Saturday, February 25, 2012

Teachout on Corruption and 19th-Century Contract Law

Zephyr Teachout, Fordham University School of Law, The Unenforceable Corrupt Contract: Corruption and 19th Century Contract Law, which appeared in the NYU Review of Law and Social Change 35 (2011).  here’s is an extract from the article:
Public corruption is hardly a new phenomenon, and policymakers have long struggled to find an effective mechanism to deter or punish corruption. While we have recently tried to deal with public corruption through legislation aimed at reducing its incidence, nineteenth-century policymakers adopted a very different tactic. In the nineteenth century, courts used contract law to discourage public corruption by refusing to enforce contracts that they deemed corrupt. Just as they would refuse to enforce contracts for prostitution, they would refuse to enforce contracts between public servants and private entities that undermined the integrity of representative government. In the most striking instance of this practice, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to enforce a contract to lobby Congress, holding that it was a clearly corrupt practice and against the public policy of the United States.