Unlike a case about animal cruelty videos or pornography, the Court is working at
the very core of First Amendment protections – the ability to petition the government about a
candidate for federal office. “There is practically universal agreement that a major purpose of
that Amendment was to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs of course including
discussions of candidates.” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 14 (1976)(internal modifications
omitted).2 In drawing the line between the protected and the unprotected in this first-of-its-kind
prosecution, this Court must therefore utilize an extraordinarily high threshold, one demanding
the clearest, most overwhelming evidence that there was a quid pro quo. Anything short of that
must result in acquittal.
This case will be an important precedent for officeholders and political supporters
everywhere, since parallel political conduct is ubiquitous in American democracy. Governors
veto legislation that their endorsers opposed. Presidents appoint to public office individuals who
supported their campaigns. Senators introduce legislation that their endorsers support.
Congressmen retire and take jobs with companies that benefited from their votes. And, judges
rule in favor of attorneys and litigants who have, or who will in the future, support their
ambitions for higher office.