Politics & Government

Ex-Frank Murkowski aide Clark wants corruption case dropped

Jim Clark, former Gov. Frank Murkowski's chief of staff and one of the Alaskans caught up in the federal corruption investigation, says in new court papers that the criminal case against him should be dismissed based on a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling, even though he pleaded guilty more than two years ago.

Clark's motion filed Wednesday says a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling scaled back an anti-corruption law to the point that it no longer applies to his case. The criminal case against Clark sprung out of what prosecutors said were his illegal efforts to get Murkowski re-elected.

Clark pleaded guilty in March 2008 to a charge of "conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud," a federal law that prosecutors used to target crooked politicians and business executives. At times prosecutors applied it broadly to situations in which officials essentially deprived others of their honest services through hidden conflicts of interest and self-serving behavior.

Clark admitted to conspiring with former officials of Veco Corp., the defunct oil-field services company, to secretly channel $68,550 from Veco into Murkowski's re-election effort. Prosecutors said the money for polls and a political consultant was illegal because it was both a corporate donation and excessive and also wasn't reported to the state.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of former Enron Corp. chief executive Jeffrey Skilling that a charge of "honest services fraud" can only be brought in cases involving bribery and kickbacks, not those involving more abstract theories of deception. A jury had found Skilling guilty of 19 charges including conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and numerous counts of securities fraud for a scheme to mislead investors about Enron's true financial performance. The Supreme Court ruling sent his case to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to determine what convictions if any should stand.

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