Racketeering by any Other Name

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
-Patrick Henry

The revelation days ago that federal agents took into custody Norman Hsu — yet another fugitive financier linked to either the Republican or Democratic parties — coincided with the announcement by the United States Attorney for New Jersey that eleven New Jersey politicians, including two state legislators, had been arrested for taking bribes in return for government contracts.

While not directly related, these events offered further confirmation to a scandal-weary public that criminal activity can often be found at the national, state and local level of American politics. Every few weeks an elected official of either party has a “Casablanca” moment and declares they are “shocked, shocked” that they received tainted money and then dutifully donates the ill-gotten booty to charity. After hand-wringing by watchdog groups, tut-tutting by editorial boards and empty promises of reform, politicians go back to business as usual.

Americans may now ask a more serious question: Has criminal activity become woven into the fabric of the operations of the Democratic and Republican parties?

If the these two political parties were different entities – corrupt unions, say, or corporations – there is no doubt that federal prosecutors would bring racketeering charges and seek a monitor to oversee the activities of at least some thoroughly criminal and corrupt local and state party organizations.

The notion that the two parties and their various subsidiaries engage in racketeering is not a radical notion. Federal judge Michael M. Baylson suggested on his own initiative from the bench (sua sponte in legal parlance) that racketeering charges be brought against politicians and lobbyists in a 2005 case in which two executives of Commerce Bank were found guilty of bribing Philadelphia elected officials while seeking government favors.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) of 1970 was originally passed by Congress to target the mob. But the Act has been widely interpreted and in dozens of cases has been applied to terrorist organizations, corrupt business and hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. The Supreme Court has never ruled on whether RICO can be used to target governmental entities or political parties, but there appears to be no bar.

New Jersey may not be the most corrupt state in the union, but it may be a good place for prosecutors to begin using the racketeering laws because criminal activity is central to the practice of both political parties. Over ninety New Jersey elected officials have been found guilty or pled to criminal activity in the past few years, including many Democratic and Republican power brokers. Well-known New Jersey lobbyist Alan Marcus confided to New York Magazine: “In New Jersey, you contribute money not for access but results. Anybody who doesn’t admit that is lying.” In the Garden State, the practice of exchanging money for government contracts and favors is routinely referred to as “Pay-To-Play,” leaving no doubt that an illegal quid pro quo is the order of the day.

The logic of the political money race and of trading government contracts for cash contributions has no end. When even the New York Governor – who has somewhat of a record of fighting corruption – finds his own administration mired in a criminal investigation in its first few months, it is time to reflect on how to end a money-chase-at-all-costs system that forces individuals and organizations to skirt the law.

If prosecutors get serious about using the racketeering laws to target individuals and political party entities in a bi-partisan fashion, the possibility of restoring the public trust might begin.

Carl J. Mayer runs the Mayer Law Group LLC; the firm represents consumers and investors. His opinion pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Asbury Park Press, Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications. He can be reached at carlmayer@aol.com. Read other articles by Carl J., or visit Carl J.'s website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. gerald spezio said on September 28th, 2007 at 5:19am #

    Mayer , you are a card carrying member of the racketeering lawyers’ monopoly. I should trust YOU to expose the rackerteers.

    Here is some sua sponte and up yours in street parlance.

    The Mayer Law Group helps people with their civil rights problems, and we need clients. We’re in your corner. We’ll get you some due process.

    You can be plaintiffs or defendants. We spin left.
    We’re here to help you get your rights.
    Call Today.

    You forgot to mention Martin Luther King as a lead.

  2. gerald spezio said on September 28th, 2007 at 9:24am #

    Mayer the legal eagle on the march against corruption says;
    “The notion that the two parties engage in racketeering is not a radical notion.”
    Neither is the notion that the racketeers are almost always lawyers.

    Want to stop the racketeering and the foul corruption? Hire lawyers. Get your ass into court – like where else?

    We are progressive lawyers. We fight corruption for YOU
    We stand for liberty and the rule of lawyers.
    We need raw material.

    Here is a short list higher profile yuppie boy and girl lawyers. All sworn to the rule of law.

    Carl Mayer, Bill Clinton, Hilarious Clinton, Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman. Barack Obama, John Edwards, Jack Abramhoff, Scooter Liebowitz, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Sam Brown back, Alan Dershowitz, Michael Chertoff, Victoria Toensing, Alberto Gonzalez, Elliot Abrams, Ariel Cohen, Doug Feith, etc, etc, …

    Johnny Cochran, Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, Spiro Agnew, Joe McCarthy, Joe McCarthy’s assistant lawyer Bobby Kennedy, Earl Warren, Ferdinand Marcos, Abe Fortas, etc. are dead.

  3. gerald spezio said on September 29th, 2007 at 7:48am #

    Attorney Mayer, anti -semitism and hate speech are on the upswing.

    More and more people are making connections about the bloodthirsty Zionists, like Lieberman, Kristol, Podhorentz, and Gaffney, preaching for more and more murder.

    Some of the schmuckery are actually focusing on the murder part.
    They saying anti-murder stuff like “murdering jews, bloodthirsty Israeli bastards,” and worse.

    As you know, the anti-semites hide behind their anti-murder frame to disguise their horrible anti-semitism.
    It’s always hateful anti-semitism.

    As horrible as it is, I am sure that you can see the free market entrepreneurial opportunities in this escalating anti-semitic hate speech with its lucrative fees for lawyers. Hate speech LAW is in.

    There is no question that this is a growth industry with all manner of profits for the well positioned in anti-semitism prosecution and defense.
    Escalating “social problems” like this can only lead to fat city for attorneys’ fees.
    The litigious citizenry will need all manner of Due Process. There is a gold mine too in the criminal aspect. It will be big.

    Even the anti-murder frauds and scumbags will need legal representation.
    This is a once in lifetime chance for progressive lawyers to make it big in anti-semitism and hate speech LAW.