By Roger Stone The cockamamie criminal case of Joe Bruno, the longtime New York Republican Senate Leader, with its assorted procession of colorful witnesses, its arrogant pro-prosecution judge who didn't bother to hide his hatred of Bruno, and a pugilistic and unbowed defendant, has laid bare the business of Albany to the public eye. For those who daily slog its halls, news of such tacit wink and nod arrangements that are at issue in the Bruno trial, are so pedestrian in a capital of leaky ethics that nary an insider pricked a brow. It is also why Joe Bruno is so contemptuous about the charges he faces; he played by the rules as he and all of Albany understood them. So why is Joe Bruno's situation so criminal? There is a furtive res ipsa loquitur is at work in the prosecution's interpretation of the statute. The misstep that rendered Senator Bruno's actions criminal was his failure to fully disclose his business interests and potential conflicts of interests, and that blunder "speaks for itself." From that failure an inference of dishonesty arises, which renders honest service a factual impossibility. In other words, one cannot act honesty in the face of an undisclosed conflict of interest because undue influence is presumed from the conflict of interest. This tidy presumption now dismisses the need to prove an actual dishonest act because the disclosure lapse itself is proof enough of corruption and fraud. This ground is ripe for convictions based solely on circumstantial evidence. Presumably, the Senator could have given state grants to companies of businessmen for the good of the state and its people, and pension funds chose to invest with his companies because they offered them the best deal. However, the disclosure omission colors these transactions criminal irrespective of any actual crime. All the government need prove is the appearance of wrongdoing rather than any wrongdoing itself. Presumably, full disclosure nullifies the presumption of corruption. The government contends that the Senator actively concealed his relationships, which illustrates a criminal intent to defraud rather than a mere oversight or plain human error. Therefore, it must logically follow that full disclosure would have cast the light of honesty upon the very same actions that the government contends are devious. The actions remain the same but they ripen into crimes if motive is questionable. Sloppy disclosure automatically calls motive into question, questionable motive equates to dishonesty, and dishonesty is a federal felony. It is not the motive itself that is criminal; it is the concealment of it that allows the presumption of fraud to materialize. Nowhere does the statute direct a presumption of criminal intent based upon an ethical violation. That is an invention of the prosecution. Remove the presumption and the prosecution's case crumbles because now it must prove actual dishonesty. It must show favoritism in return for riches, but that is a crime we call bribery. Theft of honest services is no more than an overreaching sticky tentacle of bribery. It is born of the delusion that honest law-making requires blinders, and that the gelatinous concept of the public interest produces proper laws. A right and honest deed born of a malevolent or clandestine motive falls within the criminal talons of the statute, because criminality turns on motive. We may have a right to honest politicians, but dishonesty in politics is not fodder for the penal code because politics requires deceit, lies, betrayal and even mass public deception. It is cheating that we wish to deter. A Blagojevichian sale of office merits our censure and punishment because it is a barefaced breach of the public trust. Theft of honest services is not so blatant a transgression; if it were it would rise to the crime of extortion or bribery and render itself moot. Joe Bruno will fight on and win on appeal if the U.S. Supreme Court, with Justice Scalia in the lead, don't vacate this ridiculous law.