U.S. House Resolution 1923: Public Officials Accountability Act

Liberty Alerts, Overcriminalized.com

Sponsor: Quigley (D – IL)

Official Title: A bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit public officials from engaging in undisclosed self-dealing.

Status:
5/13/2011: Introduced in House
5/13/2011: Referred to House Judiciary Committee

Commentary: The 24-year-old federal “honest services” fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1346, makes it a federal crime to engage in a “scheme or artifice to defraud another of the intangible right of honest services.” The maximum term of incarceration for whatever conduct is deemed to violate this uncommonly broad prohibition is 20 years (or 30 years if the violation “affects” any financial institution). In June 2010, the Supreme Court held that the language of the “honest services” fraud statute is unconstitutionally vague and limited its reach to acts involving bribery or kickbacks. The Court rejected the government’s suggestion that it construe § 1346 to include officials or employees who take action to further their own financial interests. This bill (like S. 995 introduced by Sen. Kirk (R-IL)) would subject to the prohibition and penalties of § 1346 any public official who is involved in a “scheme or artifice … to engage in undisclosed … self-dealing.” The mental state (mens rea or “criminal intent”) that the government would have to prove is essentially undefined. Like the overbroad statute that the Supreme Court struck down, the uncommonly broad definitions of “undisclosed self-dealing” in this bill include, for example, “benefiting or furthering a financial interest of … the public official … [or] an individual, business, or organization with whom the public official is negotiating for, or has any arrangement concerning, prospective employment or financial compensation.” The maximum penalty for violations would remain 20 years of imprisonment (or 30 years if the violation “affects” any financial institution).

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This article was originally published at Heritage.org

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