Law & Principles

Jonathan Small | October 4, 2022

Blind trust in prosecutors unwise

Jonathan Small

In general, Oklahomans trust law enforcement and prosecutors, but have a healthy distrust of politicians. Unfortunately, that means they should also be somewhat skeptical of prosecutions and investigations—because politicians often have a hand in them.

The most obvious examples have come from the federal level. The federal Department of Justice recently raided former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, supposedly over handling of some documents from the president’s term in office.

There are many legal issues at dispute here, including the fact that presidents have been found to have an ownership right in such documents and also have the power to declassify documents as they leave office, but the real issue here is far bigger: The federal Department of Justice has never conducted a similar raid on prior administration officials accused of retaining classified documents—with Hillary Clinton among the most notable.

Thus, this was an unprecedented raid conducted against a potential future political opponent of President Biden, conducted on questionable legal grounds. Matthew Whitaker, who served as acting U.S. Attorney General from Nov. 7, 2018, to Feb. 14, 2019, bluntly called the Mar-a-Lago raid “something from banana republics, not the United States of America.”

But that is not the only action raising eyebrows.

In 2021 the National School Boards Association notoriously sent a letter to the Biden administration asking for federal law enforcement to investigate individuals accused of disrupting school-board meetings—and to do so under federal anti-terrorism and hate-crimes laws.

Even though the letter cited no actual incidents of terrorism or hate crimes, and local police are capable of handling public-meeting disruptions, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland quickly issued a memorandum ordering the Federal Bureau of Investigation to develop strategies for tackling the alleged problem.

Soon after, however, information became public that indicated the letter was drafted in coordination with some Biden administration officials, causing many to question if the Biden administration was trying to use federal law-enforcement agencies to intimidate and silence parents seeking a voice in local governance of schools.

While Oklahomans might want to think such abuse is not feasible at the state level, that isn’t so. Consider this: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations depends on the goodwill of lawmakers for its annual appropriations. Thus, if a state lawmaker requests an OSBI investigation, there’s a good chance one will be forthcoming, regardless of legitimacy.

For example, it’s not unreasonable to think a group lobbying for Second Amendment rights could quickly find themselves “under investigation” if a state legislator objects to their work.

People in law enforcement work hard and generally do the right thing. But they also work in a system that can be subject to political pressures, which is why it is so important that we have robust checks and balances in place to identify and deter abuse of power.

Jonathan Small President

Jonathan Small


Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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