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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Catching Corrupt Politicians: A Never Ending Job

     The fact that so many politicians are crooked begs the question: are people drawn to public office crooks at heart, or are they simply naive narcissists who, once in office, realize they're members of what the humorist P. J. O'Rouke called the "parliament of whores?" If these civic do-gooders didn't know going in how corrupt a profession they had entered, they learn early on how easy it is to get rich on taxpayer money, lobbyists eager to pay for their votes, influence peddling, and inside information. And the corruption isn't limited to state and local politicians, it flourishes on the federal level. The money these people steal from us every year is in the billions.

     One could define government generally as organized crime. (It's also orchestrated stupidity.) That's why there is so much governmental secrecy and official lying. Politicians who claim they are "transparent" in their official dealings are lying through their teeth. And anyone who believes that our government is transparent is stupid. Nothing can get a politician in trouble quicker than telling the truth. If you aren't an accomplished liar, that is, if you can't tell an obvious lie with a straight face, politics is not for you.

     It's no surprise that a vast majority of Americans have an extremely low opinion of politicians in all levels of government. Dishonest used car salesmen, ambulance-chasing lawyers, and even journalists are held in higher esteem. The only people reviled more than politicians are pedophiles, rapists, and sadistic serial killers. (I think.)

Four State Legislators From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

     In 2010, undercover investigators out of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office began offering bribes to Democrat and Republican members of the State House of Representatives. In the course of that sting operation, investigators amassed 400 hours of audio and videotape recordings depicting four representatives accepting bribes from a lobbyist who secretly recorded the transactions. Each of the bribe takers, on numerous occasions, allegedly had his or her hand out for cash, money orders, and in one case, a Tiffany bracelet.

     Charged with taking bribes to vote against a Pennsylvania law that would require voters to possess photographic identification, were Ronald G. Waters ($7,650), Vanesa Brown ($4,000), Michelle Brownlee ($3,500), and Louise Bishop ($1,500). All of the suspects are black Democratic representatives from Philadelphia. Investigators had also offered bribes to Republicans but there were no takers. (One could hope they refused the illicit offers because they are honest. I suspect they refused because they smelled a rat. Am I cynical? Yes.)

     In the fall of 2013, the new Democratic Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane closed the public corruption case and announced there will be no prosecutions stemming from the three-year sting operation. In justifying her decision not to pursue the four Philadelphia Democrats, Kane said the operation had been poorly managed and that investigators didn't utilize traditional police techniques. She also accused her predecessor, Tom Corbett (now governor), of racial targeting.

     A watchdog group has called for an independent counsel probe of Attorney General Kane's motives for dismissing the corruption cases. One shouldn't be surprised if her decision was political. Her critics believe that if the representatives had been four white men from Philadelphia, the case would have gone forward. Justice is not always blind, especially when politicians are involved.

A California State Senator From San Francisco

     Leland Yee emigrated to the Untied States from China when he was three. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley then earned a Masters Degree from San Francisco State University. In November 2006 he was elected to the California Senate.

     As a state senator, Yee allegedly did business with Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, a former Chinatown gangster who operated out of the Gee King Tong Free Masons in the city's Chinatown. On March 26, 2014, FBI agents arrested Senator Yee and Raymond Chow for illegal gun trafficking and wire fraud. As a Democratic senator, Yee has been a strong proponent of gun control. (Hypocrisy is the lifeblood of politics.) Senator Yee also faces federal charges of accepting inappropriate campaign contributions, influence peddling, and money laundering. A few days after his arrest Senator Yee dropped out of his bid for the job of state secretary.

     Yee's arrest made him the third Democratic California State Senator to be arrested for corruption by the FBI in 2014. The three earlier FBI sting operations involved taking cash bribes and other perks in exchange for supporting or opposing various legislation.

The Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina

     Patrick D. Cannon, a radio host and owner of a parking management company, was elected to the Charlotte city council in 1993. In August 2010, the FBI began a sting operation involving undercover agents posing as real estate developers with plenty of money to hand out in return for favorable treatment from the leaders of the state's largest city.

     In November 2013, the voters of Charlotte elected Patrick Cannon to the office of mayor. He had been on the job just a few months when on March 26, 2014, FBI agents arrested the 47-year-old Democrat on charges of extortion and bribe taking. The mayor stood accused of accepting, in the form of bribes, $48,000 in cash, a junket to Las Vegas, and the use of a luxury apartment. The day after his arrest, Cannon resigned from the mayor's office.

     While dishonest Democrats are currently in the news, Republican politicians have not escaped charges of political corruption. So, how do you like your crooks, Republican or Democrat? I like them behind bars. But for every one they put away, ten people just like them fight to take their place in the parliament of whores.    



  1. This is a grim disposition on politicians. Has there been a honest politician that has completed a full tenure?

  2. Good question. In my opinion they all steal from us because larceny in the profession has been institutionalized. They all lie because no one can get elected by being perfectly honest. Some, of course are more honest than others and steal less. But for the vast majority of politicians the end justifies the mean, and the end is getting elected and staying in office. It is a grim disposition on politicians. But I believe it's true. The problem is not just the politicians, it's us, the people who put them into office.