Federal prosecutors said in a court filing today that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision involving campaign contributions should have no bearing on former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appeal of his corruption conviction and 14-year sentence.
The letter to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes two days after Blagojevich’s lawyers asked the appellate panel weighing the former governor’s fate to consider the ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission in which the nation’s highest court struck down limits on campaign contributions.
Blagojevich’s attorneys argued the ruling supported Blagojevich's position that the government must prove a quid pro quo or explicit promise in criminal prosecutions based on attempts to solicit campaign contributions.
But prosecutors said in their filing today that the Supreme Court ruling is irrelevant to Blagojevich’s conviction.
“Nothing in the decision suggests that an exchange of contributions for specific official acts is quid pro quo corruption only if the arrangement is stated ‘explicitly’ or expressly,” the two-page filing said. “Accordingly, the decision provides no support for Blagojevich’s argument on appeal.”
The filings come seven months after a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit held spirited oral arguments on Blagojevich's appeal. No decision has been announced.
Over the course of two trials, Blagojevich was convicted on 18 corruption counts, including his attempt to obtain a job or campaign contributions in return for selling the U.S. Senate seat vacated in the wake of Barack Obama's election as president in 2008.
Testifying in his own defense during his second trial in 2011, Blagojevich denied there was any quid pro quo for the Senate seat and dismissed the talks captured in undercover recordings as "lengthy musings," not serious proposals. The sometimes gray line between traditional political horse-trading and flat-out bribery took center stage during the appellate arguments in December. The former governor's attorneys contended that U.S. District Judge James Zagel made a series of erroneous rulings at trial, including barring the playing of additional undercover recordings that the defense said would have shown that Blagojevich was acting in the public interest, not for private gain.
The former governor also alleged in his appeal that Zagel hamstrung his testimony at his second trial in 2011 by barring him at the last minute from telling jurors he thought his actions were lawful.
Blagojevich has served more than two years of his 14-year sentence at a federal prison near Denver.