In Joint Effort With Chair of Senate Judiciary Committee Casey Calls on Congress to Close ‘Honest Services’ Loophole in Public Corruption Laws
Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) joined U.S. Senator and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a call on Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to include a bipartisan anti-public corruption measure in a bill to ban insider trading by members of Congress, the STOCK Act.
Last week, the Senate passed its version of the STOCK Act which included the Casey-backed anti-public corruption measure, The Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act. When the STOCK Act went over to the House of Representatives, Casey’s anti-public corruption measure was stripped out. Now, Casey is calling on Senate leaders to insist on a conference committee with the House of Representatives so that they can work to include the anti-public corruption measure in the final version of the STOCK Act that will likely pass both Houses.
“The House of Representatives made the wrong call when they watered down the STOCK Act. We can and should ban insider trading by members of Congress and crackdown on public corruption at the same time,” Casey said. “Senate leaders should insist on a conference committee with the House of Representatives so this anti-public corruption measure can be added back into the bill. Public service is an honor and a trust- passing this legislation will affirm that principal.
The measure would close the ‘honest services’ loophole in the country’s public corruption laws. Specifically, the Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act would:
- Ban public officials from accepting money or gifts over $1,000 given to them because of their official position;
- Overturn a flawed Supreme Court ruling, Skilling vs. United States, which made it harder for prosecutors to crack down on public corruption;
- Extend the statute of limitations to six years (from five) for bribery, honest services fraud, and extortion; and,
- Ban a process known as ‘Undisclosed Self-Dealing,’ when a public official covers up a conflict of interest.
The Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act will strengthen existing federal criminal law for acts of public corruption and raise maximum statutory penalties. It will restore the crucial honest services fraud statute severely limited by the Supreme Court in 2010, so that prosecutors can once again target undisclosed self-dealing. The amendment will also clarify the definition of what it means for a public official to perform an “official act,” and amend the federal bribery statute to show that a corrupt payment can be made to influence more than one official act. The legislation also amends the federal gratuities statute to make clear that a public official cannot accept anything of value worth more than $1,000 given to them because of their official position other than as permitted by existing rules or regulations. The measure was adopted by voice vote as an amendment to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act in the U.S. Senate but was stripped out in the U.S. House this week.
The Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act has been approved in each of the three last Congresses. Other key provisions of the Public Corruption Prosecution Improvement Act include an extension of the statute of limitations from five to six years for bribery, honest services fraud, and extortion of a public official. Public corruption cases are time-consuming to investigate, and the extension of the statute of limitations provides prosecutors the time necessary to investigate cases. The bill also raises statutory maximum penalties for select anti-corruption statutes to ensure the most serious corrupt acts result in significant jail time.
The full text of Senator Casey and Chairman Leahy’s letter can be seen below:
Dear Senators Reid and McConnell:
During the Senate debate of the STOCK Act, we sponsored a bipartisan amendment that strengthens public corruption laws by clarifying the tools that prosecutors have to identify, investigate, and prosecute criminal conduct by public officials. The Senate adopted the amendment. The House of Representatives passed a version of the STOCK Act that does not include these anti-corruption provisions. This striking of the Senate-passed provisions greatly weakens the bill.
We write to urge you to proceed by way of a House-Senate conference committee to resolve the differences between the two versions of the bill and strongly urge that the conference restore this crucial provision in order to ensure that there are real consequences for public officials who abuse their position.
The anti-corruption amendment adopted by the Senate to the STOCK Act was carefully drafted to avoid ambiguity and lend certainty to the anti-corruption law. It is precisely the type of narrow Federal criminal legislation that critics of white collar statutes have claimed to want, and it closes important gaps in the Nation’s anti-corruption laws. Public service is an honor and a trust, and public officials in violation of that trust should face severe consequences.
Patrick J. Leahy Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator United States Senator