Florida clown wants to jail Bloomberg for vote buying

This article contains news with liberal commentary.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, attorney, blowhard, and congressional clown (photo), “has called for a criminal investigation into billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who paid off $20 million in debt for more than 31,000 convicted felons in Florida so that they can vote in November,” the Daily Mail reported on Wednesday, September 23, 2020. Read story here.

     “Gaetz said that he had already contacted Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, to urge her to investigate whether the scheme violates Florida law,” the Daily Mail said.  He claims “it’s a third-degree felony for someone to either directly or indirectly provide something of value to impact whether or not someone votes. So the question is whether or not paying off someone’s fines and legal obligations counts as something of value, and it clearly does.”

     No, that’s not what it says, nor is that the question. Florida Statutes, Title IX, Chapter 104.061 says:

“104.061 Corruptly influencing voting.

(1) Whoever by bribery, menace, threat, or other corruption whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, attempts to influence, deceive, or deter any elector in voting or interferes with him or her in the free exercise of the elector’s right to vote at any election commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084 for the first conviction, and a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, for any subsequent conviction.

(2) No person shall directly or indirectly give or promise anything of value to another intending thereby to buy that person’s or another’s vote or to corruptly influence that person or another in casting his or her vote. Any person who violates this subsection is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. However, this subsection shall not apply to the serving of food to be consumed at a political rally or meeting or to any item of nominal value which is used as a political advertisement, including a campaign message designed to be worn by a person.”

(If you’d like to peruse Florida’s election statute yourself, it’s here.)
     The word “impact” isn’t in the statute. The operative language is “influence, deceive, or deter” voting. If you pay off someone’s fines, that doesn’t “influence” them to vote, it simply makes it possible for them to vote. What Gaetz is trying to do there is create a “crime” where none exists.
     The question isn’t whether paying off someone’s fines and legal obligations “counts as something of value.” It obviously does. (One of the things you have to do in law school is identify issues; Gaetz is so bad at it you wonder if he went to a Caribbean law school.) The issue, not question, is whether paying off fines to enable someone to vote is “buying” their vote.
     “Buying” a vote is paying someone to vote for a particular candidate, so it would be if Bloomberg (or someone on his behalf) instructed them to vote for Biden. But merely wanting and hoping they’ll vote for Biden isn’t the same thing, nor enough to constitute vote buying, because it leaves the voter free to vote for whoever he whoopin’ pleases. Or, in Trump’s immortal phrase, “NO QUID PRO QUO!”
     Moreover, it doesn’t appear that Bloomberg even paid anyone’s fines, but rather donated money to a group that pays people’s fines, which definitely puts a barrier between him and the voters he supposedly bribed.
     It looks like an impermeable barrier, too. Called The Florida Rights Restitution Coalition, “Organizers for the group say they aren’t targeting people registered with a particular political party,” the Daily Mail article said. That will make it a tough case to prove in court, if Gaetz can round up a prosecutor dumb enough to take it to court, which I’ll bet he can’t.
     And any prosecutor who goes after Bloomberg for donating to this group will also have to prosecute everybody else who donated to the same group, including “John Legend, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Ben & Jerry’s, Levi Strauss & Co, the Miami Dolphins, the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat and Stephen Spielberg.” Good luck with that.
     Gaetz is full of it, but isn’t he always? Nothing new about that. This is just another Gaetz publicity stunt of the clown show variety.

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