The Supreme Court continues to bear the blame for two political operatives getting off scot free for an admitted blatant abuse of power: creating nightmarish traffic jams for residents of a small New Jersey town because its mayor had not endorsed their boss’ reelection as governor. Though the record showed the stunt endangered the lives of some and inconvenienced thousands and their lawyer admitted it was an abuse their power as state officials to cause the jams, the Court acquitted them on all charges. Its decision in the Bridgegate case, so named because the traffic jams were created by blocking two lanes of the bridge the residents used to commute to New York City, is indeed the immediate reason defendants escaped sanction.
But that ruling was the inevitable consequence of earlier decisions by the other branches of government. For decades Congress has ignored the Court’s warning that the hodgepodge of federal laws used to prosecute state and local officials for corruption is Constitutionally infirm. And for decades, and despite some spectacular earlier reversals by the Court, the Executive branch has continued to rely on these statutes to prosecute state and local corruption.
Those genuinely interested in fighting corruption need to stop denouncing the Court and focus their energies instead on these two branches of government. Below is what they should demand of the Executive. Part II of this post will explain what they should demand of Congress. Continue reading