Court rejects Siegelman bribery case

June 4, 2012 at 12:02 PM

WASHINGTON, Conn., June 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court passed up a chance Monday to more clearly define the difference between a bribe and a political donation.

The rejected case involved former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who was charged with bribery and sent to prison because a hospital executive -- HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard Scrushy -- gave him $500,000 in 1999 in exchange for appointing Scrushy to a state hospital planning board, prosecutors said.

The money went to promote a statewide referendum on a state lottery to support education, one of Seigelman's favorite projects, the Los Angeles Times reported. But prosecutors said any quid-pro-quo exchange is bribery, regardless of where the money goes.

The former governor wanted the high court to review whether a campaign contribution is a bribe if an official agrees to do something in return, or is it just normal politics when a politician does a favor for a supporter.

Though sentenced to seven years, Siegelman has been free on appeal.

The Supreme Court rejected the Siegelman and Scrushy cases in one-line orders without comment.

The report said legal uncertainty over campaign contributions also was at issue in the trial of former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Charged with campaign-finance violations after two donors spent more than $900,000 helping hide his mistress, Edwards was acquitted Thursday on one count and a jury deadlocked on the remaining charges.

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