Category Archives: bribery

“Torrent of senators call for Menendez to resign — and one floats expulsion”

Politico, on the fallout from Senator Menendez’s conviction yesterday on charges of bribery and acting as a foreign agent:

After decades in public service, the longtime New Jersey Democrat is left with a pending sentence and a doomed reelection bid. Shortly after a jury read off the verdict that he was guilty on all counts, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ended months of resistance and called on Menendez to resign, joining more than half of Senate Democrats who have already done so. And at least one of Democratic senator [Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.)] is openly considering expulsion.

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Breaking: Sen. Menendez Convicted of Bribery and Acting as Foreign Agent

AP:

 U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez was convicted on Tuesday on all counts at his corruption trial, including accepting bribes of gold and cash from three New Jersey businessmen and acting as a foreign agent for the Egyptian government.

Prosecutors said the Democrat abused the power of his office to protect allies from criminal investigations and enrich associates, including his wife, through acts that included meeting with Egyptian intelligence officials and helping that country access millions of dollars in U.S. military aid.

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“Former Utah attorney general candidate charged with bribery after allegedly offering job to opponent”

NBC News:

Frank Mylar was charged with one count of bribery in elections in connection with soliciting fellow Republican Trent Christensen’s endorsement in exchange for a job in his office if he were elected.

A detective in Murray, Utah, said in a court filing Tuesday that Christensen told the local police department in May that Mylar had sent him a text message asking for his endorsement ahead of the state’s Republican nominating convention on April 27….

“If  you could endorse me before the convention I would definitely include you in my office. Think about it for a few days,” Mylar wrote, according to prosecutors.

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Public Corruption and Presidential Immunity

WaPo:

The Supreme Court decision on former president Donald Trump’s claims of presidential immunity has put new limits on future prosecutors — constraints that legal experts see as the latest and most consequential result of a long-running disagreement between conservative justices and the Justice Department over how to investigate public corruption. . . .

Many legal experts see the historic ruling [in Trump v. United States] as the latest salvo from conservative Supreme Court justices who have long believed that federal prosecutors often go too far in the pursuit of alleged wrongdoing by elected officials. The decision will significantly limit what evidence prosecutors may present in Trump’s D.C. case, and is already prompting new challenges to his felony conviction in New York and his classified documents indictment in Florida. It will probably lead to fresh motions to dismiss or limit the state counts he faces in Georgia for alleged election interference, as well.

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“How a Last-Ditch Effort to Save Menendez From Prosecution Backfired”

NYT reports on the backstory behind the trial, in which closing arguments continue today:

Last September, a prominent white-collar defense lawyer met with federal prosecutors in Manhattan in a last-ditch effort to stave off an indictment against his client. . . .

Less than two weeks later, prosecutors announced an indictment charging the senator and his wife, Nadine Menendez, with conspiring to accept thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for political favors. . . .

Tatiana R. Martins, a former chief of the Southern District’s public corruption unit and now in private practice, said the decision to charge Mr. Menendez, 70 [was] . . . “kind of a warning shot to the white-collar bar to weigh carefully the decision to make any factual representation to the government when they are close to indicting.”

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Supreme Court on 6-3 Vote Splitting Conservative and Liberal Justices Makes It Easy to Give Gifts to State and Local Officials to Thank Them for Their Official Acts; Conservative Majority Relies on Legislative History in Part

I’ve been following Snyder v. United States closely, not only because I am interested in bribery and illegal gratuities law but also because I based my Legislation course final exam on the case.

To me, it presents a fascinating and close question, and I’m not sure how I would have voted had I been asked what to do. Both the text and legislative history arguments can point in either direction. It is notable, however, that the conservative majority that usually rejects legislative history as unreliable relies on legislative history here to describe the purpose of an amendment to the statute. Majority opn. at 4-5 (“In 1986, Congress amended §666 and thereby avoided the law’s “possible application to acceptable commercial and business practices.” H. R. Rep. No 99–797, p. 30 (1986); see 100 Stat. 3612–3613.”). See also dissent at The House Report the majority quotes as explicating §666 confirms that §666 was meant to track §215—not §201(b), as the majority claims. See H. R. Rep. No. 99–797, at 30, n. 9.”).

How did THIS get by the textualists on the Court (including J. Kavanaugh, who wrote the decision)?

On the merits, this case is likely to increase state and local graft on the margins. Those who engage in outright bribery and take federal funds can still be prosecuted for bribery under section 666. But those who take illegal gratuities and avoid the magic words of a quid pro quo are more likely to be off the hook. Putting this case together with other recent ones, like McDonnell, it’s becoming harder and harder for federal prosecutors to pursue graft at the state and local level.

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“Judge rules Menendez’s prosecutors can’t show ‘critical’ evidence”

Politico:

Jurors in Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption case cannot see evidence prosecutors have called “critical” to part of their case, a federal judge ruled Friday.

The decision puts a hole in prosecutors’ ability to prove their central claim: that the New Jersey Democrat took bribes to help send billions of dollars of American military aid to Egypt.

U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein said prosecutors could not use evidence they hoped would show Egyptian officials were “frantic about not getting their money’s worth,” despite bribes Menendez allegedly took to help the country access billions of dollars of American military aid and arms.

Stein found the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause does not allow prosecutors to show jurors the evidence. The clause grants members of Congress a form of immunity that is mostly impenetrable in investigations relating to the official duties of lawmakers, their aides or other congressional officials.

Coincidentally, Stein based his order on a 1979 Supreme Court case about another New Jersey Democrat accused of corruption. In that case, the high court ruled the speech or debate clause barred prosecutors from introducing certain evidence against Rep. Henry Helstoski, who had been accused of accepting bribes.

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“Henry Cuellar Indicted Over Bribery Scheme”

Missed this story (and the Illinois one Derek flags) while traveling:

Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat in a crucial swing district, and his wife were charged with participating in a yearslong $600,000 bribery scheme involving Azerbaijan and a Mexican bank, according to a federal indictment unsealed in Houston on Friday.

The accusations against Mr. Cuellar, 68, and his wife Imelda, 67, center on allegations of bribery and money laundering in connection with their efforts on behalf of an oil and gas company owned by Azerbaijan’s leaders as well as an unnamed bank based in Mexico City, according to the 54-page complaint.

Mr. Cuellar, a Laredo native first elected in 2004, is also accused of acting as an agent of a foreign entity while a U.S. government official — by delivering a speech favoring Azerbaijan in Congress and inserting provisions into aid bills to benefit those who were paying bribes to his family.

I wonder how a Speech or Debate Clause defense might figure into claims based on delivering a speech in Congress.

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“Menendez Ally Pleads Guilty in Bribery Case and Agrees to Cooperate”

NYT:

Jose Uribe, a former New Jersey insurance broker charged in what prosecutors have described as a broad bribery scheme involving Senator Robert Menendez, pleaded guilty on Friday in Manhattan.

Mr. Uribe had been accused of providing Nadine Menendez, the senator’s wife, with a Mercedes-Benz in exchange for Mr. Menendez’s efforts to intercede in an insurance fraud investigation in New Jersey.

As part of his guilty plea, Mr. Uribe also agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors in their investigation, according to a formal plea agreement signed by Mr. Uribe, his lawyer and prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York….

The car, according to prosecutors, was one of the first bribes provided for the benefit of the senator and Ms. Menendez during a yearslong conspiracy. They have also been accused in three successive indictments with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars and bars of gold bullion in exchange for the senator’s willingness to provide political favors and to help the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

The Mercedes replaced a vehicle that police records show Ms. Menendez was driving in December 2018 when she struck and killed a pedestrian, Richard Koop, in Bogota, N.J. Ms. Menendez, who married Mr. Menendez in 2020, was dating the senator at the time of the crash.

She was not tested for drugs or alcohol and was not charged with wrongdoing.

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Yale Law Journal Forum Collection: State and Local Corruption After Percoco and Ciminelli

This looks like it will be very useful:

FORUM

What Are Federal Corruption Prosecutions for?

Lauren M. Ouziel

This Essay considers the role of prosecutors in the Supreme Court’s decades-long contraction of public corruption law. It examines how federal prosecutors’ reliance on broad theories of liability has paradoxically narrowed federal criminal law’s reach over public corruption, and considers how prosec…

FORUM

Demoralizing Elite Fraud

Zephyr Teachout

The Supreme Court’s effort to avoid interpreting morally weighted terms like “fraud” and “honest services” has led it to make bad and confusing law in wire-fraud cases. These cases, unlike Citizens United and its ilk, are unanimous, joining liberal and conservative Justices, reflecting a shared skep…

FORUM

The Stakes of the Supreme Court’s Pro-Corruption Rulings in the Age of Trump: Why the Supreme Court Should Have Taken Judicial Notice of the Post-January 6 Reality in Percoco

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy

In Percoco, the Supreme Court squandered opportunities to contextualize political corruption. This Essay argues that the Supreme Court should have taken judicial notice of the post-January 6 circumstances which surround the decision. This is a perilous time in American democracy for the Justices to …

FORUM

Navigating Between “Politics as Usual” and Sacks of Cash

Daniel C. Richman

Like other recent corruption reversals, Percoco was less about statutory text than what the Court deems “normal” politics. As prosecutors take the Court’s suggestions of alternative theories and use a statute it has largely ignored, the Court will have to reconcile its fears of partisan targeting an…

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“‘Betrayal’: Arizona GOP Chair Jeff DeWit resigns after recording of ‘offer’ to Kari Lake”

Arizona Republic:

Jeff DeWit, a former Arizona treasurer and Trump adviser, resigned as chair of the state GOP on Wednesday following the release of an audio recording in which he offered Kari Lake a lucrative job if she quits her U.S. Senate race.

In a written statement, DeWit said Lake’s team had threatened him with the potential release of a “new, more damaging recording” unless he resigned immediately.

“I am truly unsure of its contents, but considering our numerous past open conversations as friends, I have decided not to take the risk,” he wrote. He added that he hopes she stops attacking him so he can return to the business world, “a field I find much more logical and prefer over politics.”

In a live video on web-hosting platform Rumble on Wednesday evening, Lake criticized DeWit’s remarks as well as his resignation letter for not including an apology to Arizonans.

“This is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard,” Lake said of the recording she made. “It was so corrupt.”…

Lake, who lost the 2022 governor’s race to Democrat Katie Hobbs, apparently leaked the recording to the Daily Mail, which was the first news outlet to publish it. DeWit tells Lake in the recording that “powerful people” don’t want her to run for Senate and asked her to consider taking their suggestion for a job and a two-year “pause.”

“I’ll tell you what I’m offering you,” DeWit told her, saying there would be companies that could put her on the payroll. He repeatedly told her not to tell anyone about the conversation.

“I can’t be bought,” Lake responded.

“C’mon,” DeWit urged her.

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“The FirstEnergy scandal shows everything that could go wrong with companies’ political spending in 2024”

Allison Herren Lee and Bruce Freed oped in Forbes:

When the Cleveland Browns removed the scandal-tarnished name of FirstEnergy from their football stadium, it symbolized how far the Ohio utility’s good reputation had fallen. The name change followed guilty verdicts returned for Ohio’s former House speaker and former GOP state chair in a bribery-and-racketeering scheme fueled with almost $61 million from FirstEnergy. The company has admitted that it bribed state officials and relied on untraceable dark money to do it, in seeking a bailout for two failing nuclear plants.

FirstEnergy is the poster child of the risks and harms a company faces from failing to oversee and monitor its political spending. But corruption charges are infrequent; in today’s hyperpolarized climate, more companies run into problems when their political spending winds up in perceived conflict with their public stances. Just ask the blue-chip companies recently facing controversy over money funneled to legislators who upheld an abortion ban in North Carolina.

Corporations increasingly face risk from their political spending, and that risk is heightened when they have not charted where funds will actually go. When political spending is funneled through “dark money” groups used by candidates and officeholders or through third-party groups such as trade organizations or non-profit partisan groups, corporations (and their shareholders) often don’t know how their money will actually be spent. When discovered and spotlighted, such contributions can ultimately associate a company with controversial political figures, positions contrary to core company values and interests, or corruption.

There are proactive steps companies can and should take to mitigate the risk….

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Daniel Richman on Percoco

The abstract of “Percoco v. United States – Navigating Between ‘Politics As Usual’ and Sacks of Cash,” on SSRN and forthcoming in Yale L.J. Forum:

In Percoco v. United States, as in other recent cases, the Court’s interest in avoiding prosecution of “normal politics” led it to deploy broad rationales that could threaten cases against far more egregious conduct. Because, even as it reverses convictions, the Court itself suggests alternative means of pursuing the underlying conduct and lower courts – far more engaged with the facts of actual cases – are often quite ready to follow the government’s lead through the thicket of available statutes, it is far from clear that corruption prosecutions have been seriously impeded. But the Court’s message of restraint remains potent, and its consequences remain to be seen.

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