Bill Targets Public Corruption; Gives New Tools to Investigate Criminal Conduct

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Bipartisan legislation giving prosecutors new tools to identify, investigate and prosecute criminal conduct by public officials - including an extension of the statute of limitations and an increase in maximum penalties - was approved Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Authored by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and committee chairman, and Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, the legislation seeks to strengthen existing federal law for acts of public corruption, clarify the definition of what it means to perform an official act, and amend the federal bribery statute to show that corrupt payments can be made to influence more than one official act.

The Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act also amends the federal gratuities statute to make clear that a public official cannot accept anything of value given to them because of their official position other than as permitted by existing rules or regulations.

This kind of corruption erodes the trust the American people have in those given the privilege of public service, Mr. Leahy said. Prosecutors and law enforcement need meaningful tools to help stamp out corruption. Sen. Cornyn has been a real partner on this issue over the years, and the agreement we have reached with the bill's sponsors in the House will, I hope, enable us to make real progress on this anti-corruption bill.

Mr. Cornyn noted that public corruption "is not a Republican or Democrat problem.

It is a problem across this country, he said. Our citizens deserve to be governed by the rule of law, not the rule of men. I've worked with Sen. Leahy on several bipartisan bills and this bill is another great example of our combined effort to help clean up government and promote transparency.

Other key provisions of the legislation include an extension of the statute of limitations from five to six years for bribery, honest-services fraud and extortion of a public official. …