The Supreme Court is Determined to Normalize Corruption

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, threw out the convictions of the New Jersey Pols behind Bridgegate.

Between this, and Bob McDonnell, it’s becoming next to impossible to prosecute corruption:

In 2013, officials with ties to Chris Christie, then the governor of New Jersey, altered the traffic pattern on the George Washington Bridge in an effort to punish the mayor of nearby Fort Lee, New Jersey, for his failure to support Christie’s reelection bid. The change in the traffic pattern led to four days of gridlock on the streets surrounding the bridge before the original pattern was eventually restored. Two of the officials responsible for the change were found guilty of violating federal statutes prohibiting wire fraud and fraud from federally funded programs. But today the Supreme Court threw out those convictions. In a unanimous decision by Justice Elena Kagan, the court ruled that although the officials’ actions were an “abuse of power,” they did not violate the federal fraud laws because the “scheme here did not aim to obtain money or property.”

The defendants in the case were Bridget Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, and William Baroni, whom Christie had named as the deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge. For many years, three of the 12 toll lanes on the upper deck of the bridge going from New Jersey into New York have been cordoned off with traffic cones during the morning rush hour, so that local traffic from Fort Lee can cross the bridge more easily. After Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, declined to endorse Christie in 2013, Baroni and Kelly – along with David Wildstein, a Port Authority staffer – decided to retaliate against Sokolich by reducing the number of lanes reserved for Fort Lee drivers to one. They made the change on the first day of school in September 2013, without notifying Sokolich in advance. To explain the change to Port Authority employees, the trio concocted a fictitious traffic study.


Today the Supreme Court reversed. In a 13-page opinion, Kagan emphasized that the government needed to show “not only that Baroni and Kelly engaged in deception,” but that they did so to obtain property. The Supreme Court has made clear that unless bribes or kickbacks are involved (which, Kagan noted, are not at issue in this case), federal fraud laws cannot be used as a general tool to fight public corruption; they apply only when efforts to obtain money or property are involved.

The Supreme Court has consistently narrowed the scope of corruption statutes over the past few decades, even as our government and society has become increasingly corrupt.

Welcome to the 3rd world.

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