1. A representative in Congress who receives or is concerned in
receiving money from officers and employees of the United States
for the political purpose of promoting his nomination at a party
primary, as a candidate for reelection, is guilty of the offense
defined by § 312 of the federal Corrupt Practices Act. U.S.C. Title
18, § 208. P. 280 U. S.
2. Congress may provide that officers and employees of the
United States neither shall exercise nor be subjected to pressure
for money for political purposes, upon or by others of their kind.
while they retain their office or employment. Id.
3. Neither the Constitution nor the nature of the abuse to be
checked requires that the words of the Act be confined to political
purposes within the control of the United States. P. 280 U. S.
Page 280 U. S. 397
4. A representative in Congress, being of a class specifically
named in the statute, has no standing to object to it as being too
uncertain in defining other classes to which it applies. P.
280 U. S.
5. The term "political purpose" is not so vague as to render the
statute invalid. Id.
6. The objection that the statute leaves uncertain which of
several sections imposes the penalty, and therefore uncertain what
the punishment is, can be raised when a punishment is to be
applied, and need not be answered upon an appeal from a judgment
quashing the indictment. Id.
31 F.2d 774 reversed.
Appeal from a judgment of the district court quashing an
MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.
The respondent was indicted under the federal Corrupt Practices
Act, 1925, Act of February 28, 1925, c. 368, § 312, 43 Stat. 1053,
1073; U.S.Code, Title 18, § 208, on charges that, being a
representative in Congress, he received and was concerned in
receiving specified sums of money from named officers and employees
of the United States for the political purpose of promoting his
nomination as Republican candidate for representative at certain
Republican primaries. Upon motion of the defendant, the district
court quashed the indictment on the ground that the statute should
not be construed to include the political purpose alleged, and,
construed to include
Page 280 U. S. 398
it, probably would be unconstitutional. The United States
The section of the statute is as follows:
"It is unlawful for any Senator or Representative in, or
Delegate or Resident Commissioner, to, Congress, or any candidate
for, or individual elected as, Senator, Representative, Delegate,
or Resident Commissioner, or any officer or employee of the United
States, or any person receiving any salary or compensation for
services from money derived from the Treasury of the United States,
to directly or indirectly solicit, receive, or be in any manner
concerned in soliciting or receiving, any assessment, subscription,
or contribution for any political purpose whatever, from any other
such officer, employee, or person."
This language is perfectly intelligible, and clearly embraces
the acts charged. Therefore, there is no warrant for seeking
refined arguments to show that the statute does not mean what it
says, unless there is some reasonable doubt whether so construed it
would be constitutional -- the doubt that was felt by the Court
The doubt of the district court seems to have come from the
assumption that the source of power is to be found in Article 1, §
4, of the Constitution concerning the time, place and manner of
holding elections, etc., and from the decision that the control of
party primaries is purely a state affair. Newberry v. United
States, 256 U. S. 232
the power of Congress over the conduct of officers and employees of
the government no more depends upon authority over the ultimate
purposes of that conduct than its power to punish a use of the
mails for a fraudulent purpose is limited by its inability to
punish the intended fraud. Badders v. United States,
240 U. S. 391
hardly needs argument to show that Congress may provide that its
officers and employees neither shall exercise nor be subjected to
pressure for money for political purposes, upon or by others of
Page 280 U. S. 399
kind, while they retain their office or employment. If argument
and illustration are needed, they will be found in Ex parte
Curtis, 106 U. S. 371
F. 824. See United States v. Thayer, 209 U. S.
, 209 U. S. 42
Neither the Constitution nor the nature of the abuse to be checked
requires us to confine the all embracing words of the Act to
political purposes within the control of the United States.
It is argued at some length that the statute, if extended beyond
the political purposes under the control of Congress, is too vague
to be valid. The objection to uncertainty concerning the persons
embraced need not trouble us now. There is no doubt that the words
include representatives, and if there is any difficulty, which we
are far from intimating, it will be time enough to consider it when
raised by some one whom it concerns. The other objection is to the
meaning of "political purpose." This would be open even if we
accepted the limitations that would make the law satisfactory to
the respondent's counsel. But we imagine that no one not in search
of trouble would feel any. Wherever the law draws a line, there
will be cases very near each other on opposite sides. The precise
course of the line may be uncertain, but no one can come near it
without knowing that he does so, if he thinks, and if he does so,
it is familiar to the criminal law to make him take the risk.
Nash v. United States, 229 U. S. 373
It is said to be uncertain which of several sections imposes the
penalty, and therefore uncertain what the punishment is. That
question can be raised when a punishment is to be applied. The
elaborate argument against the constitutionality of the Act, if
interpreted as we read it in accordance with its obvious meaning,
does not need an elaborate answer. The validity of the Act seems to
us free from doubt.