A lawyer representing two state lawmakers facing conflict of interest charges says he’s heartened by the recent United States Supreme Court ruling narrowing the scope of a federal corruption law. The Supreme Court decision scales back a federal “honest services” law. The ruling states it’s only applicable when officials are receiving bribes or kickbacks.
Attorney Bill Costopoulos represents Democratic Representative Bill DeWeese of Greene County and Republican Senator Jane Orie of McCandless Towship, Allegheny County. They are both facing charges for allegedly using state resources to conduct campaign work.
He’s filed motions questioning the constitutionality of the state conflict of interest counts both are facing, and says the Court ruling will help his cause.
"What happened yesterday isn’t going to necessarily resolve the challenge here in Pennsylvania. But it is authority, and I believe compelling authority, to do what I would like done. And that is, have this statute in Pennsylvania declared unconstitutional, as it is being applied."
Attorney General Tom Corbett’s spokesman, Nils Frederiksen, says Costopoulos’ argument is a stretch.
"Well it’s possible somebody may try to argue that, the reality is Pennsylvania statutes, and the charges brought in a variety of these cases, the conflict of interest, theft and other charges, are fundamentally different than the federal law which the Supreme Court ruled on."
But Costopoulos says the laws are both unconstitutionally vague, and he hopes judges will take the Supreme Court ruling into consideration when they weigh his challenge.