November 3, 2004
Federal Corruption Prosecutions Article
A very interesting article by Associate Dean and Professor George D. Brown (Boston College) will appear in the Catholic University Law Review entitled Carte Blanche: Federal Prosecution of State and Local Officials After Sabri. Professor Brown is the leading authority on the federal corruption statutes, and has published a number of articles questioning the scope of federal power to police misconduct by state and local officials under various federal statutes, including the mail/wire fraud statute and the Hobbs Act. His latest article considers the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision last term in Sabri v. United States, 124 S.Ct. 1941 (2004), which upheld the federal prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 666 of a developer for bribing a local official to facilitate approval of a project. The abstract for the article states:
Federal prosecutions of state and local officials for political corruption are a significant feature of the American political landscape. However, they raise serious federalism questions, especially the potential impact on state autonomy and sovereignty. Thus, these prosecutions would seem to run counter to the Supreme Court's "New Federalism." The Court has never explored the issue in depth. Last term it handed down a decision highly favorable to the federal role in the case of Sabri v. United States. This paper examines Sabri, and questions the rationale that the prosecution in that case was an example of justifiable protection of federal funds. The article offers an alternative perspective, namely, that the Court was anxious to further the anti-corruption imperative demonstrated in McConnell (the Campaign Finance Reform case). The article concludes with possible alternative rationales for a strong federal role in overseeing state and local governments and for a general anti-corruption statute.