T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere is a prolific tweeter, and he is one of the few CEO Twitter follows that provides entertainment. Whether he’s in Central Park running a race, handing out free phones to people who approach him, or engaging in a misguided back-and-forth with a person critical of T-Mobile’s signal strength, his Twitter account is legitimately fun to watch. (As far as CEO accounts are fun.)
But he may have gone a step too far.
What would @realDonaldTrump say if he knew I paid someone $100 NOT to vote for him. Thinking I can afford this for all potential voters.. 😉
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) August 28, 2015
Vote-buying is a federal criminal violation, pursuant to 52 U.S.C. § 10307: “Whoever knowingly or willfully …. pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.” (Emphasis added.)
Is it a Violation?
Assuming arguendo that the tweet is authentic (i.e., that there was an actual exchange of money for a promise not to vote for a particular candidate, and not that this was simply a piece of puffery), this would be a problematic admission. Certainly, had the tweet said “…I paid someone $100 to vote for Ben Carson in the primary election for President,” this would satisfy the bare elements of the statute: that this involved a primary election, that the election was for President, and that one person knowingly or willfully paid for voting.
Legere’s situation is slightly more complicated, however. This involves an exchange of money to not vote for a particular person (I think an AUSA would make a compelling argument that “for voting” should be construed broadly since U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 2H2.1(a)(3) sets a base offense level of 6 for a defendant who “solicited, demanded, accepted, or agreed to accept anything of value to vote, refrain from voting, [or] vote for or against a particular candidate…” (emphasis added)), and though it feels ticky-tack, was this in the context of a primary, special, or general election, or was it for something else?
Despite the large statutory maximum sentence of five years, the base offense level for vote-buying is relatively low by federal standards: 12, pursuant to 2H2.1(a)(2) (“if the obstruction occurred by forgery, fraud, theft, bribery, deceit, or other means”) (emphasis added). An offense level of 12 translates to 10-16 months.
And, to be perfectly cheeky, what if all potential voters took Legere up on his offer of accepting $100 to not vote for Trump? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of November 2014, there were roughly 220 million citizens over the age of 18, of which 142 million are actually registered to vote. First, if each person accepted that $100, that would constitute 142 million potential criminals. Second, that would result in about $14.2 billion worth of bought votes. That’s a lot of money. I hope he’s got deep pockets.