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Thu Oct 17, 2019, 08:22 AM

'No Quid Pro Quo': How US Legalized Corruption Long Before Trump

'No Quid Pro Quo': How US Legalized Corruption Long Before Trump

"No quid pro quo" is a magic phrase. A lot like "no collusion".

It is also the tip of an iceberg. An extremely dangerous one: the legalisation of corruption.


Once Roberts took charge with a Republican majority on the Supreme Court, they began to invent ways to rule in favour of money and strike down any laws that diminished its power. First, they defined spending money on speech as speech, and therefore protected by the First Amendment.

In Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission, the majority opinion literally redefined reality: "Independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption."

Having redefined reality, they said doing so would have no effect: "The appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy."

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the majority opinion, quoted himself from another case (McConnell vs Federal Election Commission) writing: "It is well understood that a substantial and legitimate reason, if not the only reason, to cast a vote for, or to make a contribution to, one candidate over another is that the candidate will respond by producing those political outcomes the supporter favors. Democracy is premised on responsiveness."

It is an astonishing statement. It says people are supposed to spend money to get politicians to do what they want, and that politicians are supposed to "respond" to getting money.

The court was not going to say flat out, "there's no such thing as corruption any more." They had to leave something. Along the way, it decided to settle on "quid pro quo" as the standard.


In 2016, the Roberts Court made it even worse. Bob McDonnell, as governor of Virginia, had taken $175,000 from a businessman and then done him favours.

A jury convicted McDonnell. John Roberts set him free, declaring "conscientious public officials arrange meetings for constituents, contact other officials on their behalf, and include them in events all the time. The basic compact underlying representative government assumes that public officials will hear from their constituents and act appropriately on their concerns ..."

Several significant corruption cases were either stopped or tossed immediately after that decision.

It appears that Sondland will testify that he was not speaking of his own assessment. That he had been directed by Donald Trump to say the magic words. You can see why Trump would believe that simply uttering the incantation, "no quid pro quo", would decriminalise his crime.

Even if Trump is held liable, the greater underlying problem remains.


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