The Developments of Congressional Investigative Power

By M. Nelson McGeary | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
PURPOSES OF INVESTIGATIONS

CLASSIFICATION OF CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATIONS. The primary tasks of modern legislative assemblies may be arranged in four classes. First, but not necessarily foremost, is the function of law making. At least equally important is the responsibility of supervising the executive; the legislature in this role may be compared to a board of directors of a business corporation which, at least theoretically, endeavors to hold " administrative officers to a due accountability for the manner in which they perform their duties." 1 A third legislative office, broad in its implications, involves activities as an organ of public opinion; a law-making body may serve as a national forum for the expression, 2 formulation, or moulding of opinion. The remaining function, which may be termed membership, concerns internal matters, especially the judging of the qualifications and conduct of the delegates to the legislative assembly.

Congress, in the performance of each of these responsibilities, places considerable reliance on inquiries. A convenient classification of investigations, therefore, can be drawn on the basis of Congressional functions. It should be noted, however, that it is idle to seek a rigid segregation. A neat separation of all investigations into four classes is beset with difficulty. Few inquiries are confined strictly to one purpose. An overlapping of motives is not uncommon; to single out one as transcending all others is sometimes to risk a distortion of emphasis.

( I ) Investigations to Assist Congress in Legislating. It is probably safe to say that the bulk of investigations of the past ten years were conducted for the chief purpose of obtaining information to help Congress in drafting laws. The presence

____________________
1
W. F. Willoughby, Principles of Legislative Organization and Administration ( Washington, The Brookings Institution, 1934), p. 157.
2
This expression of opinion at least involves the voicing of grievances.

-23-

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The Developments of Congressional Investigative Power
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Developments of Congressional Investigative Power *
  • Preface *
  • Contents 5
  • Chapter I- Introductory 7
  • Chapter II- Purposes of Investigations 23
  • Chapter III- Procedure 50
  • Chapter IV- Results 85
  • Chapter V- Recent Decisions by the Courts 95
  • Chapter VI- Concerning Future Methods 115
  • Bibliography 161
  • Index 167
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