Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s actions are not protected by the First Amendment, according to an amicus brief filed today with the U.S. Supreme Court by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and attorneys with the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP in McDonnell v. United States.
McDonnell has been convicted of accepting more than $175,000 in cash, luxury vacations, shopping sprees, and more from businessman Jonnie Williams in exchange for using his office to advance Williams’ business interests. He and a number of amici argue that his actions were nothing more than “ordinary politics” and are protected by the First Amendment under Citizens United and other recent Supreme Court cases.
“The democracy McDonnell and his defenders have in mind is not one those who adopted the First Amendment would recognize,” said Daniel I. Weiner, senior counsel at the Brennan Center. “McDonnell’s argument depends on a misreading of recent Supreme Court rulings. The Court has never held that an elected official has a constitutional right to use his office to promote a benefactor’s private business goals in exchange for money. If it did, that would call into question the integrity of our entire political system.”
In January of 2015, McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted by a Virginia jury on charges of public corruption. This appeal represents his last chance to avoid prison time.
Read the full amicus brief filed by the Brennan Center and Freshfields in McDonnell v. United States.
View the Brennan Center’s case page.
Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on money in politics.
For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Naren Daniel at (646)292–8381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.