The criminal cases are all-important in making corruption a political issue. But a genuine anti-corruption campaign needs to look beyond what’s currently illegal.
Ponder, if you will, this comment from Stephen Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University, as reported by Bloomberg:
“It is not going to be easy for the government to nail members of Congress,” said Salzburg. “It is very difficult to decide where the lines are between ordinary campaign contributions that get you access” and illegal gratuities and bribes.
If it’s hard to tell a campaign contribution from a bribe, then maybe we need new rules on campaign contributions. If we can’t regulate money on the giving end due to the Supreme Court’s bizarre “money is speech” decisions, then perhaps we need to regulate it on the receiving end. Why shouldn’t the House and the Senate, in their authority to make their own rules, forbid their members from accepting campaign contributions from any registered lobbyist or any lawyer whose practice involves legislative representation?
Update A reader points out that much of the current political money flow is better thought of as extortion rather than bribery. Perhaps one of the new rules ought to forbid any Member of Congress to solicit, directly or indirectly, contributions to anything from anyone, other than via public appeals for contributions.