For Immediate Release: Monday, August 3, 1998

For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (202) 296-2787

McDade-Murtha Provision Would Create "Corrupt Politicians' Protection Board" to Help Shield Members of Congress From Federal Prosecution

U.S. Representatives Joe McDade (R-PA) and John Murtha (D-PA) have attached a provision to the House Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary appropriations bill -- dubbed the "Corrupt Politicians' Protection Board" -- which could help corrupt Members of Congress interfere with federal prosecutions against them.

The McDade-Murtha provision would establish a Justice Department "Misconduct Review Board" with extraordinarily broad subpoena powers to demand secret information about ongoing federal criminal investigations, and to harass federal prosecutors. Information, evidence, and testimony obtained by the Board -- including grand jury testimony, investigative files, identities of potential witnesses, and information covered by the Privacy Act -- would presumably leak to a Member of Congress facing federal prosecution, because the Board would have two non-voting Republicans and Democrats appointed by congressional leaders, and Board meetings would be open to the public.

"The Corrupt Politicians' Protection Board is a corrupt Washington politician's dream come true," said Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project. "It would help corrupt politicians and other politically powerful defendants to interfere with and to subvert federal prosecutions against them."

Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) has announced that he will offer an amendment to strip the McDade-Murtha provision, the so-called "Citizens Protection Act of 1998," from the House Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary appropriations bill (H.R. 4276). The House is expected to vote on the Hutchinson Amendment on Tuesday, or perhaps Wednesday.

"We urge citizens to call their House Members in support of the Hutchison Amendment to prevent Washington politicians from enacting the Corrupt Politicians Protection Board," Ruskin said.

Attorney General Janet Reno will urge President Clinton to veto the entire Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary appropriations bill if it includes the McDade-Murtha provision. Last week, Associate Attorney General Raymond Fisher said that the provision is "fatally flawed" and that it could have "disastrous" effects. Fisher said that the Board could intervene in a case "on the basis of vague allegations against department attorneys and would enable the targets of investigations, and their attorneys, to obtain access to all of the evidence obtained by the government, including the identities of potential witnesses or confidential informants."

The McDade-Murtha provision is opposed by Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis Freeh, the National Sheriff's Association, FBI Agents Association, Federal Criminal Investigators Association, National Association of Attorneys General, National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, and other law enforcement groups.