Deregulating Corruption

35 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2019

Date Written: July 31, 2019


The Roberts Supreme Court has, or to be more precise the five most conservative members of the Roberts Court have, spent the last twelve years branding and rebranding the meaning of the word “corruption” both in campaign finance cases and in certain white-collar criminal cases. Not only are the Roberts Court conservatives doing this over the strenuous objections of their more liberal colleagues, they are also breaking with the Rehnquist Court’s more expansive definition of corruption. The actions of the Roberts Court in defining corruption to mean less and less have been a welcome development among dishonest politicians. In criminal prosecutions, politicians convicted of honest services fraud and other crimes are all too eager to argue to courts that their convictions should be overturned in light of the Supreme Court’s lax definition of corruption. In some cases, jury convictions have been set aside for politicians who cite the Supreme Court’s latest campaign finance and white-collar crime cases, especially Citizens United v. FEC and McDonnell v. United States. This Article explores what the Supreme Court has done to rebrand corruption, as well as how this impacts the criminal prosecutions of corrupt elected officials. This Article is the basis of a chapter of Professor Torres-Spelliscy’s second book, Political Brands, which will be published by Edward Elgar Publishing in late 2019.

Keywords: Money in Politics, Campaign Finance, Supreme Court, First Amendment, White Collar Crime, Bribery, Quid Pro Quo, Corruption, Citizens United, Mccutcheon, Mcconnell, Bennett, Davis, Fec, Skilling, Mcdonnell, Public Law, Public Corruption, Law, Legal, Trump, Political Brands, Constitution, Election Law

Suggested Citation

Torres-Spelliscy, Ciara, Deregulating Corruption (July 31, 2019). Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2019, Available at SSRN:

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy (Contact Author)

Stetson University College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States

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