McDonnell, once a rising star in Republican politics, was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2014. He was found guilty of violating the law when he received, gifts, money and loans from Jonnie R. Williams, the CEO of a Virginia-based company, in exchange for official acts seen as favorable to Williams and his business.
The case centered around the question of what constitutes the scope of an “official action” under federal corruption law.
Professor Noah Feldman responded to the McDonnell case, saying, “federal statutes can’t trump the Constitution.”
Steve Vladeck, a CNN contributor and law professor at American University Washington College of Law, explained why this case was brought up:
“The Supreme Court’s decision in McDonnell was based on an interpretation of a very specific federal statute, and not a general discussion of what is and is not ‘bribery’ for purposes of Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, it’s well-settled that the meaning Congress gives a term in a statute is almost never instructive of what the Founders meant when they wrote the Constitution. It’s telling that Professor Turley offers no reason to believe that Congress in drafting the statute at issue in the cases he cites was trying to borrow the same definition.”