SCOTUS decision prompts release of former lottery official

Kevin Geddings gets his walking papers:

A judge on Tuesday ordered a former North Carolina lottery commissioner convicted of five counts of the honest services law released from a Georgia prison.

Geddings was found guilty of honest services mail fraud for not disclosing his financial ties to a company that was expected to bid for North Carolina's lottery business.

Another step backward for ethics reform. In the absence of this (Federal) statute, what other criminal laws would come to bear on a "failure to disclose" these conflicts of interest?

My feelings on this may not be steeped in legal theory, but I think Justice Ginsburg and this editorial writer get it wrong:

Last week the justices fulfilled that important duty by limiting federal prosecutors' use of the "honest services" law. This is the 1988 law that makes it a crime to "deprive another of the intangible right of honest services." The court's unanimous ruling threw cold water on the statute, finding it overly broad and vague.

Its use should be confined, wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to cases involving bribery and kickback schemes. If Congress wants to criminalize other sleazy actions by public officials and corporate executives, Congress needs to specify exactly what wrongdoing it has in mind.

The days of Tammany Hall officials lurking in alleys so they can collect bundles of cash from conniving businessmen are over. Today's bribes and kickbacks come in the form of private-sector paychecks to elected officials, be it before, during or after their "service" to the public.

To categorize this as merely a "conflict of interest" is akin to describing fire as "slightly warm to the touch".

Justice Ginsburg is correct when she calls for Congress to be more specific with statutes like this, as should our own General Assembly. But removing this tool from the hands of prosecutors and suggesting elected officials replace it with a better, more applicable tool, ignores reams of evidence proving politicians prefer not to police themselves if they can help it.