Original Proposal - Corruption in America – April 8

Our next meeting is Wednesday evening, April 8th, at the Salt Lake Public Library (210 East 400 South) in Conference Room D -- ACROSS THE HALL FROM OUR REGULAR CONFERENCE ROOM C.

Our focus will be Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United by Prof. Zephyr Teachout (Harvard Univ Press 9/29/2014 – 305 pages sans notes and index) available from Amazon.com for $22.19 + shipping for hardcover or $9.88 Kindle -- proposed by Thomas and Denise Chancellor.

When French King Louis XVI presented Benjamin Franklin with a snuff box encrusted with diamonds and inset with the King’s portrait, the gift troubled Americans because it threatened to “corrupt” Franklin by clouding his judgment or altering his attitude toward the French in subtle psychological ways. This broad understanding of political corruption -- rooted in ideals of civic virtue -- was a driving force at the Constitutional Convention. For two centuries the framers’ ideas about corruption flourished in the courts, even in the absence of clear rules governing voters, civil officers, and elected officials. Should a law that was passed by a state legislature be overturned because half of its members were bribed? What kinds of lobbying activity were corrupt, and what kinds were legal? When does an implicit promise count as bribery? In the 1970s the U.S. Supreme Court began to narrow the definition of corruption, and the meaning has since changed dramatically. No case makes that clearer than Citizens United.

Zephyr Teachout is an Associate Professor at Fordham U School of Law. When, in 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was running for re-election, Prof. Teachout challenged him in the Democratic Primary and received 33.47% of the vote. Prof. Teachout is a media expert who served as the Director of Internet Organizing for the 2004 Howard Dean presidential campaign. In 2009, she co-founded A New Way Forward, an organization built to break up the power of big banks, and became the first national director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that had been founded in 2006 with a goal of increasing transparency and accountability in the United States Congress, the executive branch, and in state and local governments.
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