solemn legal responsibilities that the Department undertakes on behalf of the American people.”
Therefore, Secretary Salazar asked the Senate to “set aside any effort” to increase his salary.
On March 29, 2012,the Senate Ethics Committee issued a letter stating that Sen. Vitter’sactions were inappropriate.
Nevertheless, the committee decided against taking further actionagainst him on the grounds that there was “no clear Senate guidance addressing such conduct.”
Simultaneously, the committee issued new guidance explicitly providing that “from and after thedate of this letter, tying an existing Secretary’s personal salary to his or her performance of aspecific official action will beviewed by the Committee as improper conduct reflectingdiscreditably on the Senate.”
Nevertheless, on March 30, 2012, Sen. Vitter defiantly said he was proud of his efforts toblock Secretary Salazar’s salary increase and would “absolutely place a hold on any raise for himin the future.”
As of August 30, 2012, the Senate has not moved to consider Secretary Salazar’spay raise again.
Federal law makes it a crime to “directly or indirectly, corruptly give, offer orpromise anything of value to any public official ... with intent . . . to influence any official
“Anything of value” is interpreted broadly,
and courts have recognized the promise of higher-paying employment as a “thing of value” for purposes of the statute.
In addition, theSenate Ethics Manual specifically provides that violating the bribery statute may lead todisciplinary action by the Senate,
and the Select Committee on Ethics previously recommendedthe expulsion of a senator for violating the bribery statute.
In spite of the Senate Ethics Committee’s admonishment, Sen. Vitter vowed he would“absolutely place a hold on any raise for [Secretary Salazar] in the future.” If Sen. Vitter followsthrough on his promise to link a thing of value – a salary increase – to Secretary Salazar’sofficial acts, Sen. Vitter may violate the bribery statute.
Letter from Hon. Ken Salazar to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader MitchMcConnell, May 24, 2011.
Letter from Senate Select Committee on Ethics Chair Barbara Boxer and Vice Chair Johnny Isakson to Sen. DavidVitter, March 29, 2012.
Letter from Senate Select Committee on Ethics Chair Barbara Boxer and Vice Chair Johnny Isakson to SenateColleagues, March 29, 2012.
,March 30, 2012.
18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(1).
United States v. Williams
, 705 F.2d 603, 623 (2d Cir. 1983).
United States v. Gorman
, 807 F.2d 1299, 1305 (6th Cir. 1986).
Senate Select Comm. on Ethics, Senate Ethics Manual, p. 58 (108th Cong., 1st Sess., 2003 ed.).
, p. 59, n. 113 (
citing Investigation of Senator Harrison A. Williams, Jr.
, Report of the Select Committee onEthics, United States Senate, to Accompany S. Res. 204, 97th Cong., 1st Sess. 7 (1981)).