“Political Self-Interest and the Question of Corruption”

Must-read Bob Bauer:

Critics of the McDonnell prosecution have argued that elected officials engage in “routine” political behaviors that should not be confused with the “official acts.”   Politicians are kind to their campaign contributors and supporters, helping them where they can; they exercise “influence” for their benefit, within acceptable limits, solely to recognize and maintain these politically valuable relationships.  But this influence is not an exercise of government power and it is not the “quid” that makes for quid pro quo corruption.

As presented, for example, in a well-crafted brief by former federal officials, the argument includes the insistence that this routine behavior is also broadly “beneficial”, in the sense that it is “essential to the day-today functioning of any representative government.”  Failure to allow for this activity would “cast a shadow of illegality over legitimate, pro-democratic activities,” such as hosting special events or providing privileged access for contributors.

This is skillfully argued, but it is a point sure to run into resistance because it does not squarely address the element of political self-interest….

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