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A Conyers Investigates. A Conyers Is Investigated

July 13, 2008
Center for Individual Freedom
U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, likes to investigate folks, almost all of whom work or have worked in the Executive Branch currently administered by that other political party.

All Judiciary Committee investigations are serious, because Conyers says they are. Some could even lead to, gasp, impeachment of this guy (usually the President) or that one (usually the Vice President). Did the President sneak extra peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into the private quarters? Did the Vice-President carry his personal shotgun onto a government plane? Who leaked Valerie Plame’s name other than the person who actually leaked Valerie Plame’s name? What did former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan know after he signed his book contract that he didn’t know before he signed his book contract? Serious government stuff.

Most Judiciary Committee investigations follow an invariable procedure: Conyers or one or more of his cohorts express outrage over something the administration may or may not have done. When the media gets tired of that, multiple subpoenas are issued. If the legitimacy of the subpoenas is questioned, Contempt of Congress threats are issued. If the subpoenas are honored, perjury threats are brandished.

The fundamental mechanism for a House Judiciary Committee investigation is a hearing. At a hearing, Chairman Conyers and most of his cohorts make speeches. Members of the minority party try to make speeches, but are frequently interrupted. After lunch, witnesses who agree with Chairman Conyers and his cohorts make speeches. Witnesses who disagree with Chairman Conyers, or remember events differently from witnesses who agree with him and his cohorts, are drawn and quartered.

Following the hearing and Members being photographed with and getting autographs from Valerie Plame (even if she wasn’t there that day), more expressions of outrage are issued.

Then, nothing. On to the next earth-shattering “investigation.”

Sometimes, though, that delicious irony of political America intrudes on the frivolity.

Thus it was that on July 5, a headline of The Detroit News read: “Bribe probe ensnarls Conyers.” No, not the aforementioned John Conyers. His wife, Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers.

Here’s the meat of Paul Egan’s News story: “Federal investigators have electronic surveillance evidence that allegedly links…Monica Conyers with receiving a payment or payments in connection with a city-approved sludge contract, two people familiar with the investigation said.

“Conyers – who changed her position from speaking in opposition to the sludge contract to voting in favor of it – and at least one other council member are under FBI investigation in connection with possible bribes related to the $47 million contract with Synagro Technologies Inc. of Houston, one of the people familiar with the investigation said Friday. Bribes allegedly paid to people connected with the city but not members of the City Council also are under investigation, one person said.”

Some colorful language and humorous details follow, including the names of prominent Detroit citizens the FBI has talked to or wants to talk to. Egan notes that, “the mayor [Kwame Kilpatrick], who is awaiting trial on unrelated perjury and and other felony charges related to his testimony at a police whistle-blower trial last year, has denied any involvement in the Synagro contract or ensuing investigation.”

The $47 million figure for the contract is annual, by the way. Who knew sludge could be so valuable?

Detroit is not Chinatown. It’s as scrutable as they come, particularly regarding its genetic corruption. As Sam Riddle, a political advisor to Mrs. Conyers who believes his phone has been wiretapped by the FBI in the investigation, told Charlie LeDuff of the News, “The only difference between Detroit and Third World nations in terms of corruption is that there are no goats in the streets in Detroit.”

For now, investigators seem to be publicly rattling the trees in a corrupt forest to see what indictments might fall out. Mrs. Conyers has been charged with nothing and if she is, must, of course, be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury of her peers.

We only wish that Mr. Conyers observed the same sense of fairness in his investigations.

P.S. If we have, for literary effect, mixed specific investigations of the House Judiciary Committee with those of Henry Waxman’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, it is because the differences are, in practical terms, meaningless.
Founded in 1998, the Center for Individual Freedom is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with the mission to protect and defend individual freedoms and individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

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