Monday, June 27, 2011

There is Quid Pro Quo for republicans, then there is Quid Pro Quo for Democrats

On the outside looking in. That's how I feel everything I log on to Left in Alabama. I really miss not being allowed to post there. For years it part of my morning Political Junkie routine...Washington Journal to hear what the people were talking about.....Morning Joke, I mean Joe, to see what the righty's were talking about....Left in Alabama to find out what was really going on in the world and doing my part in trying to make a difference. Was I outspoken and opinionated? You betcha. Could I give as good as I got? Absolutely. Did I talk about race and racism a lot. Yes. Did I resort to name calling, personal attacks and insults when the substance of my arguments failed? No. Did I go along to get along? Nope.

As a matter of fact, I'm still trying to figure out exactly who or what got me banished from Left in Alabama but I feel the same way now as I did when my beloved mother explained why my siblings and I couldn't drink from the white water fountain.

Anyhoo, enough of the pity party. Paging LiA's resident righty, I mean Legal contributor! Old Prosecutor, you said-if you tell a legislator that "I will contribute X amount of money to your campaign in return for you voting yes on a specific bill" - that can be construed as bribery.

I have a problem with your expert legal opinion which can be expressed in two words... Citizens United
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010), was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited—because of the First Amendment. The 5–4 decision, in favor of Citizens United, resulted from a dispute over whether the non-profit corporation Citizens United could air a film critical of Hillary Clinton, and whether the group could advertise the film in broadcast ads featuring Clinton's image, in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act.[2]
The decision reached the Supreme Court on appeal from a January 2008 decision by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The lower court decision upheld provisions of the McCain–Feingold Act which prevented the film Hillary: The Movie from being shown on television within 30 days of 2008 Democratic primaries.[1][3]
The Court struck down a provision of the McCain–Feingold Act that prohibited all corporations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, and unions from broadcasting “electioneering communications.”[2] An "electioneering communication" was defined in McCain–Feingold as a broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or thirty days of a primary. The decision overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) and partially overruled McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003).[4] McCain–Feingold had previously been weakened, without overruling McConnell, in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (2007). The Court did uphold requirements for disclaimer and disclosure by sponsors of advertisements. The case did not involve the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations or unions to candidate campaigns or political parties.[5]
So, if corporations can make unlimited campaign contributions in the name of free speech, why can't people tell candidates they will vote for them if they share their interest? Certainly you don't believe corporations are donating million to candidates who don't share their interest?

What mooncat said
Let me relate to you an actual situation that happened last year. A member of Congress made a fundraising call to someone I know, obviously hoping for a contribution. The potential donor was very upfront that the health care reform bill was their top priority and said, "If you support this bill, call me again and I'll definitely support your campaign." Now, it's a federal campaign, so the amount is obviously limited to $2400 (or $4800 for primary & general) but it's pretty clearly a specific vote at issue.

I know the potential donor and the intent was not to bribe but to put pressure on a representative before an important vote and draw a bright line on a particular issue -- don't call me for money unless you vote for HCR.
By your standard, politicians are guilty of bribing voters when they say I will vote to repeal ObamaCare if you vote for me, and voters are guilty of bribing candidates/elected officials when they say I will vote for you if you vote to repeal ObamaCare.

Are campaign contributions only considered a bribe when it involves Democrats like former Alabama Don Siegelman

The question this case raises (as did the Siegelman case) is - when does a campaign contribution become a bribe?

However before we get to that, remember that Beason testifed (sic) he was offered a $1,000,000.00 per year "consulting" contract in return for his vote which, if true, would clearly be a bribe.

To the main question - most State (and the Federal) bribery statutes define bribery as offering a pecuniary benefit or a "thing of value" to a public official(sic) with the intent that the official's (sic) vote or action will be "corruptly" influemced (sic).

The line between campaign contribution and a bribe is a fine one. Generally to be a bribe, the government must prove a "quid pro quo" -that is the contribution must be given in exchange for a specific vote. Federal Courts have held that money "given freely without the promise of a specific action in return is not a bribe even if they are intended to "build a reservoir of goodwill that might ultimately affect one or more of a multitude of unspecified acts, now or in the future".

What was the crime in the Siegelman case?

I guess it depends on what the definition of Quid Pro Quo IS. There must be one definition for republicans and another one for democrats.

I look forward to your reply.


Anonymous said...

Hello Redeye. Hope you are doing well.

This is the entirety of what I wrote

"One of the concerns (4.00 / 1)

expressed by many commentators and defense lawyers is that an overzealous prosecutor could argue that your friend's action was a bribe attempt.

However I think most prosecutors would look at these factors:

1 - Was a specific amount or thing offered in return for the vote?

2 - Would your friend benefit more than any other citizen by the passage of that legislation?

3 - Were attempts made to conceal the contribution or the source of it.

As to withdrawing support, the bribery statutes require someone to offer a thing of value or a pecuniary benefit - it doesn't cover withholding a thing of value etc.

I agree with you re public financing. I read recently that a U.S. Representative must raise $15,000.00 per week in contributions to run every 2 years. "

As I also stated there is a very fine line between a legitimate campaign contribution and bribery. Where the law distinguishes them is by the existence or not of a "quid pro quo" - that is an agreement (express or implied) that the contribution is for a specific act by the official.

A promise to vote for a politican is not considered (legally) to be a pecuniary benefit or thing of value as required by the bribery statute.

Citizens Bank is not a bribery case so it has no bearing on the discussion.

The "quid pro quo" in Siegelman was a promise to place a person on a specific board in exchange for a contribution. The 11th Circuit has held there was sufficient evidence of this.

As to Repub v Demo standards. The current case was brought by the Justice Department under Atty General Holder, who I believe is a Democratic appointee.

Thanks for the invite to comment. I wish you well in the future.

Old Prosecutor

Redeye said...

Thank you for your response OP. As usual you hit the nail on it's head with these key words;

"an overzealous prosecutor could argue that your friend's action was a bribe attempt."

IMHO that is exactly what is happening not only in the Bingo case, but also in the Don Siegelman case. Overzealous, partisan, career, prosecutors are using their "discretion" instead of following the rule of law. Which opens up the door for a different standard instead of blind justice.

Definition of a Quid Pro Quo

If a man takes a woman out on a date, or marries her and showers her
with gifts in hopes of a more intimate relationship, or sex, you might
say that he is paying for sex. However, this is not illegal and it is
socially acceptable. The woman remains a free agent able to respond
in any manner that she chooses. However, if the man and woman are
engaged in prostitution there is a quid quo pro - an explicit agreement
made to exchange specific things for specific services. This is illegal
when the law forbids it.

Likewise, many acceptable favors occur in politics. These favors are
typical, legal and acceptable. For example, Bush often awards an
ambassadorship to donors who contribute more than $100,000 to his
campaign. This is considered politics as usual. Such conduct becomes
illegal, or bribery, when there is a quid quo pro - an explicit agreement
to exchange services, access and goods for other explicitly understood
services and goods.

I can't tell you how disappointed I am the Obama Justice Department is enabling Bush Justice Department hold overs to continue to bring cases against Democrats. It's a travesty of justice.

Margherite said...

r.e. your question about why you are no longer welcome on Left in Alabama -- I was not a reader (lived in Upstate NY) when you were a part of their core writers. But I do read their blog and yours on a regular basis.

There is a remarkable difference in logic between your analyses and theirs, and I suspect that made you the politically incorrect one on a number of levels. That is, you almost never overlook the obvious explanation.

There is a scientific principle that says that the most parsimonious explanation of a phenomenon is generally correct -- simple, direct logic. I see that principle used rarely by Left in Alabama writers. Although some of their observations are interesting, they often lack substantiating logic.

When people construct theories and then find facts to fit the theories, it's like the Bible-thumpers who cherry-pick verses to support their outrageous claims to know the mind of God. Making observations, collecting data, then deriving a theory, and then actually testing the theory is political science at its best. You're doing it, and it probably embarrassed the folks who can't.

Redeye said...

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response.

"Making observations, collecting data, then deriving a theory, and then actually testing the theory is political science at its best."

I guess that Political Science Degree is paying off.:)