Bribery has a claim to being the quintessential white-collar crime: its perpetrators are typically upper-income professionals; it is invariably committed in the context of governmental or commercial activities; its harms are subtle and often attenuated; its victims are difficult to detect; and, often, the only thing that separates bribery from legitimate ‘gifts’ is a hard-to-prove mental element of willfulness or, even more obscurely, ‘corruption’. The potential for moral ambiguity in the crime of bribery is illustrated by the case of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who allegedly told Congressman Nick Smith that, in return for his vote for President George W Bush's Medicare bill, they would give his son, Brad, substantial financial and political support in his congressional campaign. The question is: was this bribery or just political log-rolling? This chapter uses this and other problematic cases to analyze two more foundational issues: (1) why is bribery morally wrong?; and (2) where should the outer limits of the offense lie?
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