CREW filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to uphold the conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. In 2014, McDonnell was convicted on 11 counts of federal corruption accepting gifts and loans valued at over $175,000 from Jonnie Williams, former CEO of Virginia-based health care company Star Scientific, in return for organizing meetings and hosting events that benefited Williams’ business interests.
McDonnell’s lawyers appealed, and in January 2016 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. CREW’s brief supports McDonnell’s conviction and refutes McDonnell’s claims that accepting gifts and money in exchange for access to him and other government officials should not count as bribery. McDonnell helped set up meetings for Williams and hosted benefits for his businesses at his mansion.
The brief argues that the Constitution does not protect the sale or purchase of access to government officials and that federal bribery statutes cover the corrupt sale of access to government officials. It argues that McDonnell is guilty of bribery because an official’s meetings are “official acts,” the bribery statute only requires an agreement to be influenced in an official act, and the Honest Services Fraud statute and Hobbs Act include a broad definition of bribery.
CREW’s core beliefs are that no public official is above the law and that our nation’s laws must be applied equally to all. In filing this brief, CREW defends prosecutorial power to curb the corruption inherent in the exchange of official action for pecuniary gain.
A public official’s request for money in return for the use of his political office to advance an individual’s interests inherently erodes the public interest and the public trust in elected officials.
UPDATE: On June 27, the Supreme Court, voting 8-0, decided to overturn McDonnell’s conviction. Click here to read CREW’s response to the decision.