A Sestak Bribe? What Constitutes a Bribe?

It all depends on the explicitness of the offer, if such was made. That would be the point of conducting an investigation.

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By Scott Galupo, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Before today, I had no opinion on the relative hunkiness of Jonathan Chait and Michael Kinsley. For the record, in my previous post, I had meant to employ the colloquialism “out-thunk.” My bad.

Now, onto substance: Chait writes: “I've been trying to make people understand that a White House job offer to Joe Sestak could not be a quid pro quo--let alone an illegal quid pro quo--because the quid (Sestak accepts an executive branch job) is identical to the quo (Sestak quits the Pennsylvania primary race.) Maybe you don't believe me.” [See which industries donated the most to Sestak.]

I’d agree that the quid and the quo are effectively inseparable; but they’re not identical. Sestak could have dropped out of the race and retired to the Poconos or become the captain of a cruise ship.

It’s possible, nonlawyer that I am, that I’m conflating the concepts of quid pro quo and bribery. What if, then, the White House had simply offered a bagful of cash in exchange for Sestak’s dropping out? Would that be considered illegal?

They didn’t do that, of course. But the language of the statutes that Rep. Darrell Issa cites doesn’t specify “bagful of money”; it says “thing of value.” Like, the case could be made, a job in the executive branch.

I suppose it all depends on the explicitness of the offer, if such was made. That would be the point of conducting an investigation.

Chait, via Dave Weigel, notes that a former Bush ethics lawyer says the charge of bribery wouldn’t pass muster, as federal law prohibits federal employees from running for partisan office.

But what if the principals weren’t aware of that fact? Can ignorance of the law, in some cases, save your hide?

I await the opinions of legally-trained readers here. Good looks are not required.

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