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Feds respond to Blagojevich filing

Friday, Jul 18, 2014

* AP

Prosecutors have responded to a new argument that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich submitted this week to a federal court considering his appeal. […]

Blagojevich’s lawyers say an April ruling by the high court found that soliciting contributions is corruption only when a politician makes explicit promises to take official action for a donation.

But prosecutors say that’s a misreading of the ruling in McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission. They say the high court didn’t conclude an exchange had to be explicitly stated to constitute corruption.

* The full response

Pursuant to Fed. R. App. 28(j) and Seventh Circuit Rule 28(e), the government hereby responds to defendant-appellant Rod Blagojevich’s July 16, 2014 letter citing McCutcheon v. Federal Election Com’n, — U.S. —, 134 S.Ct. 1434 (2014) in support of his challenge to the jury instructions related to the quid pro quo element of criminal extortion in the context of campaign contributions. See Br. 51, quoting Tr. 5544.

As argued in the government’s brief at 55-57, the challenged instructions stated the applicable law consistently with this Court’s 2012 pattern instructions, and with the instruction approved in United States v. Giles, 246 F.3d 966, 971-73 (7th Cir. 1992). Where campaign contributions were involved, the instructions (like the instructions related to bribery and fraud) correctly conditioned a finding of guilt on proof that defendant attempted to exchange a specific requested exercise of his official power (including the Senate appointment, signing of the Racetrack bill, and implementation of the Medicaid reimbursement increase) for money or property in the form of such contributions.

In McCutcheon, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that campaign financing Constitutionally may be regulated to combat quid pro quo corruption or its appearance, but determined that the regulations challenged in that case— provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) related to aggregate contribution limits—were not appropriately crafted to meet that permissible objective, or to avoid unnecessary abridgement of associational freedoms protected by the First Amendment. 134 S.Ct. at 1441-42, 1456, 1462. Nothing in the decision suggests that an exchange of contributions for specific official acts is quid pro quo corruption only if the arrangement is stated “explicitly” or expressly. Accordingly, the decision provides no support for Blagojevich’s argument on appeal.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

6 Comments
  1. - Hotel Ibiza - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 2:48 pm:

    “Go to Jail. Go directly to Jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.” This series of phrases long ago entered the American lexicon. You often hear it when someone receives a sudden minor setback in a sports game or in life. In the actual game of Monopoly landing on “Go to Jail” can indeed be a minor setback, or it could be a godsend. A player can be sent to Jail in any one of three ways: land on the “Go to Jail” square, draw a Chance or Community Chest card directing him to go there, or roll doubles three times. On the third double the move is NOT completed, but the player goes “directly” to Jail. If you land on the Jail square itself, you are “just visiting”. It is kind of a free space (like “Free Parking”).


  2. - gopher - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 3:48 pm:

    Hate to say it but I think the Blago appeal makes some sense to me. The USA response is to say “well sure, but it doesn’t have to be explicit to be a bribe” but I thought their whole case was that it was explicit.


  3. - walker - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 3:57 pm:

    Often not a great fan of the Federal prosecutorial behavior, but I hope the Feds prevail in this argument. A lot of what goes on would be entirely clear to a jury, even if deliberately couched in ambiguous language. Let the bulk of all the evidence carry the day, rather than quibbling over some words used.

    We do want to attack corruption, don’t we?


  4. - Kizzoboy - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 4:13 pm:

    Blago appeal sounds logical. Pols can solicit contributions legally. Isn’t a whole campaign (including fund raisers) about making promises in exchange for votes or forms of First Amendment activity (speech, ads, etc)?


  5. - Black Ivy - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 4:21 pm:

    Governor Blagojevich’s attorneys make sound arguments, in my humble opinion. The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s position is specious, to say the least. #hopingforjustice


  6. - Demoralized - Friday, Jul 18, 14 @ 4:48 pm:

    @Kizzoboy:

    Overt quid pro quo is not the same as what you are talking about. A politician promising to do X, Y or Z if somebody votes for them or gives them a campaign contribution is a different ballpark than somebody specifically saying to somebody else if you give me X I’ll give you Y.


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