Exploiting the political process for personal gain will not be tolerated, and we will continue to pursue those who commit such illegal actions

 Acting Assistant Director in Charge of FBI Field Office, on the Sorenson Indictment

Mr. Kent Sorenson was indicted and now has pled guilty in a matter involving falsified campaign finance reports. One campaign paid him to switch his support from another, and the compensation was routed through other vendors to the campaign to conceal money paid for his changed candidate preference. His guilty plea covers the federal reporting violation and the obstruction of justice committed when he denied publicly that he had been paid for his switch in allegiance and asserted that anybody who doubted him could simply consult the campaign’s reports where they would not find any such compensation.

As a straightforward reporting offense, Mr. Sorenson's case is of limited interest. But another question, presented squarely by the comments of the senior FBI official, is whether the criminal laws reach compensated political endorsements that are openly disclosed. Is it true, as this official suggests, that it is a crime to "exploit the political process for personal gain” in this way? Or that it should be?

Category: Uncategorized
The views of the Perry prosecution have sorted out quickly into a majority sharply questioning its merit, and a minority insisting that judgment be reserved until the facts are known.  The prosecutor has not been heard from, other than via a two-page indictment short on detail and his avowal that the case involved a non-partisan application of the law to the facts.

“The Criminalization of Politics”

August 21, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer

If there can be said to be an “establishment” response to the Perry indictment, it has been loudly expressed so far in his favor. This is understandable: a case about a veto, or the threat of a veto, built on a vaguely worded statute and poorly illuminated by a two-page, summary indictment, was bound to raise questions.

But Perry has not only been defended against the application of the Texas statute in question, but also more profoundly as a victim of the “criminalization of politics”. Even if the law could be construed to reach the alleged conduct, it is argued, it should not be. Whether the Governor was moving to oust an adversary from office or protecting contributors from an inquiry into state grants, the prosecutor is mistaking hardball politics for corrupt politics. It is one example among others, the critics say, and they point to the failed Edwards prosecution as another instance of the same irresponsible application of the criminal laws.

The “criminalization” of politics is self-evidently undesirable. Then again it is far from sure what the argument against it is meant to cover, that is, the nature of the “politics” that we should worry about criminalizing.

Category: Uncategorized
If the contribution limits are not violated, then their everyday normal operation generally escapes notice.  We just assume regular order; the campaign finance law works as it should.  A donor gives within the limit, the donation is reported, and all is well.  The Center for Competitive Politics has challenged this complacency and raised one interesting question about the limits as they are now structured.

“Stop this Inanity”

August 7, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer
What an odd opinion from the Court of Appeals in Stop This Insanity. The Court decides that the regulatory burden imposed on a political activity satisfies constitutional requirements if there is an alternative, simpler route to roughly the same result. This is questionable enough, but the Court takes additional comfort in the fact that, in its view, the activity—corporate PAC activity—is “functionally obsolete”, a “relic”, an “artifact”. Stop This Insanity, Inc. v. FEC, No. 13-5008, 2014 WL 3824225, at *1-3 (D.C. Cir Aug. 5, 2014).  So, somehow, the constitutional standing of a legal restriction is strengthened by its pointlessness.