Posted by: captainfalcon | December 8, 2011

Newt and the law

This is an excellent piece of legal writing: clear and to the point. Newt Gingrich apparently promised to appoint John Bolton Secretary of State should Newt attain the presidency. The post argues that even if Gingrich broke a law (18 U.S.C. § 599) forbidding a candidate from promising appointments “for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy,” that law is void as against the First Amendment.

The post does not consider at great length whether 18 U.S.C. § 599 applies to Gingrich’s promise, but the article on which it’s based explains that the point of 18 U.S.C. § 599 is to prevent shadowy quid-pro-quo’s —  e.g. I promise to nominate you if you will turn out the vote for me — not to make it illegal for presidential candidates to let the public in on who they want in their cabinet:

[T]he legislative history of 18 U.S.C. § 599 reveals that Congress targeted corruption in the form of candidates secretly auctioning government appointments in return for money and political patronage from corrupt interests. The fear was that a candidate would go “to the corrupt interests and tell them that he will be their agent and tool.” Nothing in the legislative history suggests that Congress had the remotest concerns about [pledges to the public to nominate such-and-such], which would be neither based on money nor secret. It is hard to see how such announcements could be regarded as the sort of corruption at which Congress was aiming.

Insofar as a prohibition on horse-trading appointments makes a lot of sense, whereas a prohibition on presidential candidates being candid with voters makes no sense, I hope this is all right.


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