Anything of Value Also Read Broadly in Context of Federal Bribery Laws (Menendez Case)

Following up on my “thing of value” posts related to Donald Trump Jr. and possible solicitation of foreign contributions charge, here’s something analogous from the bribery context:

U.S. v. Menendez, 132 F. Supp. 3d 635 (D.N.J. 2015):

… bribery under § 201(b), which is defined as the corrupt acceptance of “anything of value” with the intent to be influenced in the performance of an official act, turns on a subjective definition of “anything of value.” See, e.g., United States v. Renzi, 769 F.3d 731, 744 (9th Cir.2014) (The term “anything of value” is “defined broadly to include ‘the value which the defendant subjectively attaches to the items received.’ ” (quoting United States v. Gorman, 807 F.2d 1299, 1305 (6th Cir.1986))); United States v. Williams, 705 F.2d 603, 623 (2d Cir.1983) ( “Corruption of office occurs when the officeholder agrees to misuse his office in the expectation of gain, whether or not he has correctly assessed the worth of the bribe.”). Notwithstanding the statement in Citizens United that independent expenditures have no actual value to candidates, a jury could find that Defendant Menendez placed value, albeit subjective, on the earmarked donations given to Majority PAC by Melgen.

Second, § 201(b)(1) criminalizes the making of a corrupt promise to a public official “to give anything of value to any other person or entity,with intent to influence any official act,” and § 201(b)(2) criminalizes corruptly seeking “anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for being influenced in the performance of any official act.” (emphasis added). Public officials have been convicted for being influenced in the performance of their duties in return for bribes paid to third parties. See United States v. Jefferson, 674 F.3d 332, 341–42 (4th Cir.2012) (Payments made to a business controlled by a Congressman’s wife in exchange for official action constituted bribery.); United States v. Siegelman, 640 F.3d 1159, 1165–66 (11th Cir.2011) (Governor was guilty of federal funds bribery and honest services fraud after exchanging a seat on a state board for a donation to a foundation campaigning for a ballot initiative to establish a lottery to fund education.); cf. United States v. Spano, 421 F.3d 599, 603 (7th Cir.2005) (“A participant in a scheme to defraud is guilty even if he is an altruist and all the benefits of the fraud accrue to other participants … the public is deprived of its servants’ honest services no matter who receives the proceeds.”) (internal citations omitted). The indictment alleges, among other Charges, that “Menendez sought and received from Salomon Melgen … approximately $300,000 for Majority PAC that was earmarked for the New Jersey Senate race … in return for Menendez’s advocacy at the highest levels of HHS on behalf of Melgen….” Indict. ¶ 259. Even if contributions to Majority PAC had no objective value to Menendez, they unquestionably had value to Majority PAC as an entity, and § 201(b)(2) criminalizes corruptly seeking anything of value, even for another person or entity, in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act. Cf. Siegelman, at 1169–70 (allowing federal funds bribery conviction of a governor based on a corrupt donation to an issue advocacy campaign).
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