Kevin Drum discusses a potential scandal involving Congressman Nick Smith’s vote on the Medicare bill. Smith claims he was offered a $100,000-plus donation for his son’s campaign to succeed him in exchange for the vote–and threatened that the powers that be would “work to make sure your son doesn’t get to Congress” if he didn’t.

Kevin thinks someone should go to jail if it’s true. I don’t disagree in principle–to me, this would be tantamount to bribery–but I’m not sure what law has been broken. Strongarm tactics–and the handing out of pork barrel projects way more than $100,000–are hardly uncommon in tight votes. And people are legally bribed with committee assignments and such regularly. The only possible violation I could see is one of campaign finance laws, depending on how the $100,000 was accumulated.

Still, if true, this does seem a particularly sleazy episode. Given the presence of political parties and the machinery that goes with them, I’m not exactly sure where the line should be drawn. But it’s way before this, I’d think.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. mark says:

    Kevin also thinks the promise of support from “national party leadership” also constitutes part of this so-called bribe, at least id I read his post correctly. If he think that, then it must be any member of congress promised a campaign visit during election season is guilty of taking a bribe, right?

  2. JakeV says:


    Reading the post again, I think Kevin referred to the offer of an endorsement not to imply that the endorsement was part of a bribe, but instead to argue that the offerer was a powerful figure in the party (that is, powerful enough to be able to credibly offer an endorsement as a bargaining chip).

  3. Kevin Drum says:

    JakeV: yes, that’s what I meant. Thank you. The post was actually pretty clear, I think.

    I actually agree that, in principle, this kind of stuff happens all the time. However, my understanding of the law is that while horsetrading for votes is one thing, a straight-up offer of money in return for a specific vote is entirely illegal.

    But I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know for sure. It sure seems like a bribe, though.

  4. Paul says:

    Kevin also thought a republican should go to jail for the bogus Valerie Plame non issue. He also thought a republican should go to jail for looking at a server that a moronic Dem IT guy failed to secure.

    However he has no problems with democratic Senators blocking minorities from the federal bench and he could not muster any moral outrage when Dem senators were conspiring to leak classified evidence to hurt Bush politically.

    All things considered, Kevin has no credibility and is a simple partisan hack.

  5. John Rogers says:


    I demand a revote! Let’s see if we can kill this turkey of a bill!