The Federalism Project

American Enterprise Institute

Basim Omar Sabri v. U.S.

Are federal anti-bribery laws a valid exercise of congressional power? Decided May 17

Scene one: businessman Basim Sabri bribes a Minneapolis city councilman to grease the wheels for a development deal. Scene two: Basim is busted under 18 USC 666, which makes the bribery of officials who receive federal funds a federal offense. Scene three: Basim develops an interest in federalism, and argues that 666 fails to make a connection between federal funds and  alleged bribes. (Not a specious point: appellate courts have split, in this context, over the need for a nexus between forbidden conduct and federal funding.)

End of act: Justice Souter, for a unanimous court, rules that 666 is well within Congress' powers. Despite an interesting objection from Justice Thomas (who would validate 666 on commerce clause grounds), the Justices agreed that Congress' spending power, coupled with the necessary and proper clause, is sufficient to criminalize local monkey business. The feds may "see to it that taxpayer dollars...are in fact spent for the general welfare, and not frittered away in graft..."


opinion here

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