Why Kerry Will NOT Appoint a ‘Shadow Cabinet’

The blogs have been abuzz with the idea that Senator Kerry should appoint a shadow cabinet—a means of having spokespersons dog the administration on the major issues. Politically it makes sense (although it also multiplies the risk that one of them will gaffe in a way that swings the election). The idea has even crossed over to the op-ed page of the New York Times. But, as my friend John Berryhill points out in a private communication, it won't happen:

[S]hadow cabinets have not been used in the United States because Mr. Kerry would face up to two years in jail under 18 USC § 599:

“Whoever, being a candidate, directly or indirectly promises or pledges the appointment, or the use of his influence or support for the appointment of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

I suppose if the 'shadows' were appointed by the DNC, without input from Kerry, that would avoid the legal problem…but it would blunt the political impact. And, to the extent that the appointments were really free from Sen. Kerry's influence, it creates the near-certainty of internecine disputes.

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2 Responses to Why Kerry Will NOT Appoint a ‘Shadow Cabinet’

  1. Dan Rosinski says:

    Very pertinent legal point. I think a way to get around this problem would be for Kerry (or maybe the DNC instead) to simply name individuals as “campaign spokesmen” for his team on important subjects. For example, he could name Wes Clark as campaign spokesman on foreign affairs. If this would still be an “indirect promise or pledge” , then instead of giving the adviser a specialty position, Kerry could just name them generic “campaign spokesman”. He could then hold a press conference/campaign rally in the “spokesman’s” home state, where the adviser would deliver a critique of the Bush Administration’s actions in an area where they have expertise. Each week where there is not an issue dominating the headlines that is a negative for the Bush Administration, he could appoint a new “adviser.” This would be a low cost, easy way to get his name and some juicy anti-Bush rhetoric in the media during slow weeks. A team effort with many nationally prominent Democrats helping Kerry would suggest that the party has healed the wounds from the primary and has its eyes on the prize. Most importantly, I think it would be the best way for Kerry to get more people on the front lines, raising money and defending his record from the Rove ad blitz.

  2. bushgirlsgonewild says:

    I’m not sure this applies or is enforced at certian levels???

    Take the V.P. spot: What’s the difference if it’s the V.P. or a cabinet member? For example, both parties normally nominate the V.P. at the convention–isn’t that a promise of employment / appointment in exchange for support?

    Perhaps “securing support” is a money issue — if an appointee gives money in exchange for the position… maybe that’s what this code is referring to?

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