Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was convicted of bribery. He was sentenced to two years in prison for taking cash, ball gowns, a Rolex watch, free vacations and even catering for his daughter's wedding from a businessman peddling a dietary supplement. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction and made it harder to prosecute public officials for corruption.

For scandal-scarred New York, the ruling raises big questions about our own efforts to end corrupt government: Will recent convictions of politicians like former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos also be overturned? How can we restore integrity to state government?

The good news is the court's decision in McDonnell's case was narrower than some expected. The court made clear that McDonnell may be retried if there is evidence sufficient to show he took official government action in exchange for the cash and gifts he received. But the decision underscores the dire need for comprehensive, front-end reforms to prevent the corruption or appearance of corruption by wealthy special interests over what is, after all, the people's government.

The stakes in McDonnell's case were high. The former governor, once touted as a top-tier presidential prospect, argued that the things he had done for the businessman, like tout the benefits of the supplement to state agencies and arrange a few meetings, were not "official action." Instead, McDonnell's supporters maintained that he simply helped a constituent, and nothing concrete was accomplished that could be characterized as corruption.

Supreme Court overturns conviction for former Va. Gov. McDonnell

But McDonnell's advocates also took a further step before the high court. They said that McDonnell's benefactor had a First Amendment right to purchase special access to the governor. Essentially, they argued that Citizens United and later cases deregulating campaign spending held that freedom of speech protects the selling of political power for money. The results of their proposed rule would have expanded the First Amendment far beyond what is necessary to ensure citizens may freely discuss political issues, opening the door to corruption.

What now?What now? (Mike Groll/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

We should rest easier because the court did not adopt McDonnell's First Amendment arguments. Instead, all eight justices joined an opinion holding that the trial court's jury instructions were too broad because they did not specify what type of government activity could qualify as an "official action" necessary for a corruption conviction. The Court was worried that without more specificity, "public officials could be subject to prosecution, without fair notice, for the most prosaic interaction." Its opinion concluded that under current law, "merely setting up a meeting" does not qualify as a punishable "official action," though in some cases it may serve as evidence that a corrupt agreement had been made.

McDonnell's case was difficult because the Court had to balance the goal of preventing corruption against setting clear rules for politicians to serve their constituents, donors and non-donors alike. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, "[T]here is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that. But our concern is . . . with the broader legal implications" of a vague bribery law.

Even though the McDonnell ruling had its limits, some good-government advocates worry that politicians now have a green light to sell their time to the highest bidder, since "merely setting up a meeting" can be a protected "unofficial" act not subject to anti-graft laws.

Bob McDonnell case forces feds to use caution against corruption

But the best antidote to corruption in New York and elsewhere does not require legalistic debates about what constitutes corruption. Instead, corruption should be cut off at its source: large campaign contributions and the loopholes that make a mockery of New York's financing limits. And lest anyone worry that any reform would run afoul of the Supreme Court's campaign finance rulings, such limits have been deemed constitutional.

For instance, an elected official is much less likely to trade favors, such as setting up meetings, for cash if it is illegal to accept big checks in the first place. Many states, including New York, already limit or prohibit gifts to politicians, and McDonnell's case likely never would have happened if Virginia was one of them.

The heart of New York's own corruption problems, however, lies with campaign contributions. Wealthy benefactors can exploit legal loopholes to funnel millions to politicians. First, the limits on campaign donations to statewide candidates are already high: each donor can give up to $65,100 per election cycle per statewide candidate, more than most New York households make in a year. And if that's not enough, the rich can create an unlimited number of limited liability companies (LLCs) and give a single candidate $65,100 from each one.

As a result, special interests can give millions to candidates, who are then somehow expected to weigh these donors' interests equally with those of all New Yorkers once in office. As we've seen, that's not the way it works. Although large contributions from LLCs and the rich have been at the center of recent corruption trials, the sad reality is that virtually all acquisitions of influence result in no legal action.

Court's ruling in Virginia bribery case is bad news for N.Y.

McDonnell's case and our own experience in New York demonstrate that we cannot rely on corruption prosecutions to protect the integrity of democracy. Instead, we must work to pass common-sense reforms and close the loopholes that make it legal for our politicians to receive astonishing amounts of money from a wealthy elite.

Ferguson is counsel and Norden is deputy director at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

Tags: virginia bob mcdonnell fraud new york corruption sheldon silver dean skelos Send a Letter to the Editor Join the Conversation: facebook Tweet

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FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 31, 2015, file photo, a grizzly bear looks up from foraging, in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 31, 2015, file photo, a grizzly bear looks up from foraging, in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)



An assistant college professor was mauled by a bear while teaching a mountaineering course in the Alaska Panhandle Monday, a university spokeswoman said.



Forest Wagner, 35, of Fairbanks, was with a group of 12 University of Alaska Southeast students on Mount Emmerich near Haines when he was attacked.A student hiked down the mountain to get cell reception and call for help.



Wagner was in stable condition at an Anchorage hospital, according to a university statement sent to KTUU. None of the students were harmed.



According to a police report, Wagner was removed from the mountain viahelicopter and put on another LifeMed helicopter before being taken him to the hospital.



According to Wagner's teaching schedule, he was part of a Mountaineering 101 class that was scheduled to come down off of the mountain by Tuesday. He has been coordinating and teaching in the outdoor studies program at the university since 2006, according to his biography. He teaches rock and ice climbing, backcountry navigation, glacier travel and mountaineering.



The bear was sighted again after the mauling and Bausler said the 12 students in the mountaineering class were taken down from the mountain and are spending the night in Haines with another professor. They are scheduled to take the ferry back to Juneau on Tuesday, she said.



It's the second mauling reported in Alaska within days.



A 77-year-old bear hunter is recovering from injuries suffered when he was mauled by a grizzly in interior Alaska.



Troopers on Monday said hunter Glenn Bohn of Wasilla was attacked by the bear near Mile 68 of the Denali Highway just after 1:30 p.m. on Friday.



The 135-mile road runs east to west and connects the Richardson and Parks highways east of Denali National Park.



Bohn's hunting partner killed the bear. Bohn was driven by snowmobile to the Denali Highway where a LifeMed Alaska helicopter flew him to an Anchorage hospital.



Wildlife troopers, employees of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and friends of Bohn removed the bear from the field Saturday.



The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Facilities Maintenance Companies will help you. An HVAC system is a key component to any home, and if it goes bad on you then it can be a major problem. The following article will do just that if you would like good tips on keep an HVAC in good working order. Keep reading to get a quality HVAC education.

Although most people are thinking of their heating systems during the winter months, air conditioning is also important. When installing a new furnace or heating system, make sure the air ducts are also set up to work with your air condition system. Using the ducts for both heating and cooling is the most economical choice.

If you have a window air conditioner without a timer, use a regular outlet timer to control when it is on or off. These are the same ones you use for holiday lights, so all you have to do is plug your air conditioner into the timer and set it to cool you during the day.

Get any agreement with an HVAC contractor in writing. Some contractors try to skip over this charge and step customers a fortune. If you have a certain warranty and price in writing, they cannot go back and change this information. If they do, they could have a lawsuit on their hands.

To make sure your condenser fan works properly, keep the fan blades and the coils clean. The power to the unit should be removed before you begin any maintenance, even cleaning. Keep the exterior of the condenser unit free of debris.

Make sure you have your HVAC system checked at least twice a year. This should be done in Fall and Spring to prepare it for the extreme months. It doesn't matter if your unit seems to be properly working, it is still advisable that you perform maintenance and resolve any potential problems.

If you want to cool your home in the summer without using your air conditioning on full, consider installing fans in your home. An attic fan can blow hot air out while sucking in cool air into your basement, and ceiling fans help distribute the air in your rooms evenly.

Before they are willing to get started on the work they were hired to do, try to stay away from HVAC contractors that ask for upfront payments. In many cases, this means that they are more concerned about getting paid than they are about making sure the job is done well.

In the winter, wearing layers can save you a ton of money on your utility bill. If you can install a digital thermostat that makes the house cooler when you're asleep and warmer just before you get up, you can see significant savings on your next bill when it arrives.

Turn your AC off if no one is at home. You may want to turn your unit off if your house will not become extremely hot or cold. Leaving your heating or cooling running full blast while you are away is a waste of energy and money.

Make sure they are insured, before having someone install a new HVAC system or maintain or repair yours. Having someone who is insured work on your system will assure that if anything happens while they are working at your home, they are financially covered and you will not be responsible.

Make sure that the HVAC contractor you plan to hire does not use subcontractors to do their work. Many people use this as an excuse to shirk their responsibility in the event that something goes wrong when your system is being worked on. If there is a note in the contract about what will happen if there is an issue, only allow this.

If you live in a hot climate, don't use duct tape on your HVAC. It just dries out and falls off, leaving you with leaks all over the place. Instead, use mastic sealant to cover any holes or gaps in duct work and you'll keep your home comfortable all year long.

There are sizing calculators available to determine the proper sized system for your home. If you purchase something that is too big, it won't be cost effective to run. Look at the manual to figure out the manufacturing rates the unit for accurate cooling information.

When dealing with HVAC contractors, make sure that you get everything in writing. While verbal contracts are legal in many places, it is usually very difficult to prove them. Having everything on paper is a great way to make sure that no ons is confused about any aspect of the process.

Consider building a shade over it if your outdoor compressor unit sits in the sun. Air in the shade is about 5 degrees cooler than air in the sun. This can have a significant impact on your cooling bill. When done properly, you could see up to a 10 percent savings over the season.

Any contractor that gives you a quote over the phone shouldn't be trusted. To truly evaluate your needs, they must come into your home and check it out basement to attic. There is no way they'll be able to keep them if they make promises without even seeing your house.

Every season inspect the outdoor condenser unit of your HVAC system. Remove any weeds and leaves that may be obstructing air flow to the unit. Hose off the outside and inside of the unit to remove any dirt build up. Cover the motor with plastic bags prior to rinsing the unit so that you do not get it wet.

A great way to reduce the stress on your HVAC unit is to install ceiling fans in your home. During the summer, you can have them blow downward to cool the air and make your home feel more comfortable. In the winter you can reverse the direction and circulate warm air trapped at the ceiling.

Never hire anyone to work on your HVAC system unless they are bonded and licensed. This industry is one where mistakes happen often and you want to make sure that you are protected. You do not want to be stuck paying for medical bills that are more expensive than the work you were having done.

HVAC isn't hard to work with once you know what it's all about. Hopefully this guide gave you the tips you need to get ahead with all of this. It's a great thing to work on carefully because it can save you money while paying off in other ways as well.

facilities maintenance
BOSTON (CBS) Boston police are looking for a man who left a suspicious suitcase with wires next to a Homeland Security SUV and then fled Friday morning.

Police Commissioner William Evans said the man left the bag next to the vehicle which was parked just off Atlantic Avenue around 9:50 a.m.

The suitcase was left next to this Homeland Security SUV before it was moved and blown up. (Photo credit: Beth Germano-WBZ-TV)The suitcase was left next to this Homeland Security SUV before it was moved and blown up. (Photo credit: Beth Germano-WBZ-TV)

The bomb squad was called in, the suitcase was moved across the street by a robot and then blown up as a precaution.

Evans said x-rays showed the bag had wires and a power source inside, but no explosives. The suitcase was also full of mens clothes, which were scattered at the scene after the explosion.

The drop-off was captured on surveillance video and police released an image of the man early Friday afternoon, hoping to track him down so they can talk to him.Hes described asa person of interest.

Police want to question a man about why he left a suitcase next to a Homeland Security SUV. (Image Credit: Boston Police)Police want to question a man about why he left a suitcase next to a Homeland Security SUV. (Image Credit: Boston Police)

What bothers us is the behavior and why this individual placed it next to a Homeland Securityvehicle and then hurried away, Evans told WBZ-TV.

State Policeclosed several streets in the areafor about two hours for the investigation, detonation and cleanup.

Armed tactical officers kept people from coming near the suitcase before it was blown up.

Watch Raw Video

Despite the suspicious nature of the incident, Evans said there is no threat to the public.

People are safe. There are no threats to the city, he told WBZ-TV.

Evans added that suspicious behavior is taken especially seriously in wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. that left 14 people dead.

Unfortunately I think were all on a little bit of a heightened alert because of what happened in San Bernardino. People have a right to be concerned, said Evans.

A leak in the hydraulics system forced a plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to make an emergency landing just minutes after takeoff last night, authorities said.

We do have a technical issue here -- weve lost our hydraulics system, one hydraulics system, so we are going to have to return to Kennedy, the pilot told air traffic control, according to audio obtained by LiveATC.net. We have lost hydraulic fluid -- it may well be dumped on the runway.

The system failure caused pilots to lose partial control over wing flaps and landing gear doors, forcing them to land the Aer Lingus jet -- a Boeing 757 carrying 115 people en route to Shannon, Ireland -- much faster than normal, but still within the safety margin, according to the pilot.

Upon touchdown, the landing gear began smoking.

Both of your main gears are smoking at this time, a rescue worker told the cockpit. Your starboard right main was on fire.

Waiting fire trucks immediately doused the brakes, extinguishing the flames, authorities said.

It just looked like a sci-fi movie, passenger Patrick Dyer Wolf told ABCs New York station WABC. Right away we could see there were maybe 15 or 20 fire trucks right on the runway immediately, ready to drive up, and they started spraying us like almost immediately.

The pilot said he believed that heat generated by the abnormally fast landing ignited the leaking fuel.

No one was injured, and passengers were bused to the terminal.

"All passengers on board fight EI110 were disembarked safely and will be accommodated on the next available flights," Aer Lingus said in a statement.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/brakes-catch-fire-planes-emergency-landing-jfk/story?id=34124408
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