By Lynn R. Mitchell
As former Governor Bob McDonnell’s appeal continues in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, bipartisan legal voices from around the country have voiced support for the reversal of his unjust conviction. The unprecedented support has come from some of the nation’s most recognized legal scholars, former federal judges, former state Attorneys General, and Virginia business leaders (see Strange bedfellows defend Bob McDonnell):
Signers of the briefs include a number of former government officials with skin in the game — 44 former state attorneys general (23 of whom are Democrats), two former U.S. attorneys general, attorneys for the past five presidents, and the Republican Governors Association — as well as conservative and liberal scholars united around a separate idea that states should be allowed to determine their own corruption laws.
Clinton-appointee to the federal bench Nancy Gertner told Politico “that she believes the issue of what acts and what receipts constitute corruption raises an important constitutional question and could end up in the Supreme Court:”
Though she understands that people may be “uncomfortable” with the size of the gifts, she does not believe that the former governor’s actions met the quid pro quo requirement.
“The theory of the prosecution was too broad,” Gertner said. “When you have an ambiguous statute you enable arbitrary enforcement,” and in this case that could enable any prosecutor to go after any politician for doing what politicians across the country do.
All of the amici briefs argue that the Supreme Court has articulated a principle in multiple cases, including Citizens United, that “[i]ngratiation and access are not corruption,” and only the exchange of an “official act” by a government employee for gifts or donations should be included.
One brief, filed by a branch of the Republican Governor’s Association, argues that meeting with political donors or gift-givers and their allies constitutes “everyday, everywhere conduct” that can be found in any number of governors’ mansions across the country.
Politico describes the supporters of McDonnell as “Strange Bedfellows,” including Gernter’s co-signer, Harvard professor Charles Ogletree, noting “…Charles Ogletree, a former professor of and mentor to President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama,…” (See link to brief: http://bit.ly/1G04VWZ)
For those who believe in righting an egregious wrong, the Restoration Fund donations go toward continuing to make a strong case to the Fourth Circuit to clear the name of a good man.