High Court Endorses Political Corruption
Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts was underwhelming in his acceptance of the so-called Obama Healthcare Plan. It is a tax, he said, and the federal government is permitted under the Constitution to tax the bejesus out of the American people. Well, no conservative he, and I personally think he was stretching a bit to find that the ACA was constitutional. It was, after all, far more than a tax. I conclude that Judge Roberts, like everyone in congress who voted for it, never read the law before he made his decision. Well, what did we expect? He was a Bush appointee.
But Roberts really outdid himself in the McDonnell Decision.
One may recall that while serving as Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell solicited a fifty-thousand-dollar loan from Jonnie R. Williams. He then texted an aide about making damn sure that Williams got the meetings he wanted with Virginia state officials. McDonnell didn’t stop there. He also accepted as a gift a Rolex watch, a $20,000 loan, and the payment for the catering bill for his daughter’s wedding. Mrs. McDonnell (Virginia’s first lady) was the individual who suggested to Williams that her husband needed a new watch —and, presumably, a Timex wouldn’t do. Well, and while she was at it,
Maureen could use a new wardrobe totaling $20,000. Considering all of Mr. Williams’ gifts, the McDonnell’s accepted $175,000.00. Most of us would conclude that there may not be a clearer case of political corruption: facilitating access to state officials in return for a very large chunk of change and a few trinkets. It sounds corrupt to me.
But this isn’t how Chief Justice Roberts viewed it.
The court ruled that the Virginia jury was wrong to think that Governor McDonnell’s actions constituted “official corruption.” The McDonnell conviction was overturned —and in the process, the Supreme Court established a new standard for determining the government corruption —a standard so narrow that it will, in the future, be difficult to convict any but the most incompetent of our politicians.
While an official act can still be illegal, the definition of that term has been excessively broad. Something as commonplace as an executive turning to an aide and telling him or her to make something happen or accepting a check and then having a quiet word with government regulators, or even a suggestion to subordinates that a door ought to be opened for an influence-buyer does not, in and of itself, represent an official act.
No, of course not.
Chief Justice Roberts opined that an official act “must involve a formal exercise of governmental power that is similar in nature to a lawsuit before a court, a determination before an agency, or a hearing before a committee.”
Right —in the absence of a gavel, there is no bribery or corruption. I’ll call this the smoking gavel rule. Roberts said that bribery is “the kind of thing that can be put on an agenda, tracked for progress, and then checked off as complete.”
Well, I suppose the court is at least consistent. In the Citizens-United case, the court allowed rich people to purchase politicians. Now they are able to purchase office-holders as well. One pundit suggested that the high court was worried that if the McDonnell conviction was upheld, all of our politicians would begin to live in a state of fear (as opposed, to say, strutting around like the arrogant asses they are), sure that almost anyone could go to prison for being corrupt. God forbid that should ever happen.
Justice Roberts wrote, “Conscientious public officials arrange meetings for constituents, contact other officials on their behalf, and include them in events all the time.” If McDonnell’s conviction was upheld, it would “cast a pall of potential prosecution over these relationships.” He added, “officials might wonder whether they could respond to even the most commonplace requests for assistance, and citizens with legitimate concerns might shrink from participating in democratic discourse.”
Has America’s high court come to accept the premise that corrupt politics is simply how politics is done? It is certainly true that trading cash, favors, trips to Europe, expensive gifts and gifts of underage prostitutes is a common occurrence in our government today. Interestingly, during the court’s deliberations, it accepted a number of amicus briefs from White House lawyers who argued that the business of politics, as we know it, would be disturbed if the McDonnell decision were upheld. What White House lawyers? I don’t know their names, but it was during the Obama administration.
Bottom line: influence peddling as a form of corruption has been upheld by the highest court in the land. To everyone imagining that the Supreme Court was our last hope for a just America —think again.