GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich’s declaration that he would appoint former UN ambassador John Bolton as Secretary of State if elected president is a violation of federal law.
Gingrich promised Arlington conservatives the appointment on Tuesday during a closed-door meeting, reports the Washington Post. Hours later, the former House Speaker repeated the vow to members of the Republican Jewish Coalition, the paper said.
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.
Although Goddard goes on to say that it may be hard to prove Gingrich broke the law, it is clear that he pledged the appointment to procure support in his candidacy. And, because he said it twice in one day, it was a willful act.
UPDATE: Talking Points Memo claims Gingrich did not break the law in pledging to appoint Bolton:
The clause that spares Newt is “for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy.” As TPM reported, Bolton will not indicate if he would accept such a position, nor has he even endorsed a candidate.
Law professor Rick Hasen, author of the Election Law Blog agrees in a post at his blog: “I read this [clause] as requiring proof Gingrich said he would appoint Bolton for the purpose of getting Bolton’s support. More likely, Gingrich made the promise to gain support from voters.”
A second regular TPM source who in this instance preferred not to be named affirmed that to be illegal requires “a quid pro quo transaction , i.e., Newt would have to offer an appointment to an individual in exchange for that individual’s support for his candidacy. It doesn’t apply to a public announcement by a candidate that he would appoint a specific person to a specific position in order to curry favor with a specific portion of the general public.”