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View Diary: When do campaign contributions become bribes? (78 comments)

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  •  Technically, all politicians (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fuzzyguy, ban nock

    are bribed and are bribe takers.

    If there's money involved - it's crooked.

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:17:47 AM PST

    •  But that's the whole point. (4+ / 0-)

      Where can you draw the line? is it sustainable?

      •  the more interesting conceptual question (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Adam B, fuzzyguy, Eric Nelson

        is when a politician takes a course of action designed to maximize donations.  Of course, there's no guarantee they'll follow, and the politician is arguably forgoing income from competing interests, but the intent of the elected is the same as with Terry, just no direct culpability from the briber.

        Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

        by Loge on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:36:33 AM PST

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      •  The line is drawn by those dancing around it (0+ / 0-)

        If bribery, or influence peddling, laws were written to prohibit the appearance of a conflict of interest, by specifying a time frame or other indicia of proximity that would be illegal yet much broader than the very narrow laws applied here, we could have a much cleaner election financing system.  But the people who might be caught in that broader net are writing the laws, hence the narrowest possible construction is what the law specifies.

        Citizens United defeated by citizens, united.

        by Dallasdoc on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 04:17:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting thought (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dallasdoc

          There are some states, for example, where incumbents can't fundraise while the legislature is in session.  Does that accord with your sensibilities?

          •  I would rewrite them more broadly (0+ / 0-)

            The basic idea is that lawmakers must avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.  This could be a misdemeanor, with a quid pro quo at arm's length warranting a more serious punishment.   Campaign contributions, either directly or through third parties, beyond a certain limit would be construed as violating some level of illegal behavior if the appearance of a quid pro quo could be demonstrated.

            This would basically eliminate large campaign contributions from those with business before Congress or a legislature.  Which is the object of rewriting the laws, after all.

            Seems to me this would get around Citizen's United, because it takes campaign contributions out of the free speech arena and into the punishable corruption arena.  But IANAL, and I'd be interested in your reaction.

            Citizens United defeated by citizens, united.

            by Dallasdoc on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 05:42:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, hmm. (0+ / 0-)

              Citizens United isn't about contributions, but independent speech.  This doesn't fit it.

              I'm not sure what you're arguing as to "the appearance of a quid pro quo," and how much looser of a standard that is from "an agreement" as this case evidences.  Flesh it out - what would you like to render illegal?

              •  Business as usual, mostly (0+ / 0-)

                Putting an amendment in a bill favoring a particular business, and receiving a $10,000 campaign donation from that business' officers, either before or after.  

                Voting in favor of a bill that creates a financial benefit for any company whose executives have donated, directly or indirectly, $25,000 or more to your campaign.  

                Being a regulator or oversight Congressional committee staffer, and taking a job in a regulate industry or company within three years of a government job.

                Or for that matter, being a business that contributes beyond a small amount to a PAC participating in an election that favors a legislator who voted in your interest in the past two years, or against his/her opponent.

                Basically, drawing the connections that we all see every day, but which are allowed by today's laws.  Ending legal corruption.

                Citizens United defeated by citizens, united.

                by Dallasdoc on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 06:40:48 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Or buying a political appointment. (0+ / 0-)

                  Such as when you're Art Pope (board member of the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity and owner of chains of dollar stores and discount stores), and you contribute a bunch of money to GOP campaigns in NC, and the new GOP governor's second or third act in office is to appoint you as the state's deputy budget director.

              •  Not really. (0+ / 0-)

                In Citizens United, by a 5-to-4 vote, the court ruled that limiting the amount that organizations could spend, severely restricted First Amendment rights. The law’s purpose and effect, according to the 5 conservative supremes, was to keep unions and most corporations from conveying facts and opinions to the public, though it exempted media corporations.

                The point of the law was to protect the news media’s freedom of speech and not the legal form that they happened to be organized under. While corporations make contributions to society, they “are not actually members of it". When the framers constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind.

                The Citizens United majority never explained why any corporation that does not have a press function warrants the same free speech rights as a person. Neither did Justice Alito. Meanwhile, the false equivalence of money and speech put forward by Citizens United and the money it unleashed is wreaking havoc in our politics.

                http://www.nytimes.com/...

            •  Agree (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Faito

              Citizen's United has had the effect of legalizing bribery in the federal government.  The laws governing what constitutes bribery are not sufficient to make a distinction.

              Democratic Leaders must be very clear they stand with the working class of our country. Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done fairly -- not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.

              by Betty Pinson on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:15:12 PM PST

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    •  Not necessarily (0+ / 0-)

      If you are donating to someone who already shares your views.

      If Planned Parenthood donates to Barbara Boxer, is that a bribe? She's going to vote the way they want whether they donate to her or not.

      However, if they donated to Rick Santorum and managed to get him to change his vote on something (if he were in office), that might be a bribe, but I tend to doubt it would be successful.

      •  You wouldn't get a 180 shift (0+ / 0-)

        But you can get a whole lot of disinterested legislators, without strong feelings one way or another, to see things your way by some friendly campaign contributions and other favors.  It doesn't even need to be an arms-length relationship, more like a hair's-breadth relationship to satisfy the law.

        The deep and endemic corruption of our government demands much broader corruption laws, and bribery and influence peddling are the obvious places to start.

        Citizens United defeated by citizens, united.

        by Dallasdoc on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 04:20:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps its the type of action (0+ / 0-)

        taken by the politician that needs definition.  Maybe the law should be clearer about votes that result in financial benefit to the donor.

        Democratic Leaders must be very clear they stand with the working class of our country. Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done fairly -- not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.

        by Betty Pinson on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:16:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  When I contribute to a campaign ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... I am supporting a person I think should be or remain in elective office. Am I offering a bribe? Is the official whose campaign accepts it "taking a bribe"?

      Thereafter, if I go to that officeholder or a member of her staff and ask to be heard on an issue as a constituent, am I therefore to be treated as asking for something in return?

      "Technically" I don't think so. Realistically, I don't think so either.

      I often write - and sometimes call - a legislator's office pressing a point on a piece of legislation, or supporting a bill that involves spending taxpayer money on a project that would benefit my community, and therefore me.

      Do you really mean to regard those kinds of communications as bribes?

      If so, I could never contribute? Or give only to a campaign of someone who neither I nor anyone I know of will ever ask for anything? If you think that on this site, you must be a Republican!

      2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

      by TRPChicago on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 01:36:30 PM PST

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      •  Why not just make the money (0+ / 0-)

        anonymous to the campaigns, but have it go through a campaign broker?  Wait, isn't that what PAC's do? and so, we once again the whole quid pro quo thing going again...

        Great obserrvations!  Thanks for the thought provoking :)

        ''The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.'' - Justice Hugo L. Black of the Supreme Court

        by geekydee on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 09:11:27 PM PST

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      •  I don't think (0+ / 0-)

        the type of money you are talking about is the problem. It's the $50,000 or more that David Brennan manages to get into the coffers of Governor Kasich and the Ohio Republican Party in return for stripping public schools of funding and placing it in Brennan's pockets instead while he provides garbage "education" to kids in his for-profit charter schools.

        I don't think $200 from a citizen who calls their representative on issues is the problem.

        Jon Husted is a dick.

        by anastasia p on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 09:41:23 PM PST

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        •  Agreed, but I was responding to one of those ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... blanket observations: "Technically, all politicians are bribed and are bribe takers."

          That statement is wrong, technically and every other way.

          2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

          by TRPChicago on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 05:23:45 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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