Section 2: Investigations & Oversight • Constitution neither granted nor denied Congress the power to conduct investigations. • Investigations can be conducted on any issue • Political & economic issues • Foreign Policy • Congressional ethics • Scandals Congressional Powers & Witness Rights • Subpoena • Perjury • Contempt • Immunity • Prior to the 1950s witnesses called before Congress had few protections or rights. • The McCarthy anit-Communist hearings of the 1950s and the actions of HUAC provoked the American public & Congress to establish protections for people investigated in Congress. McCarthy-not a nice man
Section 2: Investigations & Oversight contd. • 1957 in Watkins v. United States ruled that Congress must respect witnesses Constitutional rights just as courts do. • 1987 Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration • 1994 Whitewater investigation • 2000 Enron collapse scandal Legislative Oversight The power of Congressional oversight involves a continuous review of how effectively the executive branch carries out the laws Congress passes. • Legislative Reorganization Acts of 1946 & 1970-”continuous watchfulness” over executive agencies. • Legislative oversight is often inconsistent-”pass it and forget it” • Often fail to conduct oversight if the president is of the same party as the majority party in Congress. • No real political capital to be made in regular oversight, only scandals and sensational topics-”where there is publicity to be gained there is oversight to be had.” • Congress’ power to appropriate money is a powerful oversight. • Often will use the General Accounting Office (GAO) to monitor the finances of executive agencies.
Section 2: Investigations & Oversight contd. • 1978-2000 Independent Counsel was used by Congress as an oversight technique • Authorized House or Senate judiciary committees to require the Attorney General to investigate charges of criminal wrong doing. • If sufficient evidence exists a 3 judge panel appoints an Independent Counsel. • 1994 Ken Starr was appointed as Independent Counsel to investigate Whitewater, and then subsequently the Lewinsky scandal.