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Lawmakers: Give New Teeth To Honest Services Law

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Sen. Mark Kirk, Rep. Mike Quigley

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (left) and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley want to put teeth back into the honest services law. (Credit: CBS)

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WASHINGTON (CBS/WBBM) – Two federal lawmakers from Illinois have mounted an effort to get tougher on public corruption, by giving new tools to prosecutors.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) are getting together on legislation to give new teeth the honest services law that was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court, which said it was too vague.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports

Justices ruled last year that, if there’s no bribe or kickback, “honest services fraud” is not concrete enough to be a crime.

Both say the changes address the Supreme Court’s objections.

“The original (Rod) Blagojevich case heavily relied on the statute. The new one doesn’t, and I think that reflects the Supreme Court taking away a critical tool for prosecutors,” Kirk said.

Added Quigley, “They need this as a tool to go after corruption.”

Quigley said the time is right for this.

“Most people feel that their elected officials are corrupt,” Quigley said.

Blagojevich is now in the midst of a retrial on 20 of the 23 charges against him. The other three charges were dismissed in February, and defense attorneys had asked the judge in the case to toss the charges against the former governor that were based on the honest services law.

The honest services statute was also the basis for two convictions against former media mogul and Chicago Sun-Times owner Conrad Black. Two of Black’s convictions were thrown out after the Supreme Court gutted the law, and he is out of prison while awaiting a new sentence on his remaining two convictions.

Illinois comes in sixth on the list of most corrupt states, behind Florida, California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania.

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