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U.S. Supreme Court

Burroughs & Cannon v. United States, 290 U.S. 534 (1934)

Burroughs & Cannon v. United States

No. 434

Argued December 5, 1933

Decided January 8, 1934

290 U.S. 534


1. The Federal Corrupt Practices Act of February 28, 1925, provides that any political committee which accepts contributions or makes expenditures for the purpose of influencing the election of presidential or vice-presidential electors in two or more States, or (with certain exceptions), as subsidiary of a national committee, shall have a chairman and treasurer; that the treasurer, among other duties, shall keep detailed and exact accounts of all contributions made to or for the committee; that every person who receives a contribution for the committee shall render to the treasurer a detailed account thereof, with specified particulars, and that the treasurer shall file with the Clerk of the House of Representatives at designated times a statement containing the name and address of each contributor, and other particulars, complete as of the day next preceding the date of filing. Violations of the Act are made substantive crimes. Held within the power of Congress. P. 290 U. S. 544.

2. The Act seeks to protect the purity of presidential and vice-presidential elections; it is confined to situations which are beyond the power of a state to deal with adequately, if at all, and neither in

Page 290 U. S. 535

purpose nor in effect does it interfere with the power of a state, under § 1, Art. II of the Constitution, to appoint the electors or with the manner in which their appointment shall be made. P. 290 U. S. 544.

3. Presidential electors are not officers or agents of the Federal Government (In re Green, 134 U. S. 377), but they exercise federal functions under, and discharge duties in virtue of authority conferred by, the Federal Constitution. P. 290 U. S. 545.

4. The power of Congress to protect the election of President and Vice-President from corruption being clear, the choice of means is primarily for the judgment of Congress. If it can be seen that the means adopted are really calculated to attain the end, the degree of their necessity, the extent to which they conduce to the end, the closeness of the relationship between the means adopted and the end to be attained, are matters for congressional determination alone. P. 290 U. S. 547.

5. Counts of an indictment alleged with detail that B was the treasurer of a political committee, within the intendment of the Corrupt Practices Act, and that certain contributions, fully described, were made for the committee; recited that it was B's duty under the Act to file statements of these contributions, and charged that B and C, chairman of the committee, "then well knowing all the premises aforesaid," conspired to commit the offenses charged in other counts, the allegations of which were incorporated in the conspiracy counts by reference. The counts incorporated sought to charge B with the substantive offenses, under the Act, of failing and willfully failing to file statements of the contributions with the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Held that the conspiracy counts were sufficient, although the substantive counts were bad because they did not allege that B knew of the contributions. P. 290 U. S. 542.

6. Intent unlawfully and willfully to evade performance of a statutory duty is clearly enough alleged by the statement that the accused conspired to evade it. P. 290 U. S. 544.

7. Pertinent facts set forth in a defective count of an indictment may be considered in determining the adequacy of another count in which it is incorporated by reference. P 290 U. S. 544.

62 App.D.C. 163, 65 F.2d 796, affirmed in part.

Review by certiorari of a judgment sustaining an indictment charging Burroughs with substantive violations of the Corrupt Practices Act, Cannon as aiding, abetting, and procuring commission of the offenses, and both with conspiracy to commit them. The Supreme Court of the District had quashed the whole indictment for insufficiency. This Court rejects the substantive counts but contains the conspiracy counts.

Page 290 U. S. 540

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