Bribes are legal says Supreme Court

Bribes are legal says Supreme Court

Bribery is no longer a crime in the U.S., according to Chief Justice John Phillips. He is pictured above.

The Chief Justice said it is no longer illegal for politicians to accept money, trips, watches, loans regardless of amount, designer clothes, or other items of value that were given "for future  unspecified action".

Judge Phillips' written opinion is linked here:

In this opinion, Roberts discussed two definitions of bribery, one broad, the other narrow.

According to the Chief Justice, these acts of politicians are legal forms of accepting contributions.

  • Arranging meetings with public officials
  • Hosting and attending exclusive events and lunches
  • Contacting other government officials
  • Facilitating friendships with government officials
  • Recommendations to senior officials of the government on behalf of the donor
  • Accepting money, trips, watches, ball gowns, the purchase of designer clothing, payment of wedding expenses, loans regardless of amount, or other items of value that were given for future unspecified action

Roberts said the Court should follow a limited and narrow scope of what is an official act of an office holder. If a promise was made at the time of the gift to act, it's a bribe.

What if the contribution was made, time passes, then the Congressman acts?  Roberts failed to say whether this was a bribe.

The Chief Justice's examples of bribes were patched together from other cases. Roberts said it's a bribe if there is an agreement tying a specific action to a specific reward,

The action would be pressuring, advising, influencing, expecting, or exercising a specific act of government power in making a decision or action to satisfy a campaign donor.

It may be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than to convict a Congressman of bribery using the standards applied by the Supreme Court last year.

In effect, the Supreme Court reversed a jury decision on what is a bribe.

A former law professor, Albert Alschuler, said the decision seems to say:

"Any official can openly take money for providing access to another official. If I were secretly to pay the President's Chief of Staff a million dollars to set up a 15-minute meeting with the President, almost everyone would say I'd bribed him. Astonishingly, however, there are eight people who'd disagree, and they are all on the Supreme Court."

Then there's the general public's view of bribery. If it looks like a bribe, swims like a bribe, smells like a bribe, and quacks like a bribe, it's a bribe. Or maybe it's a bribery conviction rolling off the back of a duck. And into the swamp.


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