As Corruption Convictions Fail to Hold, Congress May Strengthen Law

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Much needed backup in the fight against corruption may be coming from Congress.

Former legislative leaders Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver both recently had corruption convictions overturned, causing great anguish and frustration for New Yorkers. After all, it’s tiresome living in the most corrupt state in the nation.

The how only adds to that frustration, and confusion.

The first item of frustration is the U.S. Supreme Court’s McDonnell ruling, which narrowed the definition of corruption. McDonnell had been convicted over “accepting more than $175,000 in gifts in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement.”

As the New York Post noted:

The Supreme Court ruled that in order for an elected official to be convicted on charges of exchanging favors for official acts, the politician must vote on legislation, award a contract or pressure another party to award a contract.”

Making things even more frustrating: the facts of the Silver and Skelos cases were not disputed in overturning the convictions. They were overturned because the jury was not instructed on the new, McDonnell definition of “corruption.”

Yet, the McDonnell decision happened AFTER the Skelos and Silver decisions. So it was temporally impossible for jurors to be given instructions based on the McDonnell definition of “official act”.

Just when you thought time travel didn’t exist, it turns out lawyers have argued it into existence.

Now, the final teeth-grinding frustration: Even though Silver and Skelos will be retried, they’ll have a better shot of getting past a more narrow definition of corruption.

In an attempt to finally end the worst episode of Dr. Who ever, federal legislation may be required.

New, bi-partisan legislation, spearheaded by Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-L.I.), would expand the federal definition of “official act” in order to hold public officials more accountable, and strengthen corruption prosecutions.