Corruption, corruption, corruption. If you were watching the news yesterday, you couldn’t go five minutes without getting the skinny on disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his disgusting (and absolutely idiotic, I might add) adventures in political graft. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald went through the litany on Tuesday, outlining the scope of the charges against the Governor who, if convicted, will become the fourth Illinois Governor in 40 years to go to prison. Put that on your license plate, Illinois!
What can I say about political corruption that hasn’t been said before? It’s sickening and downright treasonous. The Blagojevich case is a phenomenal example of combating corruption right, a big thumbs-up to Mr. Fitzgerald on that. In particular, I was happy to hear that Governor Blagojevich was arrested at his home, handcuffed and marched out. YES. I’ve heard pundits commenting that this sort of treatment was inappropriate given the nature of the crime, which has been referred to as “white collar.” I take issue with that characterization. Political corruption is not “white collar,” it is a crime against our republic. Cuff ‘em and stuff ‘em, be they aldermen, governors or presidents. We need to be sending the right signal to our politicians about this sort of thing.
In other corruption news, Congressman William Jefferson (soon to be former-Congressman) of Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, was defeated by Joseph Cao in last month’s election, 49.55% to 46.82%. That’s a margin of 2.73%, which is a startlingly narrow victory for Cao, considering that Jefferson has been under investigation for corruption since 2005 (he won his 2006 re-election bid, by the by), during which $90,000 in “cold” (hey-o!) cash was famously found in the Congressman’s freezer. A videotape was produced showing the Congressman accepting a suitcase full of $100,000 in cash and discussing a payoff to the Nigerian Vice President in order to secure contracts for a private technology firm. Rather than demanding his resignation, the leadership of his party asked only that he give up his seat on the House Ways & Means Committee. When he refused, he was unceremoniously kicked off. And now the voters have at last (barely) taken care of business. Nice work.
We’re all agonizingly familiar with the Ted Stevens case, in which the Alaska Senator (also defeated by a disappointingly narrow electoral margin in November’s election), was found guilty of seven charges of making false statements in connection with an investigation into the receipt of unreported gifts, which is a felony. His party leadership immediately called for his resignation, which is a moot point considering his election ouster. It is widely whispered that he’ll be pardoned by President Bush, which would be a huge miscarriage of justice if it were to come to pass.
There are other cases of ethics violations or outright corruption that are currently ongoing, such as House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel’s tax evasion and ethics abuses (oh sweet, sweet irony), for which we have yet to see any disciplinary action or verdict.
We’ve said it here before, but corruption has to be punished swiftly and sternly. If substantiated allegations of wrongdoing or unethical behavior hang over the head of a politician, we the people and the leadership of their party should demand his or her resignation, bottom line. And we should all stop acting like corruption is somehow equivalent to corporate embezzlement or insider trading. Political corruption is a far more insidious animal. It leads to government contract awards for ill-deserving companies, often with disastrous results for our men and women in uniform. It leads to the appointment of political cronies and undue concessions to special interests that are in direct conflict with the best interests of our nation. Sadly corruption in Congress has become a running gag that has bred apathy in the electorate. When presented with another case of ethics violations or outright corruption, the American people simply shrug their shoulders and say “That’s our Congress!” as though they were the mischievous but well-meaning neighbor on a television sitcom. Enough is enough.