Heads Up

A Weekly edition of News from around our country

July 25, 1997 #45

by: Doug Fiedor fiedor19@eos.net

Previous Editions at: http://mmc.cns.net/headsup.html


Every once in a while we read something coming from Capitol Hill that actually sounds like a good idea. That is, it sounds good until we study it for a while.

This week, AP reports that a "you lose, you pay" penalty was amended to a spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee. The amendment was tucked into a bill providing funding for the Commerce, Justice and State departments.

"We're sending a message to the Justice Department," said Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), who spearheaded the amendment. "You've got the whole Justice Department (working) against you. This way, at least if you're acquitted ... you can get reimbursed."

Now, we have never personally been bothered by a prosecutor. Still, this sounded only fair. Any prosecutor filing charges against a citizen without first having conclusive proof of wrongdoing should themselves be prosecuted and have to make the citizen "whole" again. Otherwise, prosecutors could charge people they didn't like with whatever they wished, just to cause them aggravation.

Rep. Joseph McDade, (R-PA) said the "game on the part of the Justice Department is to break you. They use any method they can to achieve that end and at the end of the day they walk away. They can charge you with anything."

Strong words, coming from a member of Congress. Perhaps the Members of Congress will remember that as their law factory churns out thousands of pages of new law every month.

It is true, federal prosecutors have entirely too much power and are poorly supervised. A vindictive prosecutor, or one trying to make a name for himself, can ruin a person's life. Worse, a citizen has zero recourse. There is absolutely nothing a citizen can do about an out of control prosecutor coming after them.

But, alas, McDade will not remember his own words for long. You see folks, the provision would only apply to the Lords and Ladies of Congress -- and staffers, of course. The provision would let members of Congress and their legislative staff recoup legal fees if they prevail in court, and the money would be deducted from the Justice Department's budget.

American citizens -- we who pay all the bills -- don't count.

Just as an aside here: Anyone remember the remark by Pat Buchanan last year about the "peasants with pitchforks" storming Washington? These guys are sure making that thought attractive, aren't they!


Usually, there is so much truly outrageous material available we wish we had a full sized newspaper and a room full of writers. Just on freedom of speech this week there's . . . well, here's an outline of some of the more interesting of what we've found.

The first piece that caught our interest concerned our former Congresswoman from Detroit. Anyone thinking Rep. John Conyers is outrageous and fun to watch has to meet the former U.S. Rep. from Detroit, Barbara-Rose Collins. Conyers is the height of politeness and decorum when compared with Collins!

Beltway insiders may remember the flare with which Collins arrived in Washington. First, she was immediately charged with campaign finance fraud (but never prosecuted). Her first week in the House she repeatedly fell asleep sitting at her chair on the House floor -- and snored loudly. Turns out, she had been out clothes shopping for herself, her child and her paramour every afternoon and evening, using the left over campaign funds, and she was tired.

A few weeks later, she went to Africa to be made a queen of some little place. She told them she could get them foreign aid, so they made her their grand poo pa. Again, the Democrat leadership of the House let her get away with it.

Anyway, both the AP and the Detroit Free Press report the queen and former Rep. has sued the Detroit Free Press, saying she was defamed by a story in which she was misquoted as saying she hated the white race (she does).

On July 17, 1996, the Free Press quoted Collins saying: "All white people, I don't believe, are intolerant. That's why I say I love the individuals but I hate the race."

What Collins admits to saying was: "All white people, I don't believe, are intolerant. That's why I say I love the individuals, but I don't like the race."

Herschel Fink, attorney for the Free Press, said the lawsuit is frivolous. "The remark Ms. Collins admits she said and the one the newspaper reported she said were substantially the same," Fink said. "We expect the court to quickly dismiss the case."

In another matter, AP reports that the Montana Supreme Court upheld Montana's "hate crime" law and the conviction of a teen-ager who distributed bumper stickers aimed at the Church Universal and Triumphant. The law is neither overly broad nor unconstitutionally vague, the court held unanimously, and did not violate free-speech rights.

The bumper stickers stated: "NO I'm not a member of CUT" in black writing, with the words 'NO' and 'CUT' in bold and the only words visible from a distance.

The defendent "points out that others in the community have similar stickers affixed to their vehicles or in their windows as a protest against what they perceive to be objectionable practices of CUT," Justice James C. Nelson wrote. However, the defendent "fails to recognize that the difference between his conduct and that of others in the community is that the others he referred to placed the stickers on their own property while [he] placed the stickers on other people's property without their permission."

So, malicious mischief may now be "hate speech" in Montana if it involves writing.

In yet another matter, the Cato Institute posted a very interesting briefing paper (No. 31), titled "CAMPAIGN REFORM: Let's Not Give Politicians the Power to Decide What We Can Say about Them." The paper is written by Douglas Johnson and Mike Beard. Below is the summary:

"Lawmakers of both parties have proposed 'campaign reform' bills that would curtail the right of corporations (including issue-oriented advocacy organizations) and labor unions to communicate with the public about those who hold or seek public office. The really important question for congressional supporters of the various proposals is this: where in the world do you think you get the authority to regulate the political speech of American citizens?

"Those proposals violate the First Amendment, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly held to provide the highest degree of protection for issue advocacy, including explicit commentary on the merits, positions, and actions of office holders and office seekers. The right to attempt to persuade our fellow citizens of the issues they should weigh in casting their votes is as fundamental as the right to vote.

"Unfortunately, the news media have generally been promoting speech-restrictive proposals rather than defending the First Amendment -- the nation's paramount 'election law.'"

Some very important points are made in this 5,000 word paper. And, while we may not exactly agree with every conclusion made, the full text is certainly worth reading. Because, if some bills currently on fast track in Congress are not killed, political speech as we now know it, and as the Founding Fathers intended it, will most certainly become a thing of the past.

The complete text can be found at: www.cato.org/pubs/briefs/bp-031es.html


Many of us have often wondered why Members of Congress do not always study the bills on which they are expected to vote. "They don't have time," is a reply we have received more than a few times from hill rats. "They are often too busy to read more than the summaries."

We also often wondered what would happen if members of other professions -- say, medical professionals, for example -- used that excuse. For instance, what would happen if a surgeon were to say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know that was in there," as many in Congress used as their excuse to their constituents when confronted about the Kohl and Lautenberg amendments passing last year?

Or, how about if your physician told you, after unsuccessfully treating you for a few weeks, that he really had no time to study that problem, but that choice of drug sounded good when the salesman told him about it. And that was after you noticed that he always seemed to have time to hit the golf course every afternoon.

Not good, huh?

Members of Congress like to think of themselves as professional law makers. And, like physicians, their work certainly can affect our lives. Why then, do we hold members of government to a different standard? And by the way, are there any standards at all for acceptable performance in government?

Everyone in the federal government is paid for full time employment, so an article by Jock Friedly and Robert Schlesinger in "The Hill" attracted our attention last week. It was titled simply: "Members took 1,053 trips in '96." The piece opened with the paragraph:

"More than three-fifths of the members of Congress (and staffs) took more than a thousand expense- paid junkets and other 'fact-finding' trips in 1996, ranging from summer sojourns in Italy to winter weekends in Bermuda. Some 319 members jetted around the country and across the globe to attend seminars or give keynote addresses, according to an analysis by The Hill of financial disclosure forms and travel records filed with the House and Senate. These trips were financed by corporations, non-profit organizations, foreign governments and other interest groups."

Contrast their performance with our local State Senator. I called him at home on a beautiful Sunday afternoon a few weeks back. He was busy reading regulations. Turns out, he is now on the committee to review all State regulations. He received a stack of new regulations over two feet high ten days before the first committee meeting was scheduled, and he felt duty bound to read each and every one of them.

Now a little more from "The Hill" newspaper: "Topping the list of congressional frequent fliers was Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who managed 23 separate trips, including winter jaunts to Jamaica, Antigua, Bermuda, Hawaii and the Bahamas, where her husband Sidney Williams has served as ambassador since 1994. Waters' trips were sponsored by a variety of organizations, ranging from the Selma (Ala.) Civil Rights Museum to the Caribbean Banana Exporters Association, with most involving African-American themes. In two instances, Waters spent personal time in the locale beyond what the official itinerary demanded. According to her travel disclosures, Waters vacationed in New Orleans and Charlotte."

"The Hill" reports that Bill Hogan, director of investigative projects at the Center for Public Integrity, is among those who are concerned about the proliferation of congressional travel.

"At the very basic level, almost all of them are unnecessary," said Hogan. "They represent people on the public payroll taking trips on somebody else's dime. ... If you take a trip and a corporation pays for it ... [and] they then call you up and need a favor, you're going to be inclined to do it for them because they've done a favor for you. And that's the basic harm in this relationship."

Yeah, and it's called bribes on this side of the Beltway. Congress is very well paid. If they want to go someplace, they should pay for it just like the rest of us. "The Hill" reports that the most common foreign destination was Taiwan, with most of the trips sponsored by a Republic of China (Taiwan) business consortium.

Sure. And if there are ever full investigations on that money infiltrating our election process, Capitol Hill is going to have some very lonely hallways!

Other destinations included Hong Kong, Paris, London, Stuttgart, Bangkok, Beijing, Mexico City, Leningrad, Ankara, Slovenia, Havana, Delhi and Zurich. In other words, no places Members of our Congress (or their staffs and spouses) needed to be officially.

So, when we ask why they do not always read the bills they're voting on, probably we'll have to agree with staff. Many of them have no time.

Professional ethics personified.


Here are a couple very interesting web pages many readers will be interested in. The first is new. The second has been around for a while but has recently made some very impressive additions.

Most of us have seen Larry Klayman, Chairman of Judicial Watch, on television programs such as CNN's Crossfire, ABC's Prime Time Live, and FOX television. He's usually speaking on ethics and the need for honest government. Currently (we are told) Klayman is providing legal commentary on the Thompson campaign finance hearings for National Empowerment Television (NET).

Judicial Watch reports it has nine on-going cases to expose government corruption in the Clinton Administration. These cases include: Representing those citizens whose FBI files were wrongly accessed -- possibly for political espionage purposes -- by Hillary Clinton, Bernard Nussbaum, Anthony Marceca, and Craig Livingstone. Filing FOI requests to uncover the Department of Commerce's practice of selecting companies for trade missions in exchange for donations to the Democratic National Committee. And a class action derivative suit on behalf of the policyholders of State Farm Insurance Company against State Farm and its top executives for improperly paying Bill Clinton's legal fees and expenses in the Paula Jones lawsuit.

Other matters in which the group is involved include such things as why the Los Angeles Airport Authority paid Webster Hubbell for legal fees when he was under investigation, the political motivations behind Attorney General Janet Reno's refusal to appoint an independent counsel to investigate campaign finance related matters, and ways to reform our legal system to make it more responsive and less expensive for the average citizen.

The Judicial Watch e-mail address is: jwatch@erols.com But, better yet, last week they started posting press releases and other information on the Internet. Visit them at: www.judicialwatch.org

For those of us looking for some excellent Constitutional information, most of which is written by the original Founding Fathers, we have only to visit the Constitution Society's Home Page at: www.constitution.org/

Jon Roland is doing such a bang up job there that, for Constitutionalists, the site deserves a visit at least once a week just to see what is new. For instance, here's part of what we found on their "What's New" page on July 24:

"Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States," by Joseph Story (1833) was recently posted. This is an authoritative commentary by an early Supreme Court justice who helped shape the interpretation of the Constitution for the next century. The complete 3-volume work is being converted.

"The St. George Tucker annotated version of Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England," was also recently posted. Blackstone's Commentaries, by Sir William Blackstone, was the codification of the Common Law -- the (three volume) law book of our country before the Constitution.

Blackstone's Commentaries needed to be adapted to reflect the new American Constitution. Professor of Law St. George Tucker annotated the Commentaries in 1803, making this version the first truly American law book. The complete 5-volume work is being converted.

James Madison's Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 are also posted. These are the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia, and are an essential guide to interpreting the intent of the Framers.

One of the many other interesting recent additions is a paper titled "Let's Revive Private Prosecutions;" by Jon Roland. Roland proposes the use of private prosecutors in cases of public corruption and abuse where public prosecutors are unwilling to prosecute.

The problem with Jon Roland's Constitution Society web site is that there is so much good material there we sometimes get sidetracked with interesting things we did not plan to study at the time.

Hopefully, the Judicial Watch web page will soon be almost as prolific. For instance, they have an up coming deposition of Hillary Clinton that would look very good posted on the Internet. . . .


Democrats thought they would nail some Barbour butt to the old barn wall. But Haley's country boy charm was backed up by some cold, hard facts. And those facts were related with a rapid-fire delivery that kept the attention of everyone in the room.

"I was born at night, senators. But it wasn't last night." was an extremely effective shot across the bow of the impending minority attack. He knew Democrats were gunning for him, and he was ready.

Haley Barbour was prepared with an excellent working knowledge of the political finances of both parties. And along with that knowledge, he brought along a willingness to fire back with everything in the backgrounds of each Democrat senator. They learned that quickly.

Consequently, the Republicans, not the Democrats, asked most of the hard questions in this round. With a 1 to 10 rating system, we would score it Haley 9, Republican Senators 1, Democrats 0.

CNN even ran part of the hearings while Barbour was there. And "part" is the correct word here, too. CNN intentionally tried to cut to commentary and/or break whenever Haley was making a good point.

Again, the hearings were boycotted by the four major television networks. This time it was in favor of the "great manhunt" story. It didn't even matter that the perpetrator was already dead, either. The major networks made it an important news item anyway.

Perhaps a note to some "news" sponsors is appropriate. Because, if they are censoring hearing news, we can't help but wonder what else they think us not worthy of seeing.

Meanwhile, if you would like to drop the networks a line and let them know what you think about their "news" delivery, here's a few addresses:

ABC Good Morning America -- gma@abc.com
ABC Nightline -- NTline@aol.com
ABC Primetime Live -- PTLive@aol.com
CBS News producer -- dcp@cbsnews.com
Fox News -- foxnet@delphi.com
NBC Dateline -- dateline@news.nbc.com
NBC Meet the Press -- mtp@news.nbc.com
NBC Nightly News -- nightly@news.nbc.com
NBC Today Show -- today@news.nbc.com

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