Newt Gingrich pledged to name John Bolton as Secretary of State in his RJC speech today. In addition to being a horrifyingly bad selection for many reasons, Gingrich’s promise of an office to someone before the election is apparently a violation of federal law:
According to U.S. law, a candidate cannot “directly or indirectly” promise or pledge an appointment. If a candidate violates this, they can be fined or imprisoned.
This is what Title 18, Part I, Chapter 29, Section 599 of the U.S. Code says:
Whoever, being a candidate, directly or indirectly promises or pledges the appointment, or the use of his influence or support for the appointment of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
As I read this, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the candidate follows through in making the appointment, and it makes no difference if the would-be appointee accepts the position. I doubt that anyone will bother pursuing Gingrich over this. Even so, it is a bit of a risk to take just to get a cheap applause line.
Gingrich also said that he would appoint Bolton only under certain conditions:
But I will only appoint him if he will agree that his first job is the complete and thorough transformation of the State Department and the replacement of the current Foreign Service culture with a new entrepreneurial and aggressive culture dedicated to the proposition that defending freedom and defending America is the first business of the State Department, not appeasing opponents.
I know that State Department-bashing is the bread and butter of some of these candidates, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a presidential candidate so blatantly impugn the patriotism and integrity of so many public servants all at once.