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The no-longer-Hon. Steven Terry
The no-longer-Hon. Steven Terry
“If you can’t eat [lobbyists’] food, drink their booze, . . . take their money and then vote against them, you’ve got no business being [in politics],” said Jesse Unruh, a one-time Speaker of the California General Assembly, in the 1960s. That is one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it comes courtesy of the federal anti-corruption statutes, one of which prohibits an official from accepting things of value “in return for” official acts.  A jury found that a state court judge did just that and convicted him of several honest services fraud violations. We affirm.
I can't say there's anything extraordinary in Thursday's Sixth Circuit decision upholding former Judge Steven Terry's conviction on public corruption charges, but it does help explain the answer to a question which I'm sure is confusing to many: Given that many people want "something" in exchange for a campaign contribution, when does it cross the line into bribery? Follow me below the fold to find out.

The facts are straightforward, and revolting in just how cheaply Judge Terry could be bought. After having been appointed to fill a judicial vacancy by Gov. Strickland, Judge Terry needed help with his first election to the post:

Having never run for elected office before, Terry sought the help of County Auditor Frank Russo, a presence in Cleveland politics.... Terry knew that Russo was helping him behind the scenes. What Terry did not know was that the FBI was investigating Russo on corruption charges and that federal agents had tapped Russo’s phones. On July 15, 2008, Russo had a phone conversation with a local attorney, Joe O’Malley, about two foreclosure cases on Terry’s docket. O’Malley represented several homeowners in a lawsuit against American Home Bank, and he asked Russo to convince Terry to deny the bank’s motions for summary judgment. Russo promised to call Terry and make sure Terry did what he was “supposed to do” with the cases.

Two days later, Russo and Terry spoke on the phone. Russo told Terry to deny the motions for summary judgment, and Terry said he would. In the same conversation, the two men also discussed Russo’s attendance at future fundraisers for Terry’s reelection campaign.

That same day, Terry contacted the magistrate judge responsible for the foreclosure cases and told her to deny the motions for summary judgment. Surprised by Terry’s directive, the magistrate passed along the docket so that Terry could deny the motions himself. Terry did just that, even though he never reviewed the case files, never read the motions before denying them and never obtained a recommendation from the magistrate or anyone else (within the court system) about how to rule on the motions. Terry’s collaboration came relatively cheap. Russo’s political action committee donated $500 to Terry’s reelection campaign in July 2007. Russo’s committee purchased around $700 worth of stationery, envelopes and car magnets for Terry’s campaign in July 2007. And Russo had his official staff work for Terry’s campaign during business hours and provided other political help throughout the relevant time period. In exchange for this assistance, Russo explained that he expected Terry “to answer the phone any time I called. And any time I called with a recommendation, or a problem, or a case, I would expect Steve to give it special attention” and “follow through for me.” Russo in other words expected that his political and financial patronage meant Terry “would do what I asked him to do,” including “granting [] a motion so it wouldn’t tie [a] case up.”

Russo pled guilty to an array of charges stemming from his influence over as many as 10 local judges, and has been sentenced to 21+ years in the federal hoosegow.

At trial, Terry was convicted on three counts—conspiracy with Russo to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud, and two counts of honest services fraud by “accepting gifts, payments, and other things of value from Russo and others in exchange for favorable official action"—and sentenced to 5+ years. (Seems low, isn't it? Also worth discussing.)

In appealing his conviction, Terry protested (in part) that the line between a bribe and a legitimate campaign contribution was not clear, and that he didn't receive the contribution in exchange for this specific assistance. To this, Judge Sutton wrote:

Bribery in this setting has long been taken seriously. See, e.g., Herodotus, The Histories 5:25 (describing how, in ancient Persia, a judge who accepted a bribe was flayed alive and his successor was forced to sit on a chair made from the predecessor’s skin). Punishment for the offense today is less severe, but the prohibition remains.
Sutton reviews the relevant precedent (and, as always, I'm omitting case citations for your reading comfort) to summarize the relevant principles:
  • A public official can commit honest services fraud only by accepting a bribe or a kickback.
  • A public official accepts a bribe when he “corruptly . . . receives . . . anything of value . . . in return for . . . being influenced in the performance of any official act.”
  • One element of bribery is that the public official must agree that “his official conduct will be controlled by the terms of the promise or the undertaking.”—“The illegal conduct is taking or agreeing to take money for a promise to act in a certain way.”
  • This agreement must include a quid pro quo—the receipt of something of value “in exchange for an official act.”
  • The agreement between the public official and the person offering the bribe need not spell out which payments control which particular official acts. Rather, “it is sufficient if the public official understood that he or she was expected to exercise some influence on the payor’s behalf as opportunities arose.”
And, accordingly:
These principles, to be sure, do not spell out what kinds of agreements—and what level of specificity—must exist between the person offering a bribe and the public official receiving it. And some cases debate how “specific,” “express” or “explicit” a quid pro quo must be to violate the bribery, extortion and kickback laws.... So long as a public official agrees that payments will influence an official act, that suffices. What is needed is an agreement, full stop, which can be formal or informal, written or oral. As most bribery agreements will be oral and informal, the question is one of inferences taken from what the participants say, mean and do, all matters that juries are fully equipped to assess. “[M]otives and consequences, not formalities,” are the keys for determining whether a public official entered an agreement to accept a bribe, and the trier of fact is “quite capable of deciding the intent with which words were spoken or actions taken as well as the reasonable construction given to them by the
official and the payor.”...

That a bribe doubles as a campaign contribution does not by itself insulate it from scrutiny. No doubt, a contribution is more likely to be a duty-free gift than a bribe because a contribution has a legitimate alternative explanation: The donor supports the candidate’s election for all manner of possible reasons. But the prosecution may rebut that alternative explanation, and context may show that an otherwise legitimate contribution is a bribe.

Which brings us to this case:
A donor who gives money in the hope of unspecified future assistance does not agree to exchange payments for actions. No bribe thus occurs if the elected official later does something that benefits the donor. On the other hand, if a donor (like Russo) makes a contribution so that an elected official will “do what I asked him to do,” and the official (like Terry) accepts the payment with the same understanding, the donor and the official have formed a corrupt bargain. That agreement marks the difference between a run-of-the-mine contribution and a bribe.
Which takes us to the nub of the case:
Terry persists that campaign contributions must meet a higher standard to become a bribe because “the financing of political campaigns depends upon officials accepting contributions from people expecting some kind of benefit in return.” That sentiment may sum up Frank Russo’s donation strategy, but a contribution also may represent nothing more than “a general expression of support for the candidate and his views.” Just as “[n]ot every campaign contribution by a litigant or attorney creates a probability of bias that requires a judge’s recusal,” Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., 556 U.S. 868, 884 (2009), not every contribution to an elected judge is a bribe. Whatever else [our precedent] may mean, it does not give an elected judge the First Amendment right to sell a case so long as the buyer has not picked out which case at the time of sale.
And under these facts, there was more than enough to convict Judge Terry:
Terry’s rulings on the foreclosure cases were, at the very least, highly irregular, and the reality that a tape recording captured the Russo-Terry conversation immediately preceding these rulings did Terry no favor. No subtle winks and nods were needed. Russo straight up asked Terry to deny the bank’s motions for summary judgment in the two cases, and with Terry’s tape-recorded reply (“Got it.” Gov’t Ex. 117), Terry agreed to do just that.

And he did, within hours of the conversation. Here is the timeline: Terry and Russo spoke at 11:58 a.m. on July 17; Terry called the magistrate later that afternoon, around 12:30 p.m.; and Terry called Russo at 10:31 a.m. the next morning to confirm he had denied the motions. Without reading the motions, without consulting the case files and without relying on the recommendation of anyone—within the court system—who had read the files, Terry did just what Russo asked. That is not an everyday occurrence in the judicial branch, and a jury could readily infer that Terry’s unusual behavior, along with the other evidence, stemmed from an agreement to use his position as a public official to do Russo’s bidding in return for Russo’s financial, campaign and staff support...

Not every campaign contribution, we recognize, is a bribe in sheep’s clothing. Without anything more, a jury could not reasonably infer that a campaign contribution is a bribe solely because a public official accepts a contribution and later takes an action that benefits a donor.  But when a public official acts as a donor’s marionette—by deciding a case to a donor’s benefit immediately after the donor asks him to and without reading anything about the case—a jury can reject legitimate explanations for a contribution and infer that it flowed from a bribery agreement.

Score one for the good guys. Any questions?

Originally posted to Adam B on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 09:53 AM PST.

Also republished by Discussing The Law: TalkLeft's View On Law and Politics and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good post, Adam. Fun case. (10+ / 0-)

    I love this citation:  

    Herodotus, The Histories 5:25 (describing how, in ancient Persia, a judge who accepted a bribe was flayed alive and his successor was forced to sit on a chair made from the predecessor’s skin).
    Good law for over two mililenium.  

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 09:58:16 AM PST

  •  It's an unsustainable distinction. (9+ / 0-)

    But, as with many unsustainable distinctions, there is too much riding on sustaining it, so we just muddle through.  I was interested to see how the Massey case would be invoked: so the problem here wasn't that Russo gave Terry $1200 so the latter should have recused himself ($1200 isn't $2.5M even accounting for overall differences in campaign expenditures), rather that the quid pro quo was too explicit.

    Cumulatively these decisions are like the Darwin Awards: to get convicted you have to be almost willfully dumb.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:07:50 AM PST

  •  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

        [ Parent ]

      •  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:

          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.


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

              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

              [ Parent ]

    •  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

      [ Parent ]

      •  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

        [ Parent ]

      •  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

        [ Parent ]

        •  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 ]

  •  The "Bribery of public officials and witnesses"... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    ...legislation offers semi-serious penalties;

    (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 for:
    (A) being influenced in the performance of any official act;
    shall be fined under this title or not more than three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value, whichever is greater, or imprisoned for not more than fifteen years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.
    No skin off his back but something.

    Is this legislation active?  

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:19:44 AM PST

  •  you left out the best part of Unruh's statement!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and if anyone doesn't know why I say that, it has to do with sex and apparently a certain four-letter word cannot be in titles

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:20:34 AM PST

  •  The financing of political campaigns (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    Thank you for the article and interesting discussion.

    “the financing of political campaigns depends upon officials accepting contributions from people expecting some kind of benefit in return.”
    It seems to me that the requirement that a political campaign from private financial gifts - i.e. "donations" - is inherently corrupting.  It sounds like the defendant himself said so.

    Rather than ask our public officials to resist the inquires and demands of those who have previously given large amounts of money to the public official, and who the public official will want to ask for more money in the futre, wouldn't it be better to outlaw all private financial donations and gifts, and pay for all political campaigns using public money?

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:31:56 AM PST

    •  Its completly a bribery based system (0+ / 0-)

      I give a politician money to do my will, right now. That's considered bribery.

      I give a politician money to do my will, later. That's not bribery? The whole system is totally corrupt, as anyone can clearly see.

      A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

      by onionjim on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 01:45:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Generally speaking (0+ / 0-)
    If you can’t eat [lobbyists’] food, drink their booze, . . . take their money and then vote against them, you’ve got no business being [in politics]
    or, "If you can't make campaign promises to the public to secure contributions and votes and then turn around and fuck them..."

    Assuming the landscape of elections in general was vastly different--say publicly financed--it's still not hard to see how the system could be abused. Who determines the distribution of the public money to the candidates, or even who is an eligible candidate? How do you prevent financial inequity between candidates from creeping into the election process anyway? Paid "volunteers" supplied from interest groups, bribing media outlets for more exposure, etc.

    Everyone should be entitled to reasonable expectations that their support of a candidate will provide them some measure of benefit (assuming they are competent enough to even know what's in their best interest, which is often a stretch). Politicians and judges want to keep their jobs though, so the measure of your benefit is probably closely tied to what you can do for the guy making the decisions...hence the money continues to do the talking. And who wants to be a martyr when you'll just be instantly replaced by some asshole like Terry or Russo?

  •  Just curious about if Jesse Unruh was the first to (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Adam B, VClib, pico, Eric Nelson, lostboyjim

    to say this. I thought it was Sam Rayburn who said pretty much the same thing but only earlier (and with a sexist comment included)

    Years ago, the top Texan in Washington was Sam Rayburn, who served as Speaker of the House from 1941 until his death in 1961 (except for two brief periods of Republican control). Legend has it that a young congressman came to him, and asked to be excused from voting with the party on a particular bill on the grounds that his biggest contributors back home opposed it. Rayburn told him, “Son, if you can’t take their money, drink their whiskey, screw their women, and then vote against ‘em, you don’t deserve to be here.”
    I knew Arnie Vinick wasn't the first ;)

    "The West Wing: In God We Trust (2005)
    Sen. Arnold Vinick: If you can't drink their booze, take their money and then vote against them, then you're in the wrong business.
    •  So the earliest (sort of) version I can find (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gooderservice, Eric Nelson

      appears to be a pseudononymous article by "Assemblyman X" (Jesse Unruh himself) in the Readers Digest in 1960.... although this is through cites in various books, because I can't find an actual digital copy to look at.  Even in this context it sounds like something he picked up, so the Rayburn source is still a possibility.  I just can't find anything earlier to verify it.

      I love quote-hunting, but some of these haven't left much of a concrete trail.  This line was probably told and retold a million times before it appeared in print.

      I see it attributed to Molly Ivins a lot, too.  She used the quote in a September 1988 article, "Texas-Style Ethics", in The Progressive.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 12:40:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Question: Why doesn't Justice Clarence Thomas.. (0+ / 0-)

    .. fall into this category?
    I've heard it argued that justice Thomas' situation is different because the 1/2 $million or so was to his wife, but Rachel Maddow makes a pretty close tie to the judge himself

  •  Short answer: when you get caught & there is (0+ / 0-)

    proof. Nobody wheel ever makes a contribution without expectation of benefit, and few recipients are so stupid as not to realize that future contributions are at risk if the benefit is withheld.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 04:30:10 PM PST

  •  Word to the wise, if you see a 1930s 3rd Cir. case (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Adam B

    that has Circuit Judges Buffington and Davis on the panel, don't cite it.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 09:49:27 PM PST

  •  So a Lobbyist Walks into a Rep's Office and Says (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sixty Something, Troubadour

    "I have a million dollars to spend on indy advertising during your campaign. I can spend it for you or against you." A scenario of Thom Hartmann's.

    And there is never going to be any donation.

    If private sponsoring of campaign speech is such a good idea, why don't we charge potential trial witnesses the going advertising rates to testify in a trial, and require them too to find big donors and alliances with independent advertisers?

    What distinguishes one sector of truth and lies from another?

    Why must the most fundamental act of democratic citizenship be structurally founded on the need for bribery and lies?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 07:59:40 PM PST

  •  We're adults here... (0+ / 0-)

    ...and the California legend handed down to me had Jesse Unruh saying: "if you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and vote against 'em anyway, you don't belong in politics...."

  •  My ethics teacher in law school told us that, (0+ / 0-)

    for "those of you with a good moral center, all you need to know is that if you have to think twice, it's probably wrong - everybody else, please turn to page 17".

    Needless to say, we all opened the book, "just to be safe".

    Many hands make light work, but light hearts make heavy work the lightest of all.

    by SpamNunn on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:05:25 PM PST

  •  It's all bribery. (0+ / 0-)

    The moment we permit one candidate to have more money than another, or permit their proxies to engage in financial combat to achieve message dominance, we abdicate democracy and agree to auction public offices.

    A slaver says: "Work for me or I'll kill you." A corporate executive says "Work for me or I'll take away your means of survival." Is there a difference?

    by Troubadour on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:18:51 PM PST

    •  Nonsense. One million $5 donations is no bribe. (0+ / 0-)

      One $5 million donation probably is.

      Only the latter is illegal.

      "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

      by shrike on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:28:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sure it is. (0+ / 0-)

        Are you saying that people with $5 to donate don't have a political advantage over people who are completely impoverished?  People don't have the same amount of money to give, so people with more have greater access to politicians and can impose their will on partisan agendas.  Short of full, mandatory public funding and strict regulation of proxy groups, the candidate with more money has an advantage and the individuals with more money to donate have a greater say in which candidate that is.

        A slaver says: "Work for me or I'll kill you." A corporate executive says "Work for me or I'll take away your means of survival." Is there a difference?

        by Troubadour on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:34:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Power of Gold (0+ / 0-)

    The words of the song by the late Dan Fogelberg seem appropriate here.

    The story is told of the power of gold
    And its lure on the unsuspecting
    It glitters and shines, it badgers and blinds
    And constantly needs protecting

    Balance the cost of the soul you lost
    With the dreams you lightly sold
    Are you under the power of gold?

    The letters and calls got you climbing the walls
    And everyone wants a favor
    They beg to remind you of times left behind you
    You know the past is a loser

    The face you're wearing is different now
    And the days run hot and cold
    Are you under the power of gold? Power of gold

    You're a creature of habit, run like a rabbit
    Scared of a fear you can't name
    Your own paranoia is looming before you
    But nobody thinks that it's a game

    Balance the cost of the soul you lost
    With the dreams you lightly sold
    Then tell me that you're free
    Of the power of gold, power of gold, power of gold

    The women are lovely the wine is superb
    But there's somethin' about the song
    That disturbs you

    The women are lovely, the wine is superb
    But there's somethin' about the song
    That disturbs you

    The women are lovely, the wine is superb
    But there's somethin' about the song
    That disturbs you

    The women are lovely, the wine is superb
    But there's somethin' about the song
    That disturbs you

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:31:14 PM PST

  •  Fanatic lawyers don't understand moderation. (0+ / 0-)

    Corruption like this stuff is nothing compared to real endemic, damaging corruption you get in other countries.
    Don't fear the law, fear the judge!

  •  man, I loved the wire (0+ / 0-)

    I hated to see it end

    when I see a republican on tv, I always think of Monty Python: "Shut your festering gob you tit! Your type makes me puke!"

    by bunsk on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 09:58:07 PM PST

  •  Still chuckling over a judge citing Herodotus (0+ / 0-)

    as precedent.

    We need more people like that on this planet.

    Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.

    by darthstar on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 10:04:57 PM PST

  •  Re: Herodotus -- Is it really cruel and unusual if (0+ / 0-)

    the one being flayed is a judge?

    Just trying to decide if the Consitution really really forbids skin seats when the miscreants are judges.

    Judges have a special place in our society.  A special hell for judges who abuse that station has a certain visceral appeal.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 12:52:15 AM PST

  •  I can't help but to notice (0+ / 0-)

    the politicians around the country being nabbed for corruption are usually African American.

    I'm not a person to scream, "racism!" at every turn however, take notice because the white guys sure aren't going down! Given the age-old "good ole boys" gangs and the race to get any and all possible Democratic-leaning politicians out of the way, I don't see my theory as being too far out.

    Strange but not a stranger.

    by jnww on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 03:56:26 AM PST

  •  All Elected officials need to be worried (0+ / 0-)

    Especially the senior Senator in the Commonwealth across the river from Ohio.  That man epitomizes sleaze.  It ought to be an easy task to dig up corruption on him.  And he's mentoring the junior Senator.  

  •  When you post a video of The Wire. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You've got me. Great post. Seriously. And great news.

  •  I never understood (0+ / 0-)

    Why judges are elected in America.  It makes no sense.  I mean, really.  What do I (or any other average American) know about who is or isn't a competent jurist?  

    Electing judges is a terrible idea. The US is virtually alone among advanced democracies in this practice.

    Trusting individual citizens with the task of staffing a judiciary runs counter to the entire idea of an independent judiciary. Elections require cash, and absent full and mandatory public financing, this means fundraising. Even in the best of circumstances, it’s difficult for a judge to appear impartial when, as a candidate, she relied on donors and special interests for support. This might not be a huge concern on a high-profile body, like a state Supreme Court, but it’s undoubtedly a problem among the thousands of lower-court judges chosen by popular ballot.

    And...election-year pressure can lead judges to alter their decisions; in a PA study, for example, researchers found that all judges increase their sentences in election years, “resulting in some 2,700 years of additional prison time, or 6 percent of total prison time, in aggravated assault, rape and robbery sentences over a 10-year period.”

    Worth a read:

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