Legal expert: Why the Supreme Court is concerned about a bribery law that 'all their friends are breaking'

Legal expert: Why the Supreme Court is concerned about a bribery law that 'all their friends are breaking'
Image via Creative Commons.

A new analysis is shedding light on the concerns being raised by the U.S. Supreme Court in reference to bribery.

In a piece published by Above the Law, legal expert Joe Patrice began with an example of a recent bribery scheme that transpired in the state of New York.

"Andrew Cuomo’s campaign manager took $35,000 from a real estate developer. In the grand scheme of the over $300,000 in bribes he took over his years as a key aide to the New York governor, you’d be forgiven for wondering why this one continues to generate much interest," Patrice wrote. "Even though Joseph Percoco has already been released after serving less than half of his six-year sentence, his case landed before the Supreme Court yesterday as he challenges this one particular payment."

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He went on to explain the argument presented by Percoco's legal team to justify the payout. "You see, Percoco and his Jones Day (and Mintz Levin and Carlton Fields) lawyers argue, at the time Percoco took THIS payment from a developer seeking to influence the governor’s office, Percoco was merely a humble campaign manager and because he wasn’t a government employee, he was free to take the money. And based on oral argument, the Supreme Court is primed to agree."

While Percoco and his legal team see nothing wrong with what transpired, Patrice is explaining the real issue. "In the real world, this would present all sorts of problems. Political corruption rarely runs through official channels because criminals aren’t stupid," he wrote.

"Dating at least as far back as Andrew Jackson’s 'kitchen cabinet,' officials have maintained off-the-books networks of political advisors holding equivalent if not higher influence than anyone on the government payroll," he added.

According to Patrice, there is also an underlying issue with the Supreme Court's perspective. "In this case, the Supreme Court actually wants you to believe that a politician’s CAMPAIGN MANAGER is just one of those unassuming private citizens who the developer handed $35,000 for funsies."

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Citing an excerpt from an NBC News report, Patrice highlighted:

In Percoco’s case, a majority of the nine justices appeared concerned that allowing nongovernment employees to be criminally charged would draw in other influential figures in the halls of power, such as lobbyists. Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch remarked that Washington is 'full of such persons.'

He added, "This is the real concern from our dear politicians in robes. If all their friends in Washington are breaking this law, then this law can’t possibly be right. Defending the status quo in Washington is more than worth giving a green light to anyone looking to game the system for kickbacks in jerkweed provincial towns like Albany."

"That’s also why Percoco’s dispute over one-tenth of his conviction — which he’s already done serving in prison — is at the Supreme Court with Biglaw backing," Patrice contuned. "He’s just the vehicle to get the Supreme Court to bless the outer limits of shady-but-legal influence peddling that really animates the Washington crowd."

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