The Smith bribery case

Tim Noah at Slate reads the facts the same way I do: Rep. Nick Smith’s account, which he has now repeated and amplified, of the offer made to him on the floor of the House of Representatives to funnel $100,000 to his son’s campaign in return for Smith’s vote on the Medicare bill covered all of the elements of attempted bribery as defined in the 18 U.S. C. 201.

Noah has some useful follow-up facts and analysis, and wants to know where the criminal investigation is. So do I.

The main burden of the story Smith told to Robert Novak and other reporters concerned the flip side of the offer: the threat to wreck his son’s campaign if he held out against the bill (which in fact he did). Morally, that’s in many ways even more outrageous than the offer of cash. But it probably doesn’t constitute a crime. Bribery does. So let’s all have a good fit of moral outrage about the extortion, and then make sure that the law does its job on the bribery.

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: