No, Giuliani didn’t make a coke dealer his SC campaign chair

Thomas Ravenel was Giuliani’s South Carolina campaign chair until he was indicted yesterday on federal cocaine charges. But reading between the lines, it’s pretty clear he was buying the stuff and giving it away, not selling it.

Why would a hereditarily wealthy real estate developer who’s also the State Treasurer of South Carolina and the chair of the Giuliani campaign there get involved in cocaine dealing?

Answer: He almost certainly didn’t.

The other guy indicted in the case seems to be the dealer. Ravenel seems to have been one of his customers, who bought cocaine in quantity to share with friends. Under federal law, there’s no crime of selling drugs; the crime is “distribution,” which includes giving the stuff away. Ravenel is charged with “conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute,” which is the charge brought when you think you can prove someone was selling (or in this case giving away) drugs but can’t prove a specific sale. (Someone caught with a kilo of coke, scales, and baggies isn’t very convincing when he denies that he was in the business, even if no customer testifies and no undercover buy was made.)

[U.S. Attorney Reggie] Lloyd described Miller as a drug dealer. He stressed Ravenel was not charged with selling cocaine. Under federal law, a charge of intent to distribute cocaine can mean a defendant acquired the drug and gave it to others. Lloyd would not say to whom Ravenel allegedly gave cocaine.

The most likely scenario here: The state cops nailed the dealer (he was already in custody on state charges when the indictment was handed up yesterday), and the dealer gave them a prominent customer in order to buy himself some consideration at sentencing time.

Footnote I’ve seen several stories recently suggesting that Bolivian Marching Powder is back in the entertainment industry. This story hints that it might be back in hereditary-rich-guy circles as well. “Cocaine,” said George Carlin*, “is God’s way of telling you you have too much money.”

Update * Well, actually, Chevy Chase, quoting Lorne Michaels.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: