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Hill Harper just tweeted this:

I didn’t intend for a private phone call to turn public. But now that it has, here’s the truth.

One of AIPAC’s biggest donors offered $20m if I dropped out of the U.S. Senate race to run against @RashidaTlaib

I said no. I won’t be bossed, bullied, or bought.

Is this legal in the US? Could this be considered interference in the elections?

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  • Follow-up: is the promise enforceable?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 21:47
  • 4
    This might be more appropriate in the Law SE.
    – Allure
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 23:03
  • Is this much different from a donor promising to contribute to your re-election campaign if you vote a certain way on some bills?
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 23:08
  • 1
    AIPAC, election interference, never.
    – paulj
    Commented Nov 23, 2023 at 11:04
  • 1
    Is this relevant to your question?
    – C.F.G
    Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 11:22

2 Answers 2

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This is probably legal federally, but it is illegal is several states.

Under U.S. law, bribery of public official is only illegal when something of value is given to "influence any official act," on "a “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy," and that act has to be done in their "official capacity." https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/201

For years it was a bit unclear just how far the law goes, and prosecutors played a little loosey-goosey with it. That changed when Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was convicted for accepting gifts in exchange for actions that skirted the line between official and unofficial, including making introductions with government officials and promoting the company in events at the Governor's Mansion.

The Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction in 2016. They ruled that an official act "must involve a formal exercise of governmental power that is similar in nature to a lawsuit before a court, a determination before an agency, or a hearing before a committee."

Filing to enter or drop out of a race is probably short of that exacting standard (though it's theoretically an open question). But there's also a long history of not pressing charges when this sort of thing happens. In 2010, for example, the Obama White House admitted offering Rep. Joe Sestak a White House appointment in return for dropping out of the Pennsylvania Senate race, and no one ended up in handcuffs.

But on a state level, there are laws that ban straightforwardly bribing a candidate out a race:

  • California: A person "shall not directly or through any other person advance, pay, solicit, or receive or cause to be advanced, paid, solicited, or received, any money or other valuable consideration to or for the use of any person in order to induce a person not to become or to withdraw as a candidate for public office."
  • South Carolina: "It is unlawful to offer or accept, or attempt to offer or accept, either directly or indirectly, money, a loan of money, or any other thing of value which includes, but is not limited to, employment or the promise of employment to induce a person to file or withdraw as a candidate for any state or federal elected office."
  • Utah: "It is unlawful for any person to pay or reward, or promise to pay or reward, another in any manner or form for the purpose of inducing that other person to be, or to refrain from or cease being, a candidate."

I couldn't find a similar law in Michigan, so Mr. Harper's friend appears to be in the clear.

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  • "the Obama White House admitted offering Rep. Joe Sestak a White House appointment in return for dropping out of the Pennsylvania Senate race, and no one ended up in handcuffs": in that case, however, it's not exactly quid pro quo because it's not possible to hold a White House appointment and a Senate seat at the same time.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 1 at 9:03
  • 1
    @phoog- Sure it was. The thing of value for the White House was Sestak staying out of the race to clear the path for their preferred candidate. So they offered him a thing of great value, an appointment. Quid, pro quo. Commented Mar 1 at 14:45
  • Any law applicable to public officials is not applicable to candidates until they get elected and become public officials. Commented Jun 23 at 4:07
-4

The short answer is “No”, due to a vaguely worded impropriety clause in the Federal campaign finance regulations. It may vary at the state level, but I suspect they would still hem one up in the courts under some equally vaguely phrased corruption law.

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  • 5
    This needs more details and at least one reference to be a full-fledged answer.
    – Alexei
    Commented Jun 14 at 15:38

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