Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Hundreds of Rick Perry's biggest financial backers have benefited from actions he took in his official capacity as governor of Texas, according to a new article in The New York Times. Does that mean Perry, now a leading Republican candidate for president, will be targeted by federal prosecutors on bribery and fraud charges?
If the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman establishes legal precedent, the answer is yes.
The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Siegelman jury was free to "infer" that an unlawful quid pro quo existed between Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. Never mind that this is contrary to U.S. Supreme Court precedent, established in McCormick v. United States, 500 U.S. 257 (1991), that an "explicit agreement" is required for bribery cases in the context of a campaign contribution.
The trial court in the Siegelman case, and the Eleventh Circuit, essentially thumbed their noses at the standard established by the nation's highest court. And the Obama Justice Department--with the handiwork of former solicitor general and current Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan--joined in by arguing that the Siegelman case was correctly decided.
Under those circumstances, couldn't a jury "infer" that Rick Perry engaged in unlawful actions with his Texas donors? It certainly could, based on the work of The New York Times. From reporters Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo:
Two years ago, John McHale, an entrepreneur from Austin, Tex., who has given millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and causes, did something very unusual for him: he wrote a $50,000 check to a Republican candidate, Rick Perry, then seeking a third full term as governor of Texas. In September 2010, he did it again, catapulting himself into the top ranks of Mr. Perry's donors.