Additional oversight materials
Panel on Congressional Oversight Databases
In 2018, Senator Carl Levin and Elise Bean co-authored an article for Volume 64, No. 1 of the Wayne Law Review
In 2018, Elise Bean published a book describing oversight practices at the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
- Using Congressional Investigations to Effect Change-video presentation (Jan. 2020)
State Level Oversight
In 2018 the Levin Center at Wayne Law commissioned a study of each state legislature's capacity to conduct oversight of its executive branch and the extent to which each state uses that capacity. The study was conducted by the Center for Urban Studies (CUS) at Wayne State University. Findings from this report were discussed in an October 2019 webinar.
Other information related to state level oversight follows.
Project On Government Oversight
The Project On Government Oversight is a partner of the Levin Center at Wayne Law, providing additional oversight resources and training for congressional staff.
- Monthly staff training seminars
- Free monthly, bipartisan oversight training sessions provided in Washington, D.C. exclusively to congressional staff by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Project On Government Oversight.
- The Paper Trail, a twice-weekly roundup of oversight news, events, reports and analysis, is free of charge to subscribers.
- Oversight materials
- POGO provides instructional materials related to conducting congressional oversight
- POGO Podcast
- Handling Agency Objections with Elise Bean and Justin Rood (POGO Podcast 28:05)
KYC360 webinars on PSI investigations
KYC360, a web-based service providing news, information, and instruction on anti-money laundering, corruption and financial crime issues, has produced a series of four, one-hour webinars on seminal money laundering investigations conducted by Sen. Carl Levin through the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, available free.
Inspector general reports
The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency provides a free, searchable website containing oversight reports issued by Inspectors General fighting waste, fraud and abuse at federal agencies.
Working with whistleblowers
The Government Accountability Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit, provides a free set of materials related to working with whistleblowers.
Other information on working with whistleblowers follows.
When Congress Comes Calling: A Study on the Principles, Practices, and Pragmatics of Legislative Inquiry, Morton Rosenberg (The Constitution Project, 2017)
The Art of Congressional Oversight: A User's Guide to Doing It Right by the Project on Government Oversight (Second Edition, 2015)
Congressional Oversight Manual, Congressional Research Service, Alissa M. Dolan, Elaine Halchin, Todd Garvey, Walter J. Oleszek, Wendy Ginsberg, CRS No. 7-5700, RL30240 (Dec. 19, 2014)
No false statements to Congress
18 U.S.C. § 1001 states that anyone who "knowingly and willfully … falsifies, conceals, or covers up … a material fact" or "makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement," or makes or uses "any false writing" in a matter within the jurisdiction of Congress can be fined, imprisoned for up to five years (eight for terrorism), or both. In general, a person who makes a false statement to a senator, representative, or congressional staffer during an authorized "investigation or review," including in a deposition, interview, telephone call, letter, or email, risks prosecution.
18 U.S.C. § 1621 makes a misstatement of a "material matter" under oath punishable with a fine, imprisonment of not more than five years, or both.
Congressional obstruction statute
18 U.S.C. § 1505 makes it a crime for anyone to "corruptly" or through the use of "any threatening letter or communication" to "influence, obstruct, or impede" a congressional inquiry or investigation. Violating the statute is punishable with a fine, imprisonment of not more than five years, or both.
Congressional criminal contempt statute
2 U.S.C. § 192 authorizes Congress to find that a person who was summoned as a "witness" before a house of Congress, and who refused to appear, answer questions, or produce requested "papers," is guilty of a criminal misdemeanor, and subject to a monetary fine or imprisonment of not more than one year.
Senate civil contempt statutes
2 U.S.C. §§ 288b(b) and 288d, and 28 U.S.C. § 1365 authorize the filing of a civil suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against anyone resisting a Senate subpoena other than an executive branch officer or employee (who enjoy a statutory exemption).
Authority of Congress to Investigate
McCain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135 (1927)("[T]he power of inquiry—with process to enforce it—is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function. … A legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information – which not infrequently is true – recourse must be had to others who do possess it. Experience has taught that mere requests for such information often are unavailing, and also that information which is volunteered is not always accurate or complete; so some means of compulsion are essential to obtain what is needed.")
Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178 (1957)("The power of Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad. It encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes. It includes surveys of defects in our social, economic or political system for the purpose of enabling Congress to remedy them. It comprehends probes into departments of the federal government to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste. … There is no general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justifications in terms of the functions of Congress … Nor is the Congress a law enforcement or trial agency. No inquiry is an end in itself; it must be related to, and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of the Congress.")
Eastland v. U.S. Servicemen's Fund, 421 U.S. 491 (1975)("The scope of [Congress'] power of inquiry … is as penetrating and far-reaching as the potential power to enact and appropriate under the Constitution.")
Anderson v. Dunn, 19 U.S. 204 (1821)(Holding Congress has inherent authority to hold persons in contempt and impose punishment on them, including imprisonment, otherwise Congress would be "exposed to every indignity and interruption that rudeness, caprice or even conspiracy may mediate against it.")
Townsend v. United States, 95 F.2d 352 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 303 U.S. 665 (1938)("A legislative inquiry may be as broad, as searching, and as exhaustive as is necessary to make effective the constitutional powers of Congress…A judicial inquiry relates to a case, and the evidence to be admissible must be measured by the narrow limits of the pleadings. A legislative inquiry anticipates all possible cases which may arise thereunder and the evidence admissible must be responsive to the scope of the inquiry which generally is very broad.")
Wilkinson v. United States, 365 U.S. 399, 408-409 (1961)(Upholding House subpoena, because (1) it involved matters the committee was "authorized" by Congress to investigate; (2) the investigation had "a valid legislative purpose;" and (3) the requested information was "pertinent to the subject matter of the investigation.")
Senate Select Committee on Ethics v. Packwood, 845 F. Supp. 17 (D.D.C. 1994), stay pending appeal denied, 510 U.S. 1319 (1994)(Upholding Senate subpoena for a senator's personal diary despite objections that the request was overbroad and violated his Fourth Amendment right to privacy and Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination)
Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations v. Ferrer, 199 F.Supp.3d 125 (D.D.C. 2016); Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations v. Ferrer, 856 F.3d 1080 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (upholding Senate subpoena despite multiple objections, including that it was overbroad and infringed upon free speech)
Trump v. Committee on Oversight and Reform, __ F.Supp.3d ___, Case No. 19-cv-01136 (APM) (D.D.C. May 20, 2019)(upholding House subpoena to an accounting firm, Mazars, despite objections by President Trump that requesting his financial records had no legislative purpose and impermissibly targeted activities prior to his taking office as president)
Congressional access to tax returns
26 USC § 6103(f) states that the Treasury Secretary, upon receiving a written request from the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee, or Joint Committee on Taxation, "shall furnish" any specified tax return or tax return information.
Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities v. Nixon, 498 F. 2d 725 (D.C. Cir. 1974) (Denying subpoena for President Nixon's tapes because insufficient showing of need and demand was "too tangential" to committee's function for court to force president to comply with subpoena.)
United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974) (Rejection of executive privilege claim by President Nixon to subpoena for his tapes by special prosecutor, weighing the importance of the privilege against the need for "fair administration of criminal justice.")
In Re Sealed Case (Espy) 121 F. 3d 729 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (distinguishing between "presidential communication privilege" and "deliberative process privilege" and finding that the former applies to direct decision-making by the president, is constitutionally based, and requires a higher showing of need than the deliberative process privilege which applies to agency heads, is common law based, and disappears if there is a showing of wrongdoing.)
Committee on Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, v. Miers, 558 F. Supp. 2d 53 (D.D.C. 2008) ("The executive's current claim of absolute immunity [from compelled congressional process] for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law… Clear precedent and persuasive policy reasons confirm that the executive cannot be the judge of its own privilege and hence Ms. Miers is not entitled to absolute immunity from compelled congressional process.")
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives v. Loretta Lynch, Case No. 12-1332, 156 F. Supp. 3d 101 (D.D.C. Jan. 19, 2016) ("The deliberative process privilege is a qualified privilege that can be overcome by a sufficient showing of need for the material. ... This need determination is to be made flexibly on a case-by-case, ad hoc basis."); Mem. Op. and Order (D.D.C. Oct. 22, 2018)(denying a motion to vacate the 2016 court order so that no precedent would be established)
Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, memos on congressional requests for information
Panel Discussions on Case Law Related to Congressional Oversight
Examples of White House cooperation with congressional oversight (Co-Equal Resources: Guide to Congressional Oversight Precedent)
Financial Exposure: Carl Levin's Senate Investigations into Finance and Tax Abuse, Elise Bean (Palgrave MacMillan, 2018)
Congress's Constitution: Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers, Josh Chafetz (Yale University Press, 2017)
Investigating the President: Congressional Checks on Presidential Power, Douglas L. Kriner and Eric Schickler (Princeton University Press 2016)
The American Senate: An Insider's History, Neil MacNeil and Richard A. Baker (Oxford University Press 2013), Chapters 9 & 10
The Investigator: Fifty Years of Uncovering the Truth, Terry Lenzner (Blue Rider Press, Penguin Group, 2013)
The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship In Times of Crisis, Ira Shapiro (Perseus Books Group, 2012)
Congress Investigates: A Critical and Documentary History, editors Roger A. Bruns, David L. Hostetter, and Raymond W. Smock (Facts on File, 2011), Volumes 1-2
Oversight: Representing the Interests of Blacks and Latinos in Congress, Michael D. Minta (Oxford University Press 2011)
Congressional Investigations and Oversight: Case Studies and Analysis, Lance Cole and Stanley M. Brand (Carolina Academic Press, 2010)
The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works by Congressman Henry Waxman (Twelve, 2009)
Men of Zeal: A Candid Inside Story of the Iran-Contra Hearings, U.S. Sens. William S. Cohen and George J. Mitchell (Penguin Books, 1989)
The Power to Probe: A Study of Congressional Investigations, James Hamilton (Random House, 1976)
The Truman Committee: A Study in Congressional Responsibility, Donald H. Riddle (Rutgers University Press, 1964)
Grand Inquest: The Story of Congressional Investigations, Telford Taylor (Ballantine Books, 1961)
Reports, Articles, and Interviews
'Lock me up': The last man arrested for defying a congressional inquiry (Washington Post, Dec. 3, 2019)
How Congress got its power to investigate and subpoena (Washington Post, March 12, 2019)
Target of the first congressional probe in U.S. history? George Washington, of course (Washington Post, Jan. 19, 2019)
Improving Bipartisanship in High-Profile Congressional Investigations (Federalist Society 2019)
Members of Congress Job Description (including oversight) (Congressional Management Foundation 2018)
Congressional Government Oversight Panel (Brookings Institution, Oct. 3, 2018)
Using FOIA and public databases to track down DoD contracts (Muckrock, August 24, 2018)
GOP Senator Grassley says oversight is fundamental for a functioning federal government (The Hill, July 10, 2018)
Congress: The sleeping watchdog (The Hill, Dec. 6, 2017)
Necessary and Proper: Best Practices for Congressional Investigations (Project on Government Oversight, June 7, 2017)
Constitution: Oversight by Congress is Critical (The Hill, Feb. 7, 2017)
Investigating the Financial Crisis (PDF) by Elise J. Bean (2016)
The Legacy of Carl Levin (The American Prospect, Dec. 30, 2014)
Corporate world won't miss Levin (Politico, Sept. 11, 2014)
Congressional Investigations of the Department of Justice, 1920-2012: History, Law, and Practice (Congressional Research Service, November 5, 2012).
The Impact of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on Federal Policy, (21 Georgia Law Review 17, 21 (Special Issue 1986), Sen. Sam Nunn)
1976: Mike Wallace on Detroit corruption (interview with Carl Levin), ("60 Minutes," CBS, April 18, 1976)