Legal Filings

Legal Filings
Jun 16, 2014

CREW Calls for Criminal Inquiry Into Potential Widespread Bribery in House of Representatives

Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Thomas Hawk, Rob Shenk - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Vance McAllisterWashington, D.C.—Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) and House Ethics Committee to investigate assertions recently made by Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) that another House member said he voted against a bill in exchange for a $1,200 campaign contribution. Such exchanges violate criminal law and House rules.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “This is the story of the emperor had no clothes. Rep. McAllister made the mistake of publicly voicing what others refuse to admit: members of Congress trade votes for campaign contributions every day.”

According to a recent news report in the Ouachita Citizen, at a June 5, 2014 meeting of the Northeast Chapter of the Society of Louisiana CPAs, Rep. McAllister offered “an example of how ‘money controls Washington’ and how work on Capitol Hill is a ‘steady cycle of voting for fundraising and money instead of voting for what is right.’” The congressman said a colleague on the House floor told him that he would receive a $1,200 contribution if he voted against a bill related to the Bureau of Land Management. Rep. McAllister said he voted against the bill but did not receive a $1,200 contribution. The other member, however, did receive a check and was surprised to learn Rep. McAllister had not.

Rep. McAllister refused to identify the colleague and later backtracked claiming his remarks had been “taken completely out of context” and said he had “never cast a vote with the expectation or anticipation of receiving any money for a vote.”

Trading votes for campaign contributions may violate bribery, illegal gratuity and honest service fraud statutes. House rules also prohibit members from accepting any campaign contribution in exchange for official action, from abusing their positions for their personal financial benefit, and from engaging in conduct that reflects discreditably upon the House. If Rep. McAllister, the unnamed member, or any other member exchanged a vote for a campaign contribution, or voted with the expectation of receiving a campaign contribution in reward, such conduct likely would violate federal law and House rules.

Ms. Sloan continued, "When a member of Congress has publicly proclaimed personal knowledge of members trading votes for campaign contributions, the question is not should DOJ and the Ethics Committee investigate, it is how is it possible that authorities haven't already opened inquiries. What more would it possibly take to prod those charged with enforcing anti-corruption laws to act?"

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