The Justice Department has shut down a wave of high-profile investigations of members of Congress, drawing criticism that the agency has lost its nerve after the disastrous collapse last year of its case against former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), the New York Times reports. Attorneys for Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign were told that Ensign would not be charged with violating a lobbying law. Then Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), was told he would not be charged for steering government spending to donors.
Federal corruption investigations ending without charges this year had focused on Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader (R-TX); Rep. Don Young (R-AK), and Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WVA). “They're gun-shy,” said J. Gerald Hebert of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group that seeks greater disclosure of how money influences politics. Jack Smith, chief of the Justice Department Public Integrity Section, and Lanny Breuer, the assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, contested the criticism. Said Breuer: “If a case cannot be brought, it's because we've taken a hard look and made the determination that this case cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. And with all due respect to those outside the department, they haven't seen the evidence. They don't know the materials, and we've looked at it all.”