October 18, 2007
Feds Try to Trump State in Corruption Investigation
The Department of Justice has made public corruption one of its main priorities, and the number of investigations of members of Congress, along with state and local officials, shows that this area is receiving increased attention. The states also have authority to investigate corruption involving their own officials, although parallel federal and state investigations can present problems. In the investigation of corruption in the Alaska legislature and its elected federal representatives, the Department of Justice has -- politely -- asked Alaska's Attorney General not to pursue a separate state investigation. A letter (here courtesy of TPMuckraker) from the principal deputy chief of the Public Integrity Section in Washington, D.C., says that "because of the long-standing federal investigation into these matters, we believe that concurrent state investigative activity will have the effect of compromising certain aspects of the ongoing federal public corruption investigation." In other words, don't mess with our case . . . please.
While the federal government cannot stop a state from conducting its own investigation, and under the Double Jeopardy Clause's dual sovereignty doctrine the state could file its own charges in addition to any federal prosecution, the specter of interfering with an ongoing investigation may be enough to cause Alaska to back away. I argued in a law review article, Federalism and the Federal Prosecution of State and Local Corruption, 92 Ky. L.J. 75 (2003), that federal prosecutors are best equipped to pursue corruption cases involving state officials because of their relative detachment from the political ties that can affect local prosecutors and state attorneys general. Asking the Alaska Attorney General to defer to the federal investigation may be more than just a fight over turf. (ph)
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