Former congressman Aaron Schock, under investigation for financial misconduct while in office, has been in various disputes with the Justice Department about documents prosecutors are seeking from him. One of those disputes involves the somewhat peculiar legal status of documents from a Member’s personal congressional office. So the blog having been on hiatus for a couple of months, I will ease back into things with a discussion of this obscure topic.
You may be aware, unless you happen to be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that the records of federal agencies and the executive branch generally are subject to extensive regulation and control by various statutes, including the Federal Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the Presidential Records Act. You may or may not be surprised to know, however, that few if any of these laws apply to Congress. As the House Rules Committee observed in this 1988 report, the Privacy Act and FOIA explicitly exempt Congress from their coverage, and “[n]o statute comparable to the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act has ever been enacted with respect to congressional records.” Hmm, I wonder how that happened.
Continue reading “Some Schocking Information About Congressional Records”
The Telegraph reports that a point of order has been raised in Parliament with regard to the propriety of allowing a “convicted criminal” the right of access to Westminster. A former member of Parliament named Chris Huhne, who two years ago resigned and pled guilty to the offense of “perverting the course of justice” (something having to do with his wife taking his “speeding points”), applied for and received a parliamentary pass that is customarily made available to former MPs.
The point of order, raised by a conservative MP (Huhne was a Liberal Democrat), questions whether these privileges can be revoked with regard to Mr. Huhne:
Given the low esteem many members of this House are held in by our constituents in regard to poor behaviour, is there any method [by which] we can actually rescind this application to ensure someone who is a convicted criminal cannot freely walk around the Palace of Westminster?
Judging by the speaker’s response, the answer is no. But this got me to wondering whether we could have the same issue in Congress. Both the House and Senate allow former members floor privileges and certain other courtesies. This handy and delightfully brief CRS report describes these privileges and notes certain exceptions. For example, former members cannot access the floor if they are registered lobbyists.
But there appears to be no exception for felons.