Saturday, January 17, 2009

Corruption Is Non-Partisan

Captain Renault: "I am shocked, shocked to learn that gambling is going on in this place!"

Croupier: "Your winnings, sir?"

Captain Renault: "Oh, thank you, thank you very much."

- Casablanca, 1942

Ah, corruption. The bane of a politician, and the grist of the newspapers that cover them. It goes hand-in-glove with politics, and while it goes on all the time, people continue to be surprised (or at least act like it) when it surfaces. It can break a politician's career, and make a journalist's career all in the same article. Or, it can simply further the careers of both, as in the case of Bill Clinton and Matt Drudge.

Let's talk about it as a campaign strategy for a moment. Accusing a candidate or standing official of corruption may be a good short-term strategy for removing them from office (or at least depleting their political capital) but I am very weary of people who suggest that "Democrats/Republicans are the party of corruption". Don't be stupid; they're all corrupt.

The latest scandal to hit the fan is Illinois Governor Blagojevich, blatantly and literally trying to sell the senate seat recently vacated by President-Election Obama, to the highest bidder. Obviously, this is one of the more shameless examples, but it's nothing new. My former Republican governor, Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky, was plagued for years by scandals of patronage and favoritism with jobs and positions. (I worked on a few of his campaigns, and had other exposure to the extent of his corruption.)

Congressman Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, has been indicted for corruption, bribery, failure to report gifts, etc. On the other end, Congressman William Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana, has been indicted for accepting bribes. Comically, the "frozen assets" were discovered inside boxes of food in his freezer after Hurricane Katrina.

People even think the bizarre arrest of Republican Larry Craig for offering suggestive signals towards an undercover investigator in a bathroom was unique. Guess what? It happened before. Walter Jenkins, an aide to President Johnson in the 60's, was arrested for very similar behavior at a YMCA in downtown DC. (Johnson still won, but Jenkins had to resign.)

If you have the twisted appetite for more of these stories, Wikipedia has a fairly long list to browse.

I've worked on a good many campaigns, and I can safely say that no matter who the candidate is, their workers are classless. I've seen workers insult their own candidate, drink on the beat, mock voters, slur opponents, and discuss underhanded strategies such as stealing signs.

Frankly, it's disgusting.

Now don't start telling me that a candidate is not responsible for their workers. It's true to a certain extent. But were I to become a candidate, some ground rules would very quickly and firmly be set in place to head off misconduct, whether in public or private.

Something needs to be done...the extent of political malfeasance does little to encourage voters exercising the freedom that others died to give them.

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