LaRouche movement, which succeeded, through a widespread constituency activation, and a hard-hitting lobbying effort in Washington, and in the home districts of dozens of members of Congress, in winning more than 200 co-sponsors for the McDade-Murtha bill.

Even more significant is that this led to the most extraordinary and unprecedented level of political discourse among our elected officials--perhaps since the time of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.

The bill was will now go to a House-Senate conference comittee, following the Labor Day recess. The only real assurance the McDade-Murtha bill will carry in the Senate, is a mobilization, even bigger than the one organized in the House, of citizens to put pressure on their elected representatives.

Are the DOJ and its defenders worried? You bet they are! The Washington Post Aug. 13 published a scathing editorial attack on the bill, using the very formulations used by the Justice Department itself to defend prosecutorial abuses, and demanded the Senate throw out the Citizens Protection Act, and failing that, that the President veto it! This, after not giving one word of coverage to the existence of the bill, until its landslide victory in the House.

Why are they so worried? If you read the excerpts from the House debate which follows, you'll get the idea. (Note the speech of Rep. Conyers, who offers a ``perfecting amendment'' to McDade-Murtha; this was intended to provoke partisan bickering over the independent counsel and sink the bill; Conyers actually voted against McDade-Murtha!)

For additional coverage of the victory, see New Federalist, Aug. 17, and EIR, Aug. 14.

Mr. Hutchinson (R-Ark): Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Hutchinson-Barr-Bryant amendment.... The title VIII, which our amendment would strike, goes far afield from the ordinary requirements of the spending bill. It includes almost verbatim the well-intentioned, but ill-advised, Citizen Protection Act. Including this legislative title in the bill violates the normal process in this House by bypassing committee hearings and markups, but even more importantly, it is wrong on substance. The proposed title VIII, which is the subject of our amendment, would cut to the heart of our Federal system of justice ... I know that is why all former United States Attorneys now serving in Congress are co-sponsors of this amendment and are leading this effort.

Mr. Conyers (D-Mich): [A]s we have seen, the present independent counsel, perhaps more than anyone else, should be subject to each and every stringent provision that is included in this measure. As a matter of fact, I presume that it is an accident that the measure was drafted so that this was left out. If anybody has any information to the contrary, I would sure like to know about it.... The whole problem is that this provision, whether it is struck or kept, should not be examined without us including the independent counsel. [emphasis added]

Mr. Murtha (D-Pa): Mr. Chairman, I just want the Members of this House to know that I sat beside the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Joe McDade), a Member of Congress for eight years, while he was investigated for six years; the most insidious tactics that could possibly have been used against him....

In the indictment they said campaign contributions are bribes. The rules of the House are clear about the legality of campaign contributions, that honorariums are legal gratuities. That is what they charged him with. They were trying to intimidate a Member of the House of Representatives.

In addition to that, in addition to trying to intimidate the House of Representatives and ignore the rules of the House, which the public saw immediately, he was re-elected three times during this period, when they leaked everything that could possibly be leaked, using those unethical tactics we are talking about during this period of time. Then, after this is all over, they tried to promote the prosecutor to judge.

Now, this is a Member of Congress who was able to raise $1 million to defend himself. The ordinary citizen, the ordinary person, cannot raise $1 million. The ordinary citizen cannot even raise money to defend himself. The public at one time used to think that a person was innocent until [proven] guilty. Now they get the impression, because of the leaks, the unethical leaks that come from the prosecutor, that the individual is guilty....

We call this the Citizens Protection Act because we feel so strongly that the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McDade] is just an example. What he did for the House of Representatives is absolutely essential to our independence. But what we are trying to do for the ordinary citizen is absolutely important to their individual protection. We believe we need an independent body to watch over them, to give them some sort of controls so that they do not go off without control and then be promoted, as somebody was after Waco, and the terrible, terrible injustice they did to the individual in Atlanta with the leaks that came out of the Justice Department....

I just hope that the Members--and we have almost 200 co-sponsors of this legislation. We have said to the Justice Department, if you have individual situations that you would like us to look at, we would be glad to look at that. They have not come back with anything. They just want to take this out. They want no kind of controls from the outside.

So, we believe that it is important to put some kind of controls over the unethical conduct of the Justice Department. As a matter of fact, we have 50 chief justices of the United States that have said that they believe that the Justice Department of the United States should fall under the ethical rules of each of the States.

Mr. Ford (D-Tenn: I would say that I bring a bit of personal experience to this as well. I am saddened to have heard what happened to my new friend and my father's friend over the years, the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McDade]....

As a matter of fact, my father was indicted some several years back by one of the prosecutors working with counsel [Kenneth] Starr, Hickman Ewing. After five years of investigating, several years, one trial, a second trial, abuse by the Justice Department, simply trampling the rights of an individual, another Member of Congress, I cannot tell you the pain that it exacted on my family and my father personally.

Fortunately and blessedly, we were able to survive. But plentiful and often times it seemed exhaustless resources of the Federal government--for prosecutors not to be reined in, not to have to comply with some sense of ethical conduct, Mr. Chairman, I submit to you it is un-American. I submit to my friends on the other side, no matter how noble their wanting to strike this provision might be, we have American rights, we have American liberties. And whether or not they choose to agree with the person's politics, whether it is on President Clinton's part with Ken Starr, whether it is a Republican that disagrees with a Republican or a Democrat with a Republican, it is unfair to trample people's lives.

Ms. Waters (R-Calif: We are watching unfold before our very eyes a violation of the Constitution of the United States of America. If there is one thing I cherish, it is my privacy. We cannot have a special prosecutor who will go to a bookstore and demand to know what books someone purchased in America. That is unacceptable.

But there are other questions that are being raised as it relates to the special prosecutor that deal with the violation of the Constitution of the United States, not only the violation of privacy that I just alluded to. We have questions of wiretap and wiretapping. We are looking at a whole new debate about attorney-client privileges. This is too important to be sidelined by someone who does not want to hear it because they have got another agenda.

Mr. Chairman, there should be no question that this is in order. I hope we do not have to get to the point that the chairman will even have to rule on this. I do not want this body divided on a partisan basis on this issue.

This is not about partisan politics at this moment. This is about the Constitution of the United States of America, and whether or not citizens are going to have basic protections that we thought were guaranteed to us by the Constitution....

The fact of the matter is that we have violations of the Constitution being perpetrated on us by those who work in the Justice Department, and it is off the scale when we look at this special prosecutor. He has gone too far.

Mr. Kanjorski (D-Pa): Mr. Chairman, I want to compliment my two colleagues, the gentlemen from Pennsylvania, Mr. McDade and Mr. Murtha, for coming before the Congress in a timely fashion and raising a question that is very important. I want to say to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, this is not a political issue. This is an issue of fundamental fairness.

I occupy the District immediately south of the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McDade]. Members cannot imagine what this government and those prosecutors did to that Member of Congress. I do not know of any other Member of Congress who could have withstood the leaks and the poisonous spirit in which the public persecution, not prosecution, occurred. Yes, it was lucky that Joe McDade had $1 million, or could raise $1 million, but how many more Americans could raise that amount? That is the substantive question, here....

I am sort of embarrassed to bring up another issue, but we had a prosecution in Pennsylvania, and the gentlemen from Pennsylvania, Mr. Joe McDade and Mr. Jack Murtha, will remember this. There was a Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where a prosecutor was prosecuting the improper award of a contract and brought a criminal action. The witnesses in that case testified against the contractor and the contractor was convicted of bribery.

Within one month, the prosecutors in that case had those very same witnesses change their story 180-degrees to now testify against the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and threatened those witnesses with prosecution of their wives and their children. It is a famous story across this country. It was witnessed on television.

The only way that Treasurer could protect the future of his family and maintain his pension was to commit suicide before sentencing, and he did.

Mr. Chairman, if that is not extreme, extraordinary prosecutorial activity, I do not know what is. I have witnessed it in the case of the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McDade]. I am witnessing it with this special counsel.

There are statistics now available that, in the White House alone, the individuals working there have had to spend more than $12 million in hiring lawyers to appear in depositions and before grand juries who are not in any way substantively involved. We are going on and on.

What this ends up doing, and the American people know this, is destroying respect for the American judicial system, all with the idea that every now and then some prosecutor who wears a pearl-handled .45 revolver can find somebody who has a grudge against an elected official, Republican or Democrat, who can make a point to bring a charge, and substantiate that charge by just marginal testimony, sufficient to get an indictment, but not sufficient to convict.

But you can take that public official down the road to ruination, that family down the road to ruination, our system down the road to ruination. Why? Why do we sit here? Why are we so innocent? Why have we not recognized that this has been happening over and over and over again? Why are we asking for the McDade-Murtha language?

It was an understanding in the bar and in the prosecutorial field and in the defense field that there were certain standards of ethics and honor, certain things you did not do, an unwritten code. Well, the prosecutors in the United States today, whether they be special counsels or regular prosecutors, have shown us that they are going to push it to the end of the envelope and beyond. They are going to write their own definition of what standards are.

So it is incumbent upon this House, the people's House, to determine that if you are going to push it to the edge of the envelope and you are going to destroy lives and you are going to prosecute people unreasonably at high expense and at a detriment to both, the family and this democracy, then this public House should take action.

Mr. King (R-NY: I think it is time to put a human face on the abuses that are carried out by prosecutors in this country, prosecutors who consistently violate the rights of innocent human beings, innocent citizens and their families, friends and relatives.

By putting a human face on it, I would like to refer to a predecessor that I had here in the Congress, Angelo Roncallo, a man who a number of years ago sat in the very seat that I occupy today. And what went on in his case has happened in so many other cases over the years.

He was a man who was brought in by the United States Attorney and told he had to deliver a political leader. When he refused to do that, he was called before the grand jury. His family was harassed. He was indicted. His friends were indicted. Everything was leaked to the newspapers. This man's career was destroyed. He was defeated here in the United States Congress.

Finally his case went to trial. The jury was out 30 minutes and he was acquitted. It came out during that case that all throughout, from day one, the prosecutors had evidence that would have completely exonerated this defendant. They knew it from day one. Throughout the trial, they had U.S. Marshals stand around the U.S. Attorney's office because they had convinced the judge that this Congressman, Angelo Roncallo, was somehow going to have them killed during the trial. The jury had to witness this, Marshals in the courtroom day in and day out.

When the trial was over, the judge said it was a disgrace. He referred it to the Justice Department to have it investigated. What was done? Nothing. That is what always happens. Nothing.

The gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Barr] said it is bizarre. He said that opposition to the Hutchinson amendment is bizarre. He said the comments of the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Murtha] were bizarre. I would say to the gentleman from Georgia, if he were targetted by a prosecutor, if they tried to destroy his reputation, he would find that bizarre.

I think it is important for all of us in this Chamber, those of us who are self-righteous, those of us who say it could never happen to us, let you be the target of an unscrupulous prosecutor, and you will see how fast you will change your tune when you see your wife harassed and your children. And I can go on and on with case after case. I remember I was once negotiating with the United States Attorney in a case and he ended the discussion, ended the negotiation by telling me that he was the United States of America, it was time that I realized it.

The fact is, no prosecutor in this country is the United States of America. The United States of America is the people. We represent the people. It is time for us to stand up and say no to these prosecutors, no matter where they are coming from.

Prosecutors are out of control. They are ruining the civil liberties of people in this country. I am a Republican. I cannot understand how Members in my party who say they support individual rights could ever allow a prosecutor to trample upon the rights of innocent people--the abuses that they are guilty of....

I again urge and implore all of my colleagues to defeat the Hutchinson amendment, stand with the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McDade], stand with the Constitution and say no to this untrammeled abuse of power by the prosecutors and our Justice Department today.

Mr. Delahunt (D-Mass): I listened to the debate, and I think we have got to step back and reflect. This is really rather simple. It is about ethics. That is what it is about. It is about ethics, and the existing code of ethics that every single state prosecutor subscribes to ought to be applied to Department of Justice attorneys.

I do not think that is asking too much. We have heard a lot about law enforcement concerns, but that should not justify the creation of a lesser standard of ethics for Federal prosecutors. It just does not work.

We should pause and think about the power of the prosecutor, and I know that power. I was an elected prosecutor for more than 20 years. I understand that power. I know what it can do to individuals. I know what it can do to families, and it should be exercised judiciously. I submit that most prosecutors, Federal and State, do that.

The single admonition that I would instruct each and every assistant district attorney, was to never abuse the power of that office, never abuse the power of that office, because it is an enormous power.

There is no power greater in a democracy where you have the capacity to take the individual liberties away from an individual. That is the ultimate power, and if that power is abused, it begins the process of the erosion of a healthy democracy.

I dare say the prosecutor should be held to the highest possible standards, the highest code of ethics, because the American people have given them an extraordinary power, whether they are independent counsels, whether they are State prosecutors, whether they are United States Attorneys.

Ms. Waters (D-Calif): Legislators at the state level, at the Federal level have been absolutely supportive of the criminal justice system. They have done everything to give law enforcement the ability to apprehend criminals. They have done everything to be supportive of the Justice Department.

When we look at the generosity of public policymakers on wire-tapping, no-knock, search and seizure, all of that, when we look at mandatory minimums, three-strikes-and-you-are-out conspiracy laws, we have been very generous, sending a message to the people of this nation, we want criminals locked up.

We never knew that they would take the generosity of good public policymakers and turn it on its head. We never knew that they would take out after innocent people in so many different ways.

I cannot even get into telling my colleagues how they use conspiracy laws. No evidence, no documentation. These conspiracy laws are filling up the prisons.

...I know thousands of Mr. McDades who do not have any money, who do not have any attorneys, whose grandmothers and mothers come crying to my office for me to help them and I cannot do anything because my powerful government, prosecutors, have run amuck.

Let me tell my colleagues, my hat is off, my hat is off to the ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary [Mr. Conyers], my friend from Detroit, Michigan, for this amendment.

But I want to tell my colleagues, I want to make it very clear, he is talking about a generic prosecutor. I am talking about generic prosecutors, but I am talking about Ken Starr also. I want to tell my colleagues, he is under investigation. He is the poster boy for unethical prosecutors. I want to tell my colleagues he is under investigation because he has leaks about Hillary Clinton getting indicted, leaks about Bruce Lindsey getting indicted, leaks about Monica Lewinsky meeting with Ken Starr in New York City, leaks about Betty Currie's testimony, leaks about FBI wire conversations at the Ritz Carlton hotel. Even the Republicans have said he should be investigated.

So let me make it clear. We would not be in this debate today, we would not have this amendment today if this poster boy for unethical prosecutors had not violated all of us in the way he has done....

It is time for America to believe that even though we want criminals prosecuted, indicted, and locked up, we do not intend for them to be violated and run over and disrespected by anybody's prosecutor.

I want to tell my colleagues something. No matter what they think about the gentlewoman from California [Ms. Waters] on the left or somebody on the right, there is one thing that I hold dear that was drummed in my head as a student, and that was the Constitution of the United States of America.

I was made to believe that I would be protected. Even when things were going wrong, there would be some hope because we had a system of justice that would make sure that the average person, in the final analysis, would have an opportunity for redress. And I believed in this Constitution....

I do not care about some other prosecutor who is a prosecutor in a state somewhere in Georgia who gets up and defends all prosecutors. I know the reputation of some prosecutors. I know the lives that have been ruined by some state prosecutors. They are no better than these Federal ones that we are talking about.

I want criminals to be apprehended, to be investigated, to be locked up. But I want people to have a chance to have their voices heard and to have a chance to be innocent until proven guilty, and that is why we have got to go after this special prosecutor.

Ms. Jackson Lee (D-Texas): Mr. Chairman, let me respond to many of the issues that have been expressed on this floor. I would say to the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McDade] that it is my view that no one deserves to be put on the trash heap of life. That sounds like a very harsh statement, harsh in that that is not your destiny. But I do believe that we have an opportunity today to maybe speak for many across this country who unfortunately were caught in the web of someone's misdirections and someone's abuse of power. I think it is appropriate for those of us who are members of the Committee on the Judiciary to say first of all that prosecutors across this nation have done good by the people of the United States of America. They have prosecuted those well deserving of being prosecuted. They are by and large officers of the court who have upheld the highest standards.

But why are we arguing against prosecutors being subject to the same state laws and rules and local court rules and state bar rules of ethics of any other series of lawyers? Why are we suggesting to our constituents that there is something wrong with requiring prosecutors, Federal prosecutors, to not seek an indictment against you with no probable cause, to fail to promptly release information that may exonerate you, to attempt to alter or misstate evidence, to attempt to influence or color a witness's testimony, to act to frustrate or impede a defendant's right to discovery. Yes, the scale of justice is balanced and blind, and that is what we are speaking of, to be able to equalize you in a court of law against a Federal prosecutor representing the United States of America.

Let me thank the prosecutors for going into the deep South in the 1960s and raising up issues of civil rights that other local attorneys could not raise up. Let me thank them, The Department of Justice did an amazing job in dealing with those issues. So, we realize the uniqueness of the Federal prosecutor system. But, does that mean that we throw people to the trash heap of life? Do you lose all of your rights because you go into a Federal courtroom and a prosecutor says, `I have all of the rights'? I believe that we are doing nothing here that is against the boundaries of respect for our Federal system.

Let me say as a member again of the Committee on the Judiciary, yes, I think our job might have been better if we had had hearings. In fact, I do not think we are finished. I think we must proceed and investigate even more whether there are abuses across the country. But today we are where we are. We have an opportunity not to attack but to make better.

This underlying amendment and, of course, the amendment by the gentleman from Michigan that includes the independent counsel, which is very clear, an employee of the Department of Justice is the independent counsel, will protect you the citizen against the kinds of abuses which we face every day.

There is something that is scripturally based. When the woman touched the hem of the garment of Jesus in Christian doctrine, it was said she was healed. It is difficult, of course, to perceive prosecutors along those lines. But they say touch their garment and get no justice. That is the tragedy of what we face.

Mr. Bryant (R-Tenn): I rise in opposition to this amendment [Conyers] and in further support of the underlying amendment that I co-sponsored in opposition to the provision in the base bill which would unduly, in my opinion, hamper our prosecutors.

I stand today to support our prosecutors. I guess I am somewhat surprised as I sit and listen to all the bashing that is going on about our prosecutors, our Federal prosecutors, the people who are Presidentially appointed and confirmed by the Senate who serve in our 93 positions as U.S. Attorneys as well as our Assistant U.S. Attorneys, the people who prosecute day in and day out throughout this country the people that need to be prosecuted, not in a perfect way and as we hear anecdotal stories of perhaps cases that should not have been prosecuted, and I have great respect for the gentleman from Pennsylvania, I know very little about his case, and mistakes have been made, I am sure, throughout the history of prosecution.

But, as has been said, by and large these are good prosecutors trying to do the right thing in many cases and in very dangerous, very tough situations. What I want to guard against here today is an overreaction to these anecdotal cases. What I want to prevent is the handcuffing of our prosecutors by requiring them, as the underlying bill does, to submit to the rules and regulations and disciplinary proceedings of the various states in which they prosecute....

Again, I have great respect for the people who are on the other side of this issue and who have been involved in the system. But yet, I cannot help but believe we are literally throwing out the baby with the bath water here. This is totally, totally unnecessary. For instance, it creates a misconduct board which is constituted by appointments from the President and from the House. That in and of itself violates the very sacred separation-of-powers doctrine.

I would encourage people to stand back from the emotion and look at the overall interest of justice here, not just a few very bad cases, and stand behind our prosecutors who already subscribe to these ethical laws and oppose this amendment.

Mr. Rohrabacher (R-Calif): Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the Conyers amendment as well as in opposition to the Hutchinson amendment, which would then strike the McDade-Murtha provision of this bill. In essence, McDade-Murtha codifies the long-recognized, but recently ignored principles that U.S. Attorneys must abide by the same rules of ethics as all other practicing lawyers. The Conyers amendment says that this includes special counsel as well, not just the people who are currently employed by the Department of Justice, and that makes all the sense in the world.

Limited government is the prerequisite for liberty and justice. That is what we are talking about today, limiting government power to what is a reasonable power to maintain order in our society.

Well, however, over the last three decades, because of the fear of crime, we have ended up granting enormous power with very few checks and balances to prosecutors. We have just been expanding their power, and yours truly is just as guilty as anybody else out of fear of crime to give prosecutors power without having any checks and balances. Now we are surprised to see that big government, with lots of power, people in that government tend to abuse that power.

Our Founding Fathers would not be surprised at that. The fact is, every time we expand power we have to put checks in place or there will be abuses of power. For far too many times, we have seen out-of-control prosecutors who now have all this more power to attack the bad guys, not seeking truth or not trying to protect the innocent, but instead engaging themselves in self-aggrandizing, targetted attacks, often pushing relentlessly for some kind of prosecutorial victory regardless of the cost and, at times, regardless of the actual guilt or innocence of the target.

I and other supporters of the McDade-Murtha provision, and we are advocates of law and order, take this stand today to protect freedom and liberty threatened by prosecutors who are not being held to the same standards as other people in the legal profession. The gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Buyer] answered these charges, that there is going to be confusion, that we have different standards at the local level. The fact is that we expect our prosecutors to be at the highest level because we are protecting the rights of our citizens, the freedom of the people of the United States of America.

Far too often we have seen cases like the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McDade] where prosecutors are out of control and politically motivated. They go out and destroy public officials and public people. But what about the little guys? The little guys who have no money to defend themselves and are faced by these same abusive prosecutors?

No, putting down a code of conduct, if my colleagues will, a standard of ethics for the prosecutors, is something good. It is totally consistent with freedom in our country, with what our Founding Fathers wanted, with the concepts of limited government.

Mr. Hutchinson (R-Ark): I have made mention of the fact I am a former Federal prosecutor, and that is true. I was a prosecutor in the mid-'80s, but after I left that, I became a defense attorney. So I have sat in that courtroom and I have heard a jury come back with an acquittal, and I realized an acquittal does not remedy everything, because an individual defendant who has been through an enormous Federal criminal trial still suffers consequences.

But I believe that we took a big step in this Congress in remedying and curtailing and striking a better balance, and that was when we passed and it was signed into law, the provision that said that if there is a frivolous prosecution, then the acquitted defendant can recover attorney's fees from the government.

I think we need to have time for that to work. I think it strikes a better balance....

In addition to the reviews of the state ethics laws, you presently have the Office of Professional Responsibility. You have the inspector general that will have review over these Federal prosecutors, in addition to the Federal courts--

Mr. Rohrabacher: Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. Hutchinson: I yield to the gentleman from California.

Mr. Rohrabacher: Does the gentleman believe that if a prosecutor, for example, encourages a witness to commit perjury or breaks the law in some other way, that that prosecutor should himself or herself be prosecuted for violating the law for doing something like that?

Mr. Hutchinson: Absolutely. That is obstruction of justice.

Mr. Rohrabacher: How many prosecutors have been prosecuted? Almost none, is that right? Instead, like in the case of the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McDade], they get promotions.

Mr. Hinchey (D-NY): It seems to me that in the context of this debate, which is an extraordinarily important one, that there is one basic point that we need to focus on, and that is a very simple one: The underlying principles of this Republic, the founding and sustaining principle, is that government draws its just authority from the consent of the governed. We all know that. We all learned that in grammar school.

You cannot have the consent of the governed unless you have their confidence. The governed cannot give their consent unless they have confidence in that which they are giving consent to.

Nowhere in the government is that more stringently important than with regard to the activities of the Department of Justice. And the reason for that is obvious, because the Department of Justice has extraordinary power over individual Americans, over life, liberty, and property of every single citizen of every state.

Therefore, particularly the Department of Justice must be held under strict constraint. Nowhere else in the government is it as important as in the Department of Justice. That is why the McDade language in the Commerce-Justice bill is so important....

Mr. Delahunt (D-Mass): Mr. Chairman, I think it is important, given the statements by my friend from Arkansas [Mr. Hutchison], whom I have great respect for, that if somehow you support McDade and Murtha you are somehow assisting or abetting drug cartels in the United States. That simply is not the case.

State prosecutors historically have conducted investigations that are multistate in nature, whether it be organized crime, whether it be drug trafficking, whether it be white collar crime. They adjust. As the gentleman from Arkansas indicated, Massachusetts has a very stringent standard in terms of prosecutorial ethics, but it has not caused a problem.

It is reminiscent of when the Warren Court issued the landmark cases in Mapp and Miranda. It was going to impede and be the end, in terms of law enforcement. I dare say, now we have better and more professional law enforcement that is more ethical than ever before.

Mr. McDade: Mr. Chairman, let me say to my colleagues, I had not intended to speak on this aspect of the bill, but in view of the comments that were made a few moments ago, I am compelled to.

Under the current system that we heard described by my colleagues, the gentlemen from Tennessee and from Arkansas, there is a remedy for a citizen, once convicted. They can appeal to another court, a higher court. They can make a recommendation or an argument at OPR, the Office of Professional Responsibility in the Department of Justice, after they have been convicted; lives ruined, bankrupt. If they can prove something, they might get a reversal of their case.

Let me be specific. In the case of United States v. Taylor about a year ago, the Department of Justice twisted the testimony of an individual and convicted him on perjurous testimony. If we read the case, we will read that the judge that tried it found the employees of the Department guilty of obstruction of justice. What a charge, corrupting the system that they are are supposed to be defending.

What did the Office of Professional Responsibility do after the judge made that finding? Mr. Chairman, they gave the people who corrupted that system a five-day suspension from their jobs, a five-day suspension for corrupting the system of justice in this country. No better example exists as to why we need to empower a citizen to have the right to have his case heard in front of the conviction and away from the OPR by an independent body.

Mr. McDade (R-Pennsylvania):

Under the current system that we heard described by my colleagues, the gentlemen from Tennessee [Mr. Bryant] and from Arkansas [Mr. Hutchinson], there is a remedy for a citizen, once convicted. They can appeal to another court, a higher court. They can make a recommendation or an argument at OPR, the Office of Professional Responsibility in the Department of Justice, after they have been convicted; lives ruined, bankrupt. If they can prove something, they might get a reversal of their case.

Let me be specific. In the case of United States v. Taylor about a year ago, the Department of Justice twisted the testimony of an individual and convicted him on perjurous testimony. If we read the case, we will read that the judge that tried it found the employees of the Department guilty of obstruction of justice. What a charge, corrupting the system that they are are supposed to be defending.

What did the Office of Professional Responsibility do after the judge made that finding? Mr. Chairman, they gave the people who corrupted that system a five-day suspension from their jobs, a five-day suspension for corrupting the system of justice in this country. No better example exists as to why we need to empower a citizen to have the right to have his case heard in front of the conviction and away from the OPR by an independent body.

Mr. Barr: This is a very emotional issue because people who are well-known to us are in favor of it. But this bill should not go forward. This amendment that we have should go forward, and the underlying title VIII stricken, because it will do tremendous injustice to the fabric of how United States attorneys conduct very sophisticated, very complex, very far-reaching multi-state investigations. Also, Title VIII would allow an outside panel, not composed of prosecutors, to have full access to every bit of the prosecutor's case. That would be outrageous and it would, in effect, stop important prosecutions.

Let us not throw the baby out with the bath water. If there have been abuses, then let us address those particular abuses, but not change and take away the ability of Federal prosecutors to conduct multi-state investigations.

Mr. Murtha: Mr. Chairman, if the Members think I am excited about this, they are right. If they think I am sincere and focussed on this issue, I am.

I sat beside the gentleman from Pennsylvania for eight years, eight years while he was under persecution by the Justice Department: six years investigation, two years intimidation, under indictment. I watched the gentleman decline physically, mentally, and emotionally from the strain of the Justice Department....

I would hope that the House would rise up and show the prosecutors who are out of control, not all of them, just the ones out of control, that they need some sort of oversight and that this House will send a clear signal to the rest of the country that we will not stand by, [allowing] citizens to be persecuted by a prosecution.

Mr. Bryant: The three former U.S. Attorneys in this body have stood up and told my colleagues, as I tell you today, being one of those, let us not overreact. As the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Murtha] said, the United States attorneys have tremendous power.

We, as Members of Congress, have tremendous power beyond that and let us do not abuse this situation. It was a terrible situation with the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McDade]. I wish it could be corrected. It is not a perfect situation, but the U.S. attorneys are under the ethics rules of their states.

Fortunately, they do many multi-state prosecutions, and as the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Barr] said, these prosecutions will be literally handcuffed if we pass this bill and make them comply with every local ethics disciplinary board proceeding which they go into, whether it is Florida, Louisiana, or wherever.

I know it is tough, but let us do the right thing and vote for this amendment.

Top of Page Table of Contents Site Map Overview PageHome Page

The preceding article is a rough version of the article that appeared in The American Almanac. It is made available here with the permission of The New Federalist Newspaper. Any use of, or quotations from, this article must attribute them to The New Federalist, and The American Almanac

Publications and Subscriptions for sale. See: Publications and Subscriptions

Readings from the American Almanac. Contact us at: