DOES EXISTING FEDERAL CRIMINAL LAW PREVENT LARGE CAMPAIGN DONATIONS?
LawReader Senior Editor Stan Billingsley Oct. 8, 2011
MSNBC Host Dylan Ratigan has started a campaign to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing campaign contributions to legislators. The chances for such an amendment to pass with the required 2/3rds votes of the House and Senate are probably very unlikely.
However, the U.S. Attorney General may already have existing statutory authority to examine the response of candidates for public office who receive large campaign contributions and then vote to support the interest of the donor.
We cite the language of Title l8 of the United States Code below which appears to be broad enough to impose criminal penalties upon the shoulders of any member of congress who accepts large campaign contributions in exchange for legislative support of the donor’s agenda..
The federal statute says:
“…being a public official or person selected to be a public official, directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for:
(A) being influenced in the performance of any official act;…”
The courts have recognized the requirement that statutes be given an interpretation that enforces the plain and simply meaning of the statute.
“…text of the statute is used first, and it is read as it is written, using the ordinary meaning of the words of the statute.”
“U.S. Supreme Court: “[I]n interpreting a statute a court should always turn to one cardinal canon before all others. . . .[C]ourts must presume that a legislature says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there.” Connecticut Nat’l Bank v. Germain, 112 S. Ct. 1146, 1149 (1992). Indeed, “when the words of a statute are unambiguous, then, this first canon is also the last: ‘judicial inquiry is complete.’” 503 U.S. 249, 254″
The following statute imposes even campaign gifts to third party entities, and not just personal gifts to the candidate.
UNITED STATES CODE
TITLE 18 – CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
PART I – CRIMES
CHAPTER 11 – BRIBERY, GRAFT, AND CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
Sec. 201. Bribery of public officials and witnesses
(a) For the purpose of this section -
(1) the term “public official” means Member of Congress,
Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, either before or after such
official has qualified, or an officer or employee or person
acting for or on behalf of the United States, or any department,
agency or branch of Government thereof, including the District of
Columbia, in any official function, under or by authority of any
such department, agency, or branch of Government, or a juror;
(2) the term “person who has been selected to be a public
official” means any person who has been nominated or appointed to
be a public official, or has been officially informed that such
person will be so nominated or appointed; and
(3) the term “official act” means any decision or action on any question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy, which may at any time be pending, or which may by law be brought before any public official, in such official’s official capacity, or in such official’s place of trust or profit.
(b) Whoever – (1) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or entity, with intent –
(A) to influence any official act; or
(B) to influence such public official or person who has been
selected to be a public official to commit or aid in
committing, or collude in, or allow, any fraud, or make
opportunity for the commission of any fraud, on the United
(C) to induce such public official or such person who has
been selected to be a public official to do or omit to do any
act in violation of the lawful duty of such official or person;
(2) being a public official or person selected to be a public
official, directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks,
receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return
(A) being influenced in the performance of any official act;