A Promise Likely to Be Broken

It sounds like a great idea. But there's a little problem.

Richardson vows Cabinet preview: Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson said he would give voters a preview of his Cabinet before they pick the next president.

“I would announce my Cabinet before the election. If I'm the nominee, I would tell you who my team would be,” the New Mexico governor told a Service Employees International Union conference at Dartmouth College in Hanover.

“It would have independents, Republicans and Democrats. Don't worry, I won't overdo the Republicans,” Richardson said, drawing laughter. “It would be taken from America, not from the Beltway.”

Forget for a minute that Richardson isn't going to be the nominee. Even if he were, this is one promise that he's going to have to break. As I explained in Why Kerry Will NOT Appoint a 'Shadow Cabinet', there's a legal obstacle: 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.

It ought to be legal for Presidential candidates to outline who will be in their cabinet, but with law on the books, it's just too risky — Richardson won't do it, nor will anyone else. And the fact that he and his team don't do their homework before making promises like this is one more reason among many why Richardson, a man of intelligence, achievement, demographic and geographic balance, nonetheless shouldn't be the Democratic nominee — or even the Veep.

(He would, however, make a great special envoy to those foreign leaders we Don't Talk To.)

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2 Responses to A Promise Likely to Be Broken

  1. Should it be construed as though the words “that person’s” appeared before the second use of the word “support”?

  2. Michael says:

    I’m sure the answer is “no” – if I offer Bill a job to get Hillary’s suppport, that’s clearly within the reach of the statute. So it’s not just about bribing people to get their own support.

    I suspect politicians LOVE this rule — it means they can be ambiguous and have many people thinking they’re getting the same job, and if pressed for a firm commitment they just shrug and say, I’d love to be able to make promises, but….

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