On June 24, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal honest services fraud statute only covers bribery and kickback schemes. What does this mean for lobbyists? Covington & Burling has the (qualified) answer:
“With respect to federal officials and federal lobbyists, Skilling essentially renders the honest services fraud statute co-extensive with existing bribery and kickback statutes, meaning that the Government will need to prove that gifts, political contributions, or other things of value were provided to federal officials as a quid pro quo for specific official acts.” (From Covington & Burling’s Client Alert)
According to the political law team over at Covington, this is a more narrow interpretation of the statute than has recently been used by prosecutors.
But the Blog of Legal Times reports that the Department of Justice isn’t changing their approach to prosecuting Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, who was mis-tried in the fall and re-scheduled for trial this summer. Ring’s prosecution is for a bribery scheme. The blog reports that: “At a hearing today in Washington federal district court, Public Integrity Section trial attorney Peter Koski said the high court’s June 24 ruling in Skilling v. United States has “no impact whatsoever” on the prosecution of Ring.” (Read the full story on Ring’s trial here).