[Bumped up for visibility.]
A group of high-profile Illinois Democrats have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s case.
In an amicus brief filed Monday, the who’s who list of current and former Illinois Democratic congressional delegation members emphasized that they take “no position on Mr. Blagojevich’s innocence or guilt on any of the counts of conviction.”
Instead, they wrote that the nation’s highest court should hear his appeal to “distinguish the lawful solicitation and donation of campaign contributions from criminal violations of federal extortion, bribery, and fraud laws.” […]
The amicus brief filed Monday echoes many of the points argued by Blagojevich’s lawyers, who say the high court must settle questions over whether prosecutors in a case like Blagojevich’s must prove a public official made an “explicit promise or undertaking” in exchange for a campaign contribution.
The petitioners in Monday’s brief wrote that current laws create “confusion” over “the necessary, legitimate solicitation of campaign contributions, on the one hand, and unlawful extortion, bribery, and fraud, on the other.”
The brief is here.
They said they are not taking a stand on the ex-governor’s guilt or innocence. What they are doing is asking the country’s highest court to clear the air around campaign finance law. […]
The amicus brief said blurry lines between legal and illegal fundraising leave politicians vulnerable.
“Although amici take no position on Mr. Blagojevich’s innocence or guilt on any of the counts of conviction, they submit that this court’s guidance is needed to distinguish the lawful solicitation and donation of campaign contributions from criminal violations of federal bribery, extortion and fraud laws,” the document said.
“This isn’t a plea for a pardon. This is, I think, a demand that the court clarify what constitutes a bribe, extortion and what constitutes doing something for a constituent or somebody that asks you to do something,” Gutierrez said.
* ABC 7…
“So long as the law is vague, and so long as there’s a split of opinion about what exactly it takes for there to be criminal action, a bribe, politicians of all kinds in all places will have criminal exposure,” said ABC 7 Political Analyst Gil Soffer. […]
The current and former lawmakers who signed the amici curiae brief are:
- U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-IL 9th District)
- U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL 7th District)
- U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL 11th District)
- U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL 4th District)
- U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL 5th District)
- U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL 1st District)
- Former U.S. Attorney and Rep. Bob Barr
- Former U.S. Rep. William Lipinski
- Former U.S. Rep. David Phelps
- Former U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard
- Former State Sen. Emil Jones
- Former State Sen. Carol Ronen
- Elmwood Park Village President and former State Rep. Skip Saviano
- Attorney and former DNC general counsel Joe Sandler
- Former FEC special Assistant General Counsel Lyn Utrecht
- Edward M. Smith, former vice president of Laborer’s International Union of North America, Midwest Region
- Nancy Shier, retired manager of Early Childhood Organization
- Attorney Harvey Silverglate
- Attorney [and Cook County Commissioner] Lawrence Suffredin
Lots of FoBs (Friends of Blagojevich) on that list.
* NBC 5…
“A correct determination of what words and actions are legal and what are not legal is absolutely critical,” [the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers wrote in a second brief]. “The various appellate courts are in disarray regarding whether, in a campaign finance prosecution, the government needs to prove that there was an explicit quid pro quo in trade for the donation as originally outlined in McCormick v. United States, or whether there need only be something implicitly understood as a ‘wink and a nudge.’”
In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Blagojevich argued that he was innocent under the standards of McCormick, which stated a campaign finance crime only occurs when a politician makes an explicit promise of an official act in exchange for a campaign contribution, something the former governor says that he never did.
Another case, Evans vs. United States, adopts the “wink and nod” standard, saying one or both of the parties only need to believe there is such an arrangement.
“This court needs to eliminate the confusion,” the Illinois Defense Lawyers wrote. “The political candidate seeking office is supposed to ask for money. The political candidate is also expected to take the money.”
Conversely, they wrote, “political donors, by definition, are supposed to give candidates money.”