Emails Raise Stakes in Puckett Scenario

A few weeks ago (gosh, seems like a while), the Democrats still had control of the State Senate and Phil Puckett was the Senator of the 39th District.

Those days are gone but not forgotten.  Among other things, there will be a special election in the 39th District in August and the Democrats have nominated a strong candidate, Mike Hymes, even though the district has trended “R” over the past few years.

Today, the RTD reported emails from a FOIA request demonstrating that Senator Puckett had a “job in waiting” with the Tobacco Commission in early June. It was only at the last minute that the announcements became “de-coupled.”

This is not good stuff.  Having said that (and assuming the worst to be true), I don’t see any crime, or attempted crime, involved.  If leaving an elected position to take a public job is a crime, then that’s an exponential expansion of our corruption laws beyond any former precedent.  Every administration will see 5-6 lawmakers (minimum) who will leave their seat in order to take a position with the state government.

Yes, the Puckett case is different:  first, because it involves an evenly divided Senate so the resignation immediately led to a power switch and, second, it occurred while we were still in session and had a major vote pending on the budget and Medicaid.

The Puckett situation was lousy and I’ll go on bashing it at every chance.  But the political context of an act cannot itself establish criminality.   If leaving the Senate for a state job is okay when one party has a major advantage, then it doesn’t become illegal just because the parties are 50/50. If you leave, you leave.

The only potential “crime” would be if the job offer were tied to a particular vote (or failure to vote).  And we’re not there yet.

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  • Rich

    It’s always a bummer when the criminal defense attorney and the partisan in me butts heads. In some cases, bribery is still legal. Doesn’t make it right though. (See Sen Mcdougle’s Masters trip.)