Will the Department of Justice or the Federal Election Commission investigate, prosecute and hold accountable those responsible for attempting to bribe or extort Sen. Susan Collins? That’s the question buzzing about Washington this week as the left’s determination to prevent Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh from ascending to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court goes off the rails in Maine, where Ms. Collins has not yet revealed how she plans to vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
At issue is a new crowd-sourced fund-raising campaign organized by two Maine groups — Maine People’s Alliance and Mainers for Accountable Leadership (MFAL). The two groups are raising pledges right now from donors who want to convince Ms. Collins to vote against Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and they’re threatening to apply those funds in a novel way — they say they’ll give the funds to Ms. Collins’ opponent in her upcoming 2020 reelection campaign if she votes to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, but they will refund the money to the donors and not give Ms. Collins’ opponent the money if Ms. Collins buckles and votes against Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
A visit on Wednesday afternoon to the fund-raising site set up for the operation makes clear their determination to block the Kavanaugh confirmation, and says, “There are two scenarios: 1. Senator Collins votes NO on Kavanaugh and you will not be charged, and no money will go to fund her opponent. 2. Senator Collins votes YES on Kavanaugh and your pledge will go to fund her opponent’s campaign, once that opponent has been identified.”
In other words, the Maine People’s Alliance and MFAL are offering a thing of value to Sen. Collins in exchange for a vote. That’s a direct connection between an offer of something of value and an official action, and that is the very definition of bribery.
As noted election law attorney Cleta Mitchell points out, Title 18, Section 201 of the U.S. criminal code declares that it is a violation of law whenever a party “directly or indirectly gives, offers, or promises anything of value to any public official for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such public official “
“The federal law prohibits anyone from offering a Member of Congress anything of value in exchange for a Member’s vote,” Ms. Mitchell told Newsmax on Monday. “These people have conspired to do just that — they are dangling a fairly substantial ‘thing of value’ — namely, $1 million to be given or not given to Sen. Collins’ opponent, in exchange for her vote on a specific matter before the Congress.”
Look at it this way: If a group of thugs walked into Sen. Collins’ office with a bag full of money and told her to her face that if she voted a certain way, they were going to give her the money, we would all understand that as an act of bribery, wouldn’t we? So why would it not be bribery if they told her that if she voted a certain way, they would give the bag of money to her opponent?
As of Wednesday afternoon, 40,897 prospective donors had pledged $1,137,595 for the campaign.
Not surprisingly, Sen. Collins is having none of it. “I have had three attorneys tell me that they think it is a clear violation of the federal law on bribery,” she told The Wall Street Journal. “Actually, two told me that; one told me it’s extortion.”
Continued the senator: “It’s offensive. It’s of questionable legality. And it is extraordinary to me that people would want to participate in trying to essentially buy a Senator’s vote.”
Offensive, indeed. Over the top. Across the line. Out of bounds. Quite possibly illegal.
This isn’t Cook County, Illinois, or Hudson County, New Jersey. This is the United States Senate we’re talking about.
Will the Department of Justice begin an investigation, with the possibility of a prosecution? Will the Federal Election Commission take a firm stand against what clearly appears to be blatant law-breaking?
Justice demands action. Relevant law enforcement authorities should — make that must — move swiftly to hold accountable those who believe the proper way to exercise their First Amendment rights to petition their elected representatives is to put money on the table.
• Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.