The nation’s most potent law against public corruption is in danger of being scaled back or struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, says the Los Angeles Times. At issue is a ban on “honest services fraud,” often used to prosecute public officials who accept money, free tickets, or jobs for relatives when bribery cannot be proved. Arguments are scheduled for next week.
Patrick M. Collins, formerly a top anti-corruption prosecutor for U.S. Atty. Patrick J. Fitzgerald in Chicago, said that in his region, “every major public corruption case in the last 10 years relied heavily on an ‘honest services’ charge.” In Washington, D.C., anti-corruption activists fear that a ruling against the law could take away one of the best tools to combat the culture of favors and gift-giving between lobbyists and members of Congress and their staffs. “It would undercut public corruption cases across the board,” said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Opponents say that the law is ill-defined. It fails to spell out, for example, the point at which favors to a friend become a criminal scheme.