DATELINE: April 4, 2012
CONTACT: Sarah Lee, Communications Director, The Center for Competitive Politics, 770.598.7961
Alexandria, Va. – The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) has joined with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) in filing an amicus brief in the case of United States v. Ring, supporting the defendant and his First Amendment rights.
Kevin Ring, a lobbyist, was tried in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for providing “things of value” to public officials, including campaign contributions. The court decided Ring was guilty of honest services fraud because he exhibited a “corrupt intent to influence.”
CCP and NADCL noted that “[n]ot only did [his conviction] violate Mr. Ring’s right to due process; it threatens to criminalize a broad swath of conduct that is not only not illegal, but intrinsic to the democratic process. The intent to ‘influence’ … is ubiquitous in politics, and the District Court’s rulings here threaten those who seek to influence public policy with jail.”
Allen Dickerson, CCP’s Legal Director, noted that the brief was intended to address the criminalization of common political practices. Especially troubling was the government’s introduction of campaign contributions as evidence of criminality, despite Supreme Court rulings holding that such contributions are lawful unless given to further an explicit quid-pro-quo agreement.
“Preventing corruption is a noble goal, and it is easy for prosecutors to overreach when they see the chance to convict an unsavory public figure,” Dickerson said. “But that well-intentioned zeal cannot be allowed to chill activity protected by the First Amendment. Courts have been careful to prevent the criminalization of mere politics, and we hope the Court of Appeals will be equally vigilant here.”
Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled in the case. A copy of the brief can be found here.