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This article was presented at the Penn State Law Review's Symposium, Breach of the Public (Dis)Trust. The article examines the potential impact of the Supreme Court's unanimous decision in McDonnell v. United States. The analysis first focuses on a narrow reading of McDonnell, treating it as part of the Court's general approach to issues of statutory construction. However, there is a possible broader reading of McDonnell, which has the potential to be highly significant as applied to anticorruption prosecutions, federalism concerns, and the "criminalization of politics" critique. After examining a broader view of McDonnell, the article delves into whether the case is indicative of broader themes in the treatment of corruption, or potential corruption, in both the electoral and governance contexts. Next the article will analyze the surprisingly small amount of academic commentary on McDonnell, despite media interest, as well as the initial judicial interpretations and applications of the decision. The article concludes with a review of the many helpful contributions made at the Symposium, reflecting a diversity of views about McDonnell. These views are an extremely helpful starting point for grappling with the decision's uncertainties.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
6 Sep 2022
1.6 MB



  • Subject
    • Criminal Law

    • Politics

  • Journal title
    • Penn State Law Review

  • Volume
    • 121

  • Issue
    • 4

  • Pagination
    • 989-1012

  • Date submitted

    6 September 2022