Since initiating his three-hour magical mystery bus tour of corruption in Anchorage, the campaign of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ray Metcalfe has picked up steam. His crusade against political corruption, coupled with the numerous indictments and convictions of leading Alaska political figures, has conferred credibility upon his campaign. Indeed, leading Democratic candidate Mark Begich, eager to be polled against prospective Republican challengers, has not sought to be polled against Metcalfe.
But now Ray Metcalfe has embraced a more extreme position on bribery - a position which appears to breach the customary presumption of innocence, and could even marginalize his campaign. Metcalfe thinks it's too hard to convict politicians of bribery charges. Under current statutes, to convict on federal bribery charges, prosecutors have to prove there was quid pro quo - meaning an exchange of an official act for a gift or other thing of value. In Metcalfe's purview, this not only makes a conviction difficult and expensive, but unnecessarily prolongs the process.
To resolve these issues, Metcalfe proposes the following model statute, as published on the Anchorage Daily News' Alaska Politics blog:
The act of using one's elected or appointed office to direct government contracts, assets, or favored treatment, to one's associate, client, business partner or contributors is a class C felony for the elected or appointed official and the participating recipient(s) regardless of whether a quid pro quo is proven.
Penalty guidelines for persons convicted of a class C felony require sentences of not less than 10 years or more than 25. Such a law would go a long ways toward eliminating corruption at all levels of government.
Metcalfe believes it is O.K. to lower the bar to facilitate convictions. He claims his proposed statute would not bar elected officials from having business partners, but would merely require them to abstain from using their public office to enrich their partners. It would, from that day forward, be presumptive that acts of mutual back scratching resulting in financial gains were carried out with the intent of masking a bribe.
And that last line is the problem. Metcalfe wants to create a legal environment where the mere appearance of impropriety would be considered a criminal act, shifting the burden of proof from the government to the accused. And this, in my opinion, violates the presumption of innocence.
Setting a high bar for conviction and imposing the presumption of innocence is what separates our superior system of justice, of Anglo-Saxon origin, from the inferior "Continental" system of justice prevailing throughout much of the world (not to mention the brutal, barbaric Sharia law prevalent in the Muslim world), in which the presumption of guilt is observed. A noteworthy example of the inequities of the Continental system is the case of Ernst Zundel, railroaded in Germany on holocaust denial-related charges. During his trial, not only was the burden of proof imposed on Zundel, but the judge even ruled that "truth could not be a defense". The Continental system clearly stacks the deck against the accused.
Lowering the bar jeopardizes the presumption of innocence and drags us down to the level of the rest of the world. America was created to be a light and life to the rest of the world; just because we are in the world does not mean we should be of the world.
Ray Metcalfe would do well to re-examine his proposed model statute and re-work it to strengthen the presumption of innocence. The purpose of this type of legislation should be to expedite justice, not necessarily convictions.
If you live in Greater Anchorage, and are interested in taking Ray Metcalfe's three-hour tour, click HERE to find out how to arrange it. Other recent posts about Ray Metcalfe can be viewed HERE and HERE. You can also find information and links to all Alaska candidates for Federal office HERE.