Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why Political Corruption Hurts Your Bottom Line

Washington Post

Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio) agreed today to plead guilty to conspiring to commit multiple official acts for lobbyists in exchange for campaign contributions, meals and luxury travel, sports tickets and gambling chips. He became the first elected official to face charges in the ongoing influence-peddling investigation of former lobbying powerhouse Jack Abramoff.

After insisting for more than a year that he had broken no laws in his dealings with Abramoff, Ney signed a plea deal Wednesday that was entered into federal court today. Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 27 months in prison.

Ney checked into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic Wednesday and apologized in a statement today for "serious mistakes" that have brought pain to his family and constituents.

To call this sort of corruption a mistake is no different than a rapist calling his actions a mistake. Both of these actions only become mistakes when the evidence is overwhelming. Until then the perpetrators are just getting what is rightfully theirs and aren't doing anything wrong.

Unlike the rapist, some people may assume that this sort of corruption is a victimless crime. It is no more a victimless crime than it would be if a bank employee found a way to steal a million dollars by skimming off a little money from every account at the bank by diverting interest payments. The corrupt U.S. congress member is using that same strategy of cheating every member of the American public and his or her constituents. We don't always see what's been taken -- unless it's the smog created from a favor a company bought so they could have the pollution control laws tailored to maximize their profit and minimize their accountability for the pollution and toxic waste they generate.

But for many of those who take a tough stance on fighting crime, the problem comes because most corrupt politicians don't look anything like a traditional purse snatcher or pickpocket. Thieves are scum, not charismatic. The problem with this stance is some traditional thieves steal because they can't make a living legally. Providing those thiefs with basic skills such as functional literacy could change their motives. The political thief, however, steals because he or she can and feels entitled to have it all -- salary, government benefits and far more.

Just like the rapist, the corrupt politician finds rationalizations to justify illegal activity or finds ways to make illegal and unethical behavior look like it might be simply a mistake.

Every time a worthy project can't be fully funded (pothole-ridden roads, deadly stretches of road, underfunding education, too few emergency responders, etc.) because government just doesn't have the money, remember that some or all of that money got diverted through corruption.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:11 AM   0 comments links to this post

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