McDonnell Cites Trone on “Buying Access” in Corruption Conviction Appeal

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Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s attorneys cited recent statements by CD8 Candidate David Trone in their brief appealing McDonnell’s corruption conviction:

The consequences of the Government’s construction confirm why it cannot be the law.  Extending bribery beyond efforts to direct a particular resolution of a specific governmental decision would upend the political process, vesting federal prosecutors with extraordinary supervisory power over every level of government.  If “official action”includes anything that could “have the purpose or effect of exerting some influence” on any imaginable sovereign decision (Pet.App.54a), then every official and campaign donor risks indictment whenever heightened access is provided in close temporal proximity to contributions.  That happens literally every day at political fundraisers nationwide.  As one businessman seeking public office recently explained: “I sign my checks to buy access.”  Bill Turque, David Trone Has Donated More than $150,000 to Republicans, Database Shows, WASH. POST, Jan. 28, 2016.

Now, there is an important legal difference between buying access via campaign donations – referenced here by Trone – and through direct gifts to the official. Nevertheless, McDonnell’s attorneys cite Trone’s statement as an explanation for why it’s acceptable that McDonnell used his powers as Governor to aid a businessman who gave him a Rolex and helped to pay for his daughter’s wedding.

Cynicism about the process is helping to power both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ campaigns in very different ways. Sanders decries the corruption of American politics through corporate campaign donations.

Like Trump, Trone says forthrightly that, of course, he was “buying access.” A central basis of the Trump and the Trone campaigns is that they are so rich that they cannot be bought. Their wealth has become a qualification for office.

His campaign t-shirts even brag “NO PACs, NO Corporations, NO Lobbyists.” While a great slogan, the fact remains that David Trone runs a company that makes exactly these sorts of donations and that company employs lobbyists. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that, for example, Total Wine gave $12,500 to support Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign.

I’m not bothered that Trone has a lot of money or is stimulating the economy by spending so much of it on his campaign. But why Trone thinks that he is a superior candidate because he is the corrupter rather than the corrupted remains a mystery to me.