Virginia Corruption Case may Resonate in California, Capitol Weekly

In his Capitol Weekly article “Virginia corruption case may resonate in California,” Partner Greg Rolen discusses the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate former Virginia Govenor Robert McDonnell’s bribery conviction in the case of United States v. McDonnell. Although the jury found that McDonnell received gifts in exchange for helping Jonnie Williams reclassify his supplement as a pharmaceutical by obtaining state scientific studies, the Supreme Court concluded that the jury was misinformed on the definition of an “official act.”

Rolen further explains the court’s decision by noting that unless the government formally acts, then an official is able to receive money in exchange for advocacy. “Personal gifts are treated differently than campaign contributions,” said Rolen. “Meeting with a constituent is fraught with peril when constituents provide value.”

Rolen also discusses how McDonnell affects California. McDonnell was prosecuted under the Hobbs Act, which is virtually identical to California’s Penal Code § 68; however, the case does not protect other officials from committing bribery in less formal acts. He gives the example of California board trustees—though they have limited authority to commit official acts, they still exercise influence by providing direction to others. He concludes by commenting, “The real message is this: Meet your constituents, but split the tab.”

Read the full article here.

September 2, 2016