Critics charging Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton of curating a culture of corruption around the Clinton Foundation find an unlikely ally in former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Stevens, who served on the Court for 30 years before his retirement in 2010, authored the principle dissent in Citizens United v. FEC, the contentious Supreme Court decision which relaxed federal regulation of campaign expenditures by corporations, labor unions, and non-profits. He takes a capacious view of corruption in the opinion, lambasting the five justice majority for restricting their understanding of corruption to strict quid-pro-quo arrangements.
Section four of his dissent critique’s the majority’s understanding of the principles the high court had previously adopted for evaluating Congress’s interest in policing corruption. He writes the following:
Corruption can take many forms. Bribery may be the paradigm case. But the difference between selling a vote and selling access is a matter of degree, not kind. And selling access is not qualitatively different from giving special preference to those who spent money on one’s behalf. Corruption operates along a spectrum, and the majority’s apparent belief that quid pro quo arrangements can be neatly demarcated from other improper influences does not accord with the theory or reality of politics.
He goes on to argue that Congress has a legitimate interest in arresting even the appearance of corruption. What’s more, his opinion is generally girded by the belief that corruption, or its specter, undermines general confidence in politics, encouraging a widespread withdrawal from political and democratic life by a cynical calculus which leaves voters with the impression that the game is long since up. (RELATED: Clinton Foundation Ignored All ‘Best Practices’ For Good Governance)
The Stevens position is an effective rejoinder to Clinton and her sympathizers in the press, who rebut this week’s Associated Press report revealing that over half of her extra-official meetings as Secretary of State were with Clinton Foundation donors, by asserting that the AP report demonstrates no evidence of impropriety.
For her part, Clinton has defended the integrity of the foundation, telling Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that no donor to the Clinton Foundation has ever substantively influenced her work at the State Department.
“My work as Secretary of State was not influenced by any outside forces. I made policy decisions based on what I thought was right to keep Americans safe and protect our interests abroad,” Clinton said. “I believe my aides also acted appropriately,” she added.
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