Independent Counsel Robert W. Ray’s Response to Representative Conyers

March 1, 2002

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
United States House of Representatives
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-6216

Dear Congressman Conyers:

Based upon our previous professional relationship, I was disappointed to learn that you had released correspondence addressed to me to the media prior to my receiving said correspondence or notice of your intent to do so. Therefore, it is with some degree of difficulty that I accept the sincerity of your “serious concern” about published reports regarding what you characterize as “partisan political activity” by me. But I respect the spirit of that concern nonetheless based upon your position as a member of one of the committees that has oversight jurisdiction over my office and our previous cordial relationship.

It has not been the practice of my office to respond to individual members of Congress. The oversight jurisdiction that originates with the Independent Counsel statute has been recognized on a bipartisan basis as emanating not from individual members of the committees with oversight jurisdiction, but by the action of the committee itself. See 28 U.S.C. § 595(a)(1). That typically is communicated to my office through the Chairman of the respective committee. This has not occurred here.

You have chosen to release your two letters — the first to me and the second to the Special Division — directly to the media even before they were received in my office. Because you further have variously accused me (without foundation and without waiting for my response) of “apparent violations of the law,” “apparent violation of the Independent Counsel Act,” “reckless disregard of [my] duties under the Hatch Act,” and a “clear cut example of law breaking,” I am now compelled to respond.

As a career prosecutor, I have been scrupulous, and will continue to be scrupulous as long as I continue to serve as Independent Counsel, in conforming my conduct to the letter and spirit of the Hatch Act.

That said, I am well aware of the strictures of the Independent Counsel statute. That now lapsed statute, however, says nothing about prohibited political activity. Only the Hatch Act so provides, and it is not at all clear that the Hatch Act applies to an Independent Counsel. While I am bound by the Department of Justice policies included, among other places, in the United States Attorneys’ Manual, I am bound only by those policies “respecting enforcement of the criminal laws.” 28 U.S.C. § 594(f)(1). Moreover, I may be removed from office only for “good cause” and only upon the personal action of the Attorney General, not by operation of the Hatch Act. See 28 U.S.C. § 596(a)(1).

You overlook the fact that I am not now a candidate or running to be a candidate for partisan political office. I have not filed as a candidate or as a nominee. I have not sought or solicited campaign contributions, raised money or sought or received endorsements. In short, there is currently no campaign for office of which I am a participant whatsoever. Accordingly, none of the provisions of the Hatch Act, Department of Justice regulations nor the United States Attorneys’ Manual that you cite have been violated by me, either in letter or in spirit.

What I have done is attend a Lincoln Day dinner sponsored by the Monmouth County Republicans on February 10, 2002. I gave a speech principally honoring President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday because I was asked to do so. (A copy of my prepared remarks that evening is attached). I did not appear “in support of or in opposition” to any candidate, whether myself or anyone else. See 5 C.F.R. §§ 734.409(d). I was invited to speak as a resident of Monmouth County and not as a candidate for office. I paid for my ticket and that of my spouse, who also attended. The Department of Justice guidelines on the subject, which I consulted before the event, are clear that the Hatch Act expressly permits attendance at political events, including fundraisers, and permits me to speak at such events. To the extent that the payment for two tickets to the event was, in part, a political contribution, I am expressly permitted to have done so. As to the portion of my remarks in which I said that what we need in the United States Senate is “principled, ethical and trustworthy leadership,” I assume that no one, including you, would disagree with that sentiment.

In short, while you appear anxious to accuse me of violating the law, your accusation is completely without foundation. It is equally distressing to me that you would make use of unsupported allegations of prosecutorial misconduct to undermine the now nearly completed work of the Office of the Independent Counsel. As you well know, I have tried mightily to restore the country’s confidence in the integrity of law enforcement and law enforcement officials. As you have told me yourself, my prosecutorial decisions and the conduct of my office have never been about partisanship. Allegations made are never as easily answered even when they do not withstand scrutiny. I would have appreciated the courtesy of a meaningful opportunity to respond before being compelled to embark on the precipitous course you have chosen here.

Returning, however, to your legitimate concern, I assure you that I will not engage in prohibited partisan activity while I am serving as Independent Counsel. I well understand the propriety of resigning my current office should I decide to become a candidate for elective office. In any event, I intend to fulfill my responsibilities by bringing the work of our office to substantial conclusion before undertaking any other course.

Sincerely,

Robert W. Ray
Independent Counsel

Enclosure

cc: Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Honorable David B. Sentelle
Honorable Peter T. Fay
Honorable Richard D. Cudahy

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