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More specifically, is it voter fraud if a politician does something to help voters? For example, if a politician pays to build a library, or fund-raises for a charity that supports a poor community of potential voters, is this voter fraud?

A separate question is if a politician explicitly give money to voters without asking for votes, is this fraud?

Assuming in all of these cases that ballots are anonymous.

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    I don't think there are any politicians that say they will use none of the budget they control to aid (specific) constituents' interests. Generally speaking, Which potential government programs get money is the major consideration in electing one politician over another, for the majority of voters – Caleth May 22 '18 at 10:45
  • What really sucks (depends on your ideological bent, i suppose) is that it is not only perfectly legal but 100% desired to offer for the politician to do the same thing if they promise to - or do - spend taxpayer money on the same results instead of their own. – user4012 May 22 '18 at 12:29
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    Even if it was illegal (sometimes yes, sometimes no), it wouldn't be fraud. Behind every fraud is a lie. There are no lies in this scenario. – ohwilleke May 23 '18 at 19:53
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The most important law in this regard would be § 1973i(c) of the US criminal code which reads:

Whoever knowingly or willfully [...] pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. [...]

This law only applies to payments made explicitly in exchange for voting. Supporting private charities from their own pockets or through public endorsements is very common for politicians, especially during campaign season. It is hard to deny that a politician will at least partially be motivated to do this in order to improve their general popularity and thus their election result. But in order to call this election fraud, they would have to explicitly state that they expect that a specific person will vote in exchange for a monetary donation.

For example, this would be allowed:

I donated $10,000 to this library because this government doesn't do enough to support public education. If you think libraries need more public funding, vote for me!

This would be illegal:

I donated $10,000 to this library. Now I expect everyone who works here to vote for me next election, or I want my money back.

Note that additional state level laws might apply.

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Most Federal spending involves giving money to voters in one form or another. The military budget is mostly spent in the US. Social security gives money to old and disabled people. Medicaid gives money to doctors and their helpers in order to aid the poor. Federal workers, including the President, are voters, so their salaries are payments to voters. Agriculture subsidies largely go to farmers. Interest on the Federal debt is paid to bond-holders, many of whom are US voters. Yes, it's all legal.

As the other answer explains, bribes to voters, paid in return for votes, are another matter altogether and are not legal.

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In reality that's how the system works. E.g. Trump's wall is a payment to a group of people, who elected him on that promise. Like most elected officials, promises are rarely kept though.

  • I think Trumps wall is a bit different, since it is a promise for how he will use taxpayer money, not his own money. – fileyfood500 May 24 '18 at 18:15
  • I believe that's most of whats wrong with this country. The poor voter has learned they can vote for free stuff, phones, healthcare, etc...Still the wealth redistribution, only affects the middle class and, not the 1%. Voters are fools! – user21022 May 25 '18 at 4:08
  • @fileyfood500 "taxpayer money"? I thought Mexico was going to pay for the wall. Trump's wall was a promise of how he will use Mexico's money. – emory May 27 '18 at 22:57
  • Ok, not "taxpayer money" in the case of the wall, but my question is in reference to personal money being used before the voting takes place. That being said, I think the responses with respect to taxpayer money are interesting since officials who are up for re-election have taxpayer funds at their disposal to an extent. – fileyfood500 May 28 '18 at 4:15
  • One politician bought everyone coffee. Never heard of him getting punished. Great comment @fileyfood500! Mexico will pay for it ROTFL. It will never be built. One of those promises that he will not keep. Just like getting out of Syria. – user21022 Jun 1 '18 at 6:18

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