A Washington-based watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice, seeking information about the feds' failure to prosecute former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX).
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. CREW says the DOJ failed to release FBI records related to investigations of DeLay, convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and others. CREW says it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to determine why the federal government never pursued a prosecution against DeLay.
Could this be a first step toward learning why the Obama Justice Department has taken a nonsensical "look forward, not backwards" approach to apparent crimes under the George W. Bush administration? Based on a press release from CREW, the answer appears to be yes.
Texas authorities convicted DeLay on state charges for a scheme in which he illegally helped funnel corporate contributions to Republican Texas legislative candidates. He was sentenced in January to three years in prison, but remains free pending his appeal. The federal government, however, never pursued charges against DeLay--and CREW wants to know why. From the CREW press release:
“Rep. Tom DeLay spent years turning the House of Representatives into his personal casino, and yet shockingly was never federally prosecuted. The American people deserve to know why,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.
Why is the Justice Department stonewalling on providing records about its actions--and inactions--in the DeLay case? Allan Lengel, at ticklethewire.com, provides insight:
CREW said in a press release that the Justice Department denied the FOIA request because the release of records would interfere with open law enforcement proceedings.
“Yet DOJ told Rep. DeLay in August 2010 it had closed its investigation of him. In addition, the FBI argued releasing records would violate Rep. DeLay’s privacy, failing to take into account that he was a government official and there has been significant public interest in his conduct, the investigation, and DOJ’s decision not to prosecute,” the release said.
CREW's interest goes beyond DeLay. From its press release:
CREW has filed similar requests for records of DOJ’s closed investigations of Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and Don Young (R-AK), former Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), and Senator John Ensign (R-NV).
“The DeLay case is just one in a string of troubling instances where the Department of Justice has declined to prosecute blatantly corrupt politicians,” said Ms. Sloan. “The department doesn’t even want the public to know why it didn’t prosecute. If Rep. DeLay’s actions really were not criminal, shouldn’t DOJ be happy to turn over its records and prove that? Why all the secrecy?”
So far, CREW seems to be focusing on the DOJ's failure to prosecute public-corruption cases. But what about cases during the Bush years when the DOJ brought apparently bogus corruption cases, largely against Democrats?
Could CREW wind up seeking documents about political prosecutions, such as those involving former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and Mississippi attorney Paul Minor? The answer to that question remains unclear. But it's encouraging to see that someone is seeking transparency from an Obama DOJ that has been shrouded in secrecy.
Here is a link to the CREW complaint against DOJ:
CREW lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice