In 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968. At the time, Congress' goal was to eliminate the ill-affects of organized crime on the nation's economy. To put it bluntly, RICO was intended to destroy the Mafia.
Throughout the 1970's, RICO's intended purpose and its actual use ran parallel to each other. Seldom was RICO used outside of the context of the Mafia, and it is not an overstatement to say that civil claims under RICO were simply not brought.
In the 1980's, however, civil lawyers noticed section 1964(c) of the RICO Act, which allows civil claims to be brought by any person injured in their business or property by reason of a RICO violation. Any person who succeeded in establishing a civil RICO claim would automatically receive judgment in the amount of three times their actual damages and would be awarded their costs and attorneys' fees. The financial windfall available under RICO inspired the creativity of lawyers across the nation, and by the late 1980's, RICO was a (if not the most) commonly asserted claim in federal court. Everyone was trying to depict civil claims, such as common law fraud, product defect, and breach of contract as criminal wrongdoing, which would in turn enable the filing of a civil RICO action.
I'm no legal beagle (the one that lives here [Mrs. F.] could tell you if you're culpable in a negligence case but criminal law is out of bounds) but I'm pretty sure the Republicans would qualify for indictment under the RICO Act. Any of you lawyers agree, disagree? Jane? ReddHedd?