Senate Adopts Leahy, Cornyn Anti-Corruption Amendment To STOCK Act

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012) – The U.S. Senate Thursday adopted an amendment authored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) to give prosecutors new tools to identify, investigate, and prosecute criminal conduct by public officials. The amendment was cosponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

The amendment, which mirrors legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, will strengthen existing federal criminal law for acts of public corruption and raise maximum statutory penalties.  It will restore the crucial honest services fraud statute severely limited by the Supreme Court in 2010, so that prosecutors can once again target undisclosed self-dealing.  The amendment will also clarify the definition of what it means for a public official to perform an “official act,” and amend the federal bribery statute to show that corrupt payment can be made to influence more than one official act.  The legislation also amends the federal gratuities statute to make clear that a public official cannot accept anything of value worth more than $1,000 given to them because of their official position other than as permitted by existing rules or regulations.   The measure was adopted by voice vote as an amendment to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act.

“Public corruption erodes the trust the American people have in those who are given the privilege of public service,” said Leahy.  “Too often, loopholes in existing laws have meant that corrupt conduct can go unchecked.  The stain of corruption has spread to all levels of government, and that victimizes every American by chipping away at the foundations of our democracy.  This amendment will help us to take real steps to restore confidence in government by rooting out criminal corruption, and should be adopted to further strengthen the STOCK Act.”

“This amendment clarifies federal public corruption laws to ensure that corrupt officials who breach their duty to the public receive just punishment under the law,” said Cornyn.

The Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act has been approved in each of the three last Congresses.  Other key provisions of the Public Corruption Prosecution Improvement Act include an extension of the statute of limitations from five to six years for bribery, honest services fraud, and extortion of a public official.  Public corruption cases are time-consuming to investigate, and the extension of the statute of limitations provides prosecutors the time necessary to investigate cases.  The bill also raises statutory maximum penalties for select anti-corruption statutes to ensure the most serious corrupt acts result in significant jail time.

The Leahy-Cornyn amendment adopted Thursday reflects a bipartisan, bicameral agreement with the House of Representatives.  Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) are the lead sponsors of similar legislation pending the House of Representatives that won unanimous approval by the House Judiciary Committee last year.

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