Reading lesson

No, I didn’t demand that the law-breakers who are donating to the Obama campaign in false names in order to charge him with campaign finance fraud be prosecuted. I merely pointed out that they shouldn’t be so proud of having violated the law.

Megan McArdle, who is usually a more careful reader, and Glenn Reynolds, who usually isn’t, both accuse me of urging the prosecution of the wingnuts who have been submitting false-name contributions on the Obama website, and criticize me for trying to use the power of law enforcement to suppress criticism the people I support politically.

Just one thing: Nowhere in the post they refer to (reproduced in full after the jump) do I say a syllable about prosecution. I merely point out that the activity violates the law, which means that people doing it shouldn’t crow quite so loudly. Of course no actual investigator or prosecutor would waste his time working on a case involving a $5 contribution to Obama in the name of “Mickey Mouse.” Neither Megan, who isn’t a lawyer, nor Glenn, who is, bothers to offer any reason why the activity in question, which both of them have publicized and praised, doesn’t constitute wire fraud as defined in the statute.

Now, in case you’re in any doubt, I know perfectly well how to demand a prosecution when I think it’s appropriate. For example, in discussing the illegal intrusions into Joe the (non)Plumber’s motor vehicle records, I wrote “At least three people almost certainly broke the law. And they ought to go to jail for it.” The people making those phony contributions shouldn’t go to jail. But they should stop bragging about their criminal activity.

As to the prosecution of political enemies, I wonder if Glenn has ever heard of Don Siegelman? If so he’s never, to my knowledge, let his readers in on it.

Legal query

If a wingnut uses the Internet to give the Obama campaign a donation in a fake name, with the intent of fooling the website into accepting an invalid contribution, isn’t that using interstate communications facilities to defraud under 18 USC 1343?

Here’s part of the definition of “fraud” from Black’s Law Dictionary:

a false representation of a matter of fact, whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of that which should have been disclosed, which deceives and is intended to deceive another so that he shall act upon it to his legal injury

Seems like a pretty good fit to me.

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: