If lawmakers were to apply the checklist to H.R. 2572, this legislation would be roundly rejected.
In the first place, this bill would add “new” federal corruption offenses to the more than two dozen federal corruption laws on the books. It also would overturn two Supreme Court decisions that aim to keep criminal laws such as these from being too vague and overly broad.
As for the directives to the U.S. Sentencing Commission mandating substantially increased prison terms, lawmakers will see that the need for such increases are not supported by any empirical evidence. In fact, backers of the bill appear to overlook the fact that the Sentencing Commission reviewed all public corruption offenses in 2004 and increased penalties — lengthening the average sentences for public officials who accept bribes by more than 50 percent.
In light of the new revelations about the Stevens case and recent, serious analysis by the Sentencing Commission about what is appropriate punishment for public corruption, Congress should pause and take a breath. This bill has serious flaws that must be addressed. Congress should refrain from giving even greater power to the Justice Department unit found to have trampled the constitutional rights of one of this nation’s most senior elected officials, and, instead, should exercise its oversight authority to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly.
Julie Stewart is president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Lisa Wayne is president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.