Personhood and the Law of Corruption in Federal Courts

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Personhood and the Law of Corruption in Federal Courts

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Title: Personhood and the Law of Corruption in Federal Courts
Author: Eisler, Jacob Morse ORCID  0000-0003-4422-5255
Citation: Eisler, Jacob Morse. 2016. Personhood and the Law of Corruption in Federal Courts. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: The treatment of corruption in US federal law has evolved in an inconsistent manner and endured repeated seemingly erratic shifts. This dissertation considers the treatment of political and electoral corruption both comparatively between institutions and internally within institutions, using the political philosophy of Plato as a theoretical foundation. It thus offers three essays: one that examines Plato’s treatment of corruption in his seminal political works (The Republic, The Statesman, and The Laws); a second that considers the comparative treatment of corruption by Congress and the Supreme Court in the context of both electoral and official corruption; and a third that considers the internal partisan dispute within the Supreme Court over the proper treatment of campaign finance.

This dissertation takes as its methodology close analysis of text, whether Supreme Court opinions, the Congressional legislative record, or Platonic dialogues; and it takes as its subject matter the character of persons who participate in the political process. Its essential observation is that the US conception of law does not give credence to the character (in the deep sense) of participants in the political process, even as such questions of character overdetermines legal debates, as present in the materials that shape corruption law itself. By careful analysis of these texts, the unspoken but critical role of character in election law can be understood.

The fruit of this analysis that US election law is riven by debates over the proper contours of anti-corruption regulation that reside upon the character of those it regulates. Within the Court this has produced partisan conflict; between the Court and Congress it has produced two differing views of how the anti-corruption regime should be constructed.
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