Congressman Claims Constitutional Immunity
Arnold Reed, attorney for Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), asserted a claim of "constitutional immunity" in a bid to shield the congressman from charges that he wrongfully spent $27,000 in public monies to purchase the silence of a woman he is alleged to have sexually harassed.
"My client is no ordinary person," Reed said. "He is a member of Congress. As such, he is entitled to privileges granted to such members by the Constitution. Among these privileges is immunity from arrest for any crimes save treason, felony, and breach of the peace. Even if true, the allegations made against him do not fit within these categories. Unwanted sexual advances are neither treasonous nor felonious. And paying hush money would seem to clearly constitute an effort to keep the peace rather than breach it."
"Further, the Constitution makes Congress the sole judge of the behavior of its members," Reed added. "In fulfillment of this responsibility, Congress established the Office Of Compliance (OOC) and has paid out $17 million over the past 20 years to induce victims to sign nondisclosure agreements to protect members of Congress from having damaging allegations be publicized. While not specifically part of the OOC process, my client's payments were within the scope and in the same spirit of the OOC's payments to persons victimized by other representatives and senators."
"Finally, the Constitution gives Congress the authority to keep certain actions secret," Reed observed. "Quite reasonably, this currently includes the payouts made by the OOC. It would be discriminatory for my client to be penalized for mirroring the OOC's practices. Rep. Conyers is asserting his right to equal treatment under the rules of Congress and demanding that the same immunity from embarrassment that has been purchased for his peers by the OOC be extended to him."
House colleague Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif) rallied to Conyers' defense, calling him "a man of impeccable integrity on all of our issues. He didn't do anything that most of the white boys in congress haven't done. Singling him out like they're doing is racist."
In related news, Lois Lerner, Obama Administration's director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the Internal Revenue Service, who used her position to illegally discriminate against conservative organizations, is demanding that the testimony she gave in exchange for a grant of immunity be permanently withheld from the public, claiming that "if the full details of what we did to these people were to become widely known my personal safety would be threatened." Lerner's public plea for secrecy came in response to a lawsuit seeking civil damages being pursued by Citizens for Self Governance.
For Attempt to Record Bullying, Mother Is Charged with Felony
After numerous unanswered complaints to the bureaucrats running Ocean View Elementary school in Norfolk,Virginia regarding her daughter being bullied by other students, Sarah Sims put a digital recorder in her 9-year-old's backpack. School authorities found the recorder and reported it to the police. Sims is now charged with "felony use of a device to intercept oral communication."
Vice-Principal Rupert Petty explained that "covert recording is not a minor infraction. For one thing, surveillance is the exclusive prerogative of school authorities. Students and parents who take it upon themselves to usurp this prerogative demonstrate a disrespect for authority. We have a 'no tolerance' policy for this type of disobedience."
Sims' attorney Kristin Paulding characterized the school's complaint as "an unreasonable abuse of their authority. Their apparent indifference to the bullying going on at the school prodded my client to take her own measures to try to protect her child. Having her charged with a felony that could mean jail time would further endanger her daughter. I can't imagine that any sane judge or jury would convict her."
"Whether Ms. Sims goes to jail or not is not our concern," Petty responded. "The mere fear of going to jail combined with the expense and effort necessary to avoid a conviction ought to be sufficient to discourage other parents and students from launching similar challenges to the school's way of doing things."
GOP Tax Bill Gives Jersey Dem Pause
A provision in the Republican tax reform that would eliminate the itemized deduction for state and local income taxes has prompted New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) to reconsider his Party's plan to raise the state income tax rate to 10.75%.
"While the new rate would only apply to those in the highest tax bracket the loss of the opportunity to deduct the taxes they pay to New Jersey from their federal tax liability could have significant negative impacts on the state," Sweeney warned. "Without these federal deductions for state taxes the full burden for state spending will fall on our taxpayers alone. New Jersey voters' willingness to bear this burden is in doubt."
US House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc) hailed Sweeney's reluctance to raise New Jersey's income tax rate, calling it "one of the intended outcomes of our bill. The federal deduction has encouraged state legislatures to boost tax rates and frivolous spending higher than they would otherwise dare to do. By eliminating the option of passing on some of the burdens of bigger government to residents of low-tax states we are leveling the playing field. If New Jersey voters want bigger government let them pay the full price of it by themselves."
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) opposes eliminating the deduction contending that "the high-tax states have become accustomed to the subsidies from low-tax states that result from the current tax code. Withdrawing them will cause severe distress and force changes that those who govern the high-tax states would prefer not to have to deal with."