David Montgomery says I'm wrong about Attorney General Marty Jackley's announcement yesterday that he won't prosecute any Senate candidates until after the election. AG Jackley isn't doing political favors; Montgomery reports that the AG is simply following a common and well-established precedent of not interfering with elections:
...Jackley's not making stuff up. It's standard practice—though not an ironclad rule—for indictments and other prosecutorial actions of political candidates to be delayed until after the election.
I've read multiple versions of this same principle over the years -- since politicians have a nasty habit of getting indicted, it comes up on a regular basis [David Montgomery, "Political Indictments Often Held Until After Elections," Political Smokeout, 2014.05.06].
Bill Janklow's speeding was standard practice, too, but that didn't make it right.
But suppose we accept this notion of de facto temporary immunity for political candidates. My commenters get me thinking: when does this immunity start? Does an individual win delay of any imminent prosecution the moment her nominating petition is certified? Does this immunity start when she files her petition? When she starts circulating it? When she announces her candidacy? When she announces her exploratory committee? When the press publishes speculation that she might run?
And when does this immunity end? When the winner makes her speech on election night? Suppose Mike Rounds survives the primary and wins the general. On November 4, 2014, he declares that he will seek a second term in 2020. Golly, prosecutors looking into EB-5 can't go influencing that election and disenfranchising those future voters with a prosecution, can they?
And then it hits me: I need to run for office again. In the past year, I've been accused of breaking and entering, theft, bribery, and cyberstalking/identity theft. I need some cover! I thus declare that my name will appear on another ballot. Someday. Somewhere. AG Jackley and the Lincoln County States Attorney can investigate me all they want, but to avoid disenfranchising future voters, they cannot prosecute me until that fateful future election.
Welcome to the perpetual campaign, the perfect cover for any crime, brought to you by Marty Jackley.