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Supreme Court Poised to Okay Use of Some Gifts After a Sale

Thank youA court case focused on when it’s illegal for state and local officials and institutions that receive federal monies to accept gifts and payments meant to influence or reward their decisions may loosen restrictions on gifts made after a sale is completed.

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According to a recent report in the New York Times, the Supreme Court seems ready to  “limit the reach of a federal statute that makes it a crime for state and local officials, along with institutions that receive federal money, to accept gifts and payments meant to influence or reward their actions.”
 
It is illegal to offer officials gifts in advance of a sale; this case addresses gifting after a sale to a government agency is completed.
 
The court argument reportedly was “studded with hypothetical questions about gifts as varied as cookies, Starbucks gift cards, meals at the Cheesecake Factory and 10-figure donations to hospitals...A majority of the justices seemed persuaded that the government’s interpretation of the law was too broad.”
 
The case is based on an appeal from a state official who was jailed for accepting a $13,000 consulting fee after a purchase of garbage trucks by his city was completed. The question for the justices is whether the law applies only to before-the-fact bribes or also to after-the-fact gratuities.”
 
The claimant’s attorney before the judges, Lisa S. Blatt, “warned the justices that a broad reading of the law would turn routine gifts into crimes backed by 10-year prison sentences. She added that it was impossible to draw a workable line between prohibited gifts and permissible ones.”
 
She is quoted as saying: “I don’t know where on the Harry & David menu the gift becomes corrupt.”
 
Following this reasoning, “the gift of a meal at Chipotle was probably permissible, while one at the Inn at Little Washington, an expensive restaurant in Virginia, would not be. The hard question, she said, is where to draw the line.”
 
Asked about the ruling, Incentive Federation attorney George Delta wrote, "This case isn’t about giving gifts so much as it is about payoffs after the fact, i.e., bribes. The Supreme Court has been gutting federal bribery statutes, and this is the latest salvo. If anything, this case will make it much easier to give gifts (including gift cards) legally after the fact. In the case before the court, a mayor appears to have rigged a bidding process on behalf of a company. After the successful bid, it paid him $13,000 for ‘consulting services.’ The court looks poised to rule that a gift after the fact does not constitute a bribe.”


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