The courts have similarly contributed to the lax regulatory environment. As a professor of constitutional law (and ex-prosecutor), I have watched with concern as recent Supreme Court cases extended ever-increasing constitutional protections to the alliance between big money and politics.
High levels of brazen big-money illegalities ordinarily go unaddressed and unpunished.
Six months before Trump’s election, the Supreme Court reversed the criminal conviction of a former Virginia governor on federal corruption charges. Gov. Robert McDonnell received personal gifts and loans worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Virginia businessman.
In exchange, McDonnell sought to influence the University of Virginia to conduct free research on the man’s commercial product.
The conviction, said the court, raised serious constitutional concerns because it could chill interactions between politicians and their supporters.
As in McDonnell’s own case, the decision’s significance extends beyond matters of campaign finance. The case was recently cited as a cause for the acquittal, on federal bribery charges, of a high-ranking New York City police official who for years received lavish gifts from wealthy businessmen.
Business And Political Elite
The rich rewards of the Trump investigations suggest that big-money illegalities are rife in America. And while Trump may be in a league of his own, the problem is not limited to Trump.
Indeed, some of the people embroiled in the Trump scandals have long been situated at the heart of America’s business and political elite.
In 2012, Vance ordered prosecutors to drop a promising fraud case against Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for lying to investors in a Trump project in Manhattan. The order was made after their father’s attorney paid Vance a visit.
That is the wider scandal suggested by the investigations of Trump and his cronies: The high levels of brazen big-money illegalities that ordinarily go unaddressed and unpunished. Indeed many of the alleged crimes are no longer chargeable due to the statute of limitations.
There is deep irony in the fact that Trump and his cronies are being pursued for the sort of crimes whose chronic under-enforcement generated the inequality and resentment that helped catapult Trump to the presidency.