Political Corruption Laws: Absurd Theater

By Goodman, Leonard | In These Times, February 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Political Corruption Laws: Absurd Theater


Goodman, Leonard, In These Times


A SAD DRAMA PLAYED OUT CHRISTmas week in Chicago when a federal judge rejected former Illinois Governor George Ryan's bid to overturn his conviction on corruption charges. The media reports have focused exclusively on the personal tragedy for the Ryan family - the governor's wife of 54 years and former high school sweetheart, Lura Lynn, has advanced terminal cancer. The Ryan family lashed out at the judge for lack of compassion (and later appealed to prison officials to allow Ryan a daytime release to visit her). But ignored was the larger story of Ryan's case, which has exposed the absurdity of the laws governing political corruption.

Ryan, a Republican, was convicted in 2006, three years after leaving office, of "honest services fraud." At his trial, the jury was instructed that it should convict Ryan if he deprived his constituents of the "intangible right of his honest services," a standard so vague as to allow the government to point to just about any malfeasance hi office as evidence of fraud.

The governor's challenge to his conviction was based on a recent Supreme Court case, Shilling v. United States, in which the Court agreed that the honest services fraud statute is incomprehensible to jurors. But instead of striking down the statute, the Supreme Court said that the government could continue to prosecute individuals for honest services fraud as long as there was evidence that the accused received a "bribe or a kickback."

Ryan's lawyers argued that because the governor received no bribe or kickback, his conviction must be overturned. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer disagreed. While the governor did not receive any bribe or kickback in the ordinary sense of those words, Pallmeyer reviewed several decades of federal law and found that the words "bribe" and "kickback" have been given an expansive definition by the federal courts. Under federal law, a politician receives a bribe or a kickback if he receives "a stream of benefits in implicit exchange for one or more official acts" from a political supporter.

Applying this standard, Pallmeyer reviewed the evidence offered against Ryan during his five-month trial, most of which involved Ryan helping two of his key political backers obtain lucrative state contracts and leases.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Political Corruption Laws: Absurd Theater
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?