APRIL 11, 2016
Brief Criticizes Drop in Corruption Prosecutions by Obama Administration
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it joined with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) in filing an amici curiae brief with the United State Supreme Court in support of a federal court of appeals decision upholding the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on 11 counts of corruption and fraud. The friends of court brief was filed on April 6, 2016.
In September 2014, McDonnell was convicted for granting political favors to a Richmond businessman in exchange for golf outings, lavish vacations and $120,000 in loans. In July 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously rejected McDonnell’s appeal. In January 2016, the Supreme Court agreed to review the lower court’s decision. Former Gov. McDonnell alleges the federal statues penalizing bribery and extortion are impermissibly vague under the U.S. Constitution.
In their amici brief in support of the Court of Appeals decision, Judicial Watch and AEF argue that the two laws at issue are straightforward tools for policing public corruption:
Public officials have a duty to act in the best interest of the people who elect them. When they make decisions based on personal interest, they are defrauding the public. The honest services statute criminalizes government corruption by punishing those who execute a scheme to deprive another of the right to “honest services.” The Hobbs Act prohibits extortion “under color of official right.”
Petitioner was convicted of violating these statutes as he accepted more than $175,000 in personal benefits (loans and luxury items) in exchange for agreeing to use the power of his office on behalf of his benefactor. In considering whether the actions taken by Petitioner constituted “official acts,” amici urge the Court to adopt as broad as possible inter
The honest services statute and the Hobbs Act have served as critical tools in prosecuting public corruption. The Court should adopt a broad interpretation of what constitutes an “official act” as not to deprive prosecutors of these critical tools.”
The amici brief suggests curtailing or scrapping these statutes would guarantee that more corrupt politicians and bureaucrats would escape prosecution and that public corruption prosecutions already have dropped dramatically under the Obama administration:
A long-term decline in federal prosecutions for public corruption has continued and reached a 20 year low. Data from the Justice Department show that 505 individuals were prosecuted for corruption offenses during FY 2015, a decline of 3.6 percent from FY 2014 and down more than 30 percent from five years ago. For the first four months of FY 2016, there have been just 140 new official corruption prosecutions. This is the lowest level reported for such prosecutions in the last 20 years..
Moreover, the Obama administration has pursued 16 percent fewer public corruption charges against federal employees than the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, according to a 2014 DOJ report to Congress on public integrity…(Obama administration has filed an annual average of 390 such prosecutions compared to Clinton (1995-2000) average of 468 federal employees and Bush (2001-2009) average of 467).
“It is no surprise that criminal politicians don’t like federal corruption laws – but that doesn’t make those laws unconstitutional,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Under the Obama administration, there’s been a remarkable drop in government corruption prosecutions. Eviscerating anti-corruption laws is the last thing this nation needs – as public corruption is already out of control.”
Judicial Watch’s partner in the amici filing, the Allied Educational Foundation, is a charitable and educational foundation dedicated to empowering America through education and legal action.
The Judicial Watch/Allied Educational Foundation brief highlights how hundreds of public officials have been successfully prosecuted for depriving the public of “honest services” and violating the Hobbs Act, including:
- Rod Blagojevich, former Illinois governor, indicted in 2009 for conspiring to commit honest services fraud, as well as for soliciting bribes, including attempting to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat.
- Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a former Congressman from California, convicted of corruption charges including honest services fraud, was sentenced in March 2006 to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple corruption charges involving his acceptance of more than $2.4-million in homes, yachts, antiques, Persian rugs and other items from defense contractors.
- Former Illinois governor George Ryan was convicted in 2006 of honest services fraud, in addition to racketeering, tax fraud, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal agents.
- Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, convicted in 2006 of honest services fraud, in addition to conspiracy, bribery, and obstruction of justice, involving a $500,000 contribution to his campaign to establish a lottery, allegedly in exchange for appointing the donor to a board that regulates hospitals.
- Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff pled guilty in 2006 to honest services fraud in addition to conspiracy and tax evasion; he was convicted in 2008 of further charges of honest services fraud in addition to charges of conspiracy and tax evasion.
- Bob Ney, a former congressman from Ohio, convicted of corruption charges including honest services fraud, was sentenced in 2007 to 30 months in prison after he admitted corruptly accepting luxury vacation trips, skybox seats at sporting events, campaign contributions and expensive meals from Abramoff.
- Ira Blackwood, a Chicago police officer, convicted under the Hobbs Act for accepting bribes from an FBI agent to influence pending cases in Cook County Circuit Court.
- John Bencivengo, former mayor of Hamilton Township, New Jersey, convicted under the Hobbs Act for accepting money in exchange for influencing the Hamilton Township school board to refrain from putting contracts up for competitive bidding.
- Former Alaska state legislator Bruce Weyhrauch was convicted in 2007 of honest services fraud in addition to bribery and extortion.
- Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan were convicted of honest services fraud and conspiracy in the “Kids for Cash” scandal for accepting money in exchange for sending juveniles to for-profit detention center.
- Wayne R. Bryant, a former Democratic New Jersey state senator, convicted of multiple corruption charges, including honest services fraud, for using his power and influence to obtain a low-show job at a state School of Osteopathic Medicine in exchange for bringing millions of dollars in extra funding to the school.
- Kevin Geddings, a former North Carolina lottery commissioner, sentenced in 2006 to four years for concealing work done for a lottery vendor when he accepted a seat on the state lottery commission in 2005.
- Mary McCarty, a Palm Beach, Florida County Commissioner, resigned in 2009 after admitting charges of honest services fraud involving the acceptance of discounts, free hotel stays and other undisclosed gifts provided by businesses doing business with the county.
- Ray Nagin, former mayor of New Orleans from 2002 to 2010, convicted of bribery and honest services wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit same. Nagin solicited and accepted bribes from contractors and others seeking to conduct business with New Orleans.
- William J. Jefferson, former Louisiana congressman, convicted for multiple bribery schemes; the FBI found $90,000 of cash in the his freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers.
- Anthony S. Seminerio, William Boyland, Jr., Carl Kruger, New York Assemblymen and a State Senator (Kruger), received bribes from David Rosen, CEO of a company that managed several NYC area hospitals.
- Richard E. Long, a U.S. Army employee, served as a Water and Petroleum Manager, convicted of honest services wire fraud and bribery; provided confidential information to a government contractor to help it during the bidding process in exchange for over half a million dollars in “loans.”
- Edgar Gillock, former Tennessee state senator, convicted of honest services fraud. Honeywell employees sought Gillock’s assistance in the sale of a computer to Tennessee’s Department of Employment Security. The Honeywell employees indirectly paid Gillock for his “services” by routing the money through a consulting firm.
- Michael Myers, Raymond Lederer, Frank Thompson, Jr., John Murphy, former Congressmen convicted of bribery in the Abscam scandal, in which the Congressmen agreed to help employees and family members of employees of Abdul Enterprises emigrate to the U.S. in exchange for cash.