In light of the vast amount of funding the U.S. Government provides for federal programs and its desire to abate corruption, Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. § 666 to protect federal funds from being used to further illegal activity. Section 666 was enacted to supplement the provisions of the federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. § 201, and enable federal prosecutors to combat the misuse of federal funds, even at the state and local level. While § 201 specifically prohibits both bribes and gratuities, § 666 does not explicitly prohibit gratuities in addition to bribes.

For many years, the federal courts of appeals consistently held that § 666 criminalizes both bribes and gratuities. In the summer of 2013, however, the First Circuit broke ranks and became the first federal appellate court to exclude gratuities from the reach of § 666. The First Circuit found that the plain language of the statute, as well as the legislative history, indicate that Congress did not intend for § 666 to criminalize gratuities as well as bribes. Furthermore, the First Circuit noted, the maximum penalty imposed under § 666 and public policy concerns also weigh in favor of limiting § 666's proscription only to bribes.

This Comment first discusses the history of § 666, and its predecessor, § 201, including U.S. Supreme Court interpretations of each statute. This Comment then examines the split in the federal courts over whether § 666 criminalizes gratuities as well as bribes and analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of each approach. Finally, this Comment advocates Congressional intervention to clarify the scope of § 666 in accordance with the First Circuit's interpretation that § 666 prohibits only bribes, not gratuities.



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