Any out-and-out bribery will be easy enough to prove. The danger is that every donation from every business interest to every Congressman and Senator will be scrutinized for any appearance of a quid pro quo (Latin for "Something for something else" which I looked up for you as my New Year's gift. Now, please do something for me - have someone you know sign up for their free copy of Mullings by clicking here).
See how easy this is?
You might say that you would have gotten someone to sign up even without my gift, but try to prove that negative, after the fact (post facto).
Dear Mr. Mullings:
Enough, already. We get it.
A Congressman or Senator (or a staffer) who runs into a lobbyist at a reception may agree to write a letter or support a bill without any mention, nor even any expectation, of a donation. But if a donation shows up on an FEC report shortly after said letter or vote, guess what the media and the opposition party are going to say: Bribery.
If this gathers steam - and I fully expect it will - then anyone accused of taking a donation in return for an official act will suffer greatly whether there is any official investigation or not.
A Congressman who may have won with 57% of the vote in 2004 (well above the magic 55% which denotes a "safe seat"), may find himself losing six or seven percentage points of support and in a struggle for survival.
Districts which might have drawn only token opposition - a local city councilman - may now be contested by a State Senator who shares a large percentage of the same constituency.
This is going to get ugly, because Democrats will claim this is another example of the "culture of corruption." Republicans will counter by - as described above - looking for any confluence of donations and votes by Democrats.
The Abramoff Effect might well echo through both cloakrooms in both chambers and have a dramatic impact on the elections this November.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A link to the WashPost piece; the Public Integrity Section's web page; an apropos newspaper masthead; a Mullfoto, and a Catchy Caption of the Day (which I suspect will keep me in hot water with the Mullings Director of Standards & Practices for the rest of the year).