ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

SCOTUS Splits Hairs on Abuse of Power

Updated on June 28, 2016

While most observers focused on the Supreme Court decision regarding Texas abortion law, another precedent-setting decision involving political corruption and ethics was handed down. The court in a somewhat rare 8-0 decision vacated the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor, Bob McDonnell.

According to CNN, the legal issue at hand was “what constitutes the scope of ‘official action’ under federal corruption law." McDonnell’s attorneys argued that the jury had received improper instructions and the court imagined that it was possible McDonnell was convicted for activities that did not rise to the level of “official action” as defined in the law.

McDonnell and his wife received approximately $175,000 and a Rolex watch from a businessman trying to gain support from the state for approval of a dietary supplement by the Food and Drug Administration. Lawyers disputed the government’s claims by saying McDonnell took no official action. Instead, McDonnell only extend common political courtesies. The Governor asked questions, arranged meetings and attended events, but according to his attorneys did not exercise his governmental powers.

As to the letter of the law, SCOTUS probably got it right. Who am I to question? But when it comes to common sense the decision employs none. Official action or power is inherent in the office. While McDonnell’s legal team calls his deeds “courtesies,” we are expected to believe that any citizen who requested such courtesies would have received them. If that’s not the case (and it’s not) then McDonnell used his intrinsic power in exchange for gifts.



Did Bob McDonnell's political courtesies constitute a crime?

See results
United States Supreme Court Building
United States Supreme Court Building | Source

When I held the title of “Commissioner,” I could convene a meeting that included mayors, legislators, philanthropists, business leaders and policymakers with little or no questions asked. This same cadre of decision-makers would meet with constituents or persons with business interests simply because I requested it. For the record, I never accepted a gift or favor for arranging those meetings. The harsh reality is that once I no longer served in office, phone calls were not returned, meetings were more difficult to schedule and “courtesies” definitely could not be extended. By holding the office, I could introduce policy that could help or hurt various constituencies, so they came when I called and attempted to be as accommodating as they could.

If this is true for a County Commissioner from Memphis, then certainly the Governor of a state who can veto legislation, sign executive orders or introduce and advocate for a legislative agenda would yield far more power that is built-in and fundamental to the office itself.

  • McDonnell received $175,000 in gifts, including a Rolex watch
  • Businessman wanted state's support for FDA approval of a dietary supplement
  • Court found jury received improper instruction and that McDonnell's action may not have been "official action" as defined by the law

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • MikeCarpenter1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Carpenter 

      2 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee

      lions44 I shared the same paranoia during my public service. I landed on the Commission post Tennessee Waltz and Operation: Mainstreet Sweeper which nabbed elected at the state and local levels for bribery. As a result, new tougher ethics rules were put in place. Most of the time, I would not meet with a constituent alone. I wanted a witness. My larger point in is that any action taken by an elected on behalf of a citizen is "official" because the power is in the office and the title, so "courtesies" had intended influence while maybe not technically illegal. McDonnell may have complied with the letter of the law, but scrapped the intent. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Although I agree it was highly unethical, prosecuting him did seem a bit of an overreach and highly political; no surprise when it comes to the Feds. When I worked in government, I was paranoid about appearances. I wouldn't even accept a bagel from a staffer at the entity. So I understand the caution from those involved. But federal prosecutors should be going after bigger crimes than McDonnell.

      Certainly there was a quid pro quo. He's sleazy, but that's the worst abuse of power they could find?

      Sharing everywhere.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)