In the ISBA email newsletter today, there was an interesting story on Blago, now put away 5 years in club fed med for allegedly engaging in corruption by exchanging campaign contributions for a senate seat OR suggesting that perhaps he would just nominate himself.
The FBI took a highly strange and rare path to bug Blago at his home and office and monitor his phone calls based upon some pretty weak allegations (I forget what those were) and while the Fed. Ct. Judge who issued the politician bugging permission warrant was reluctant, he did it anyway. (Please vote this guy ready for the NSA rubber stamp court allowing the taking of billions of bits of innocent US citizen emails, texts and even phone conversations–he’s ready for his own rubber stamp.)
Unlike most of the country and the press (who definitely can be wrong from time to time) and public opinion, which is as variable as the Illinois prairie grass in the wind, I was not very certain that trading campaign contribs for votes or seats or whatever was in fact “corruption”, because my hunch was 1) it is done all the time; 2) it likely falls under free speech and the corporations are persons under the First Amendment theory we currently operate on; 3) it is fairly the basis of politics–to gather the most campaign contribs you can while doing as little as possible.
Okay, maybe I’m overly cynical. However, unlike the rest of the country at the time, and in particular Illinois, I did in fact look up the law. I found almost no cases on a politician being convicted of corruption (the “honest services” acts in the US and various states or the Hobbs Act) in terms of support my campaign and I promise to vote the way you want, take action the way you want.
That’s right almost no cases. I did find about 7 at the US court of appeals circuit court level (and I forget the cites), but in EVERY case the court affirmed what I said above: 1) all politicians do it; 2) there is no obligation on the part of a politican to take large campaign contribs and the vote the way you want, disburse state money on the schedule you want, do or not do X, Y or Z. Yep, the federal circuits basically said a politician can lie about all of that — in exhchange for money put in a campaign fund, and if you don’t get the vote you want from him, you’re just screwed.
So the above article points this out at the Dec. 2013 oral argument before the 7th circuit who was very cynical about all of this.
I was too.
What I don’t understand is that the public was ready to convict, many others were ready to convict, even lawyers, but I could not find anyone interested in looking at the case law.
Many, including myself, have complained bitterly that the 18th floor consistently does X when the law is Y. Is this perhaps endemic in society, and even with lawyers?
Reblogged this on Justice for Everyone Blog.