CREW: DOJ Integrity Unit “Punted” On Ensign Complaint

The Justice Department has responded to a formal complaint filed by a good-government group over the John Ensign matter by saying in a letter that the complaint should be filed with the FBI, rather than the department’s public integrity unit, reports the Las Vegas Sun. And the good government group — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) — has itself responded to DOJ’s bureaucratic fastidiousness with what we can only describe as a sassy retort that rubs salt in some recent DOJ wounds.

As requested, CREW has forwarded its complaint to the FBI. Executive Director Melanie Sloan writes:

In a letter dated July 16, 2009, [Public Integrity Section Chief William] Welch
advised me that the FBI, not the Public Integrity Section, will determine whether a federal investigation is warranted. Mr Welch’s referral of jurisdiction is surprising, given that the Public Integrity Section’s own website indicates the section “monitors the investigation and prosecution of election and conflict of interest crimes.” Perhaps in the aftermath of the mishandling of the prosecution of former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), the Public Integrity Section is not eager to investigate another sitting senator. Nevertheless, given that “public corruption is one of the FBI’s top investigative priorities,” , and there is evidence suggesting Sen. Ensign violated a federal criminal law, CREW hopes the FBI will initiate an inquiry.

The Public Integrity Section “punted,” Sloan told TPMmuckraker, confirming that she does indeed believe that Welch — who took the brunt of the criticism earlier this year for the botched Stevens prosecution — is reluctant to aggressively pursue another US senator.

Sloan, a former prosecutor, reiterated that the Public Integrity Section does not need to wait for the FBI to open a criminal inquiry of this nature. And she said she’s skeptical that, with the Public Integrity Section having passed the buck, the FBI will on its own bat initiate such a high-profile probe.

Looks like the wages of Stevens continue to be paid out…