I started out in politics just after Watergate. Nixon resigned, people went to jail and it scared the blazes out of the rest of the politicians and for a few years – relative – honesty reigned.
But today government has become a gaggle of competing financial interests – corporations, conglomerates, lobbies – that want Congress or the State Legislature to give them a legal advantage over their competitors, write them a check from the Treasury (called a subsidy or incentive), or give them a government contract.
RJ Reynolds, just to pick an example, decides it deserves a little help from the government so they ask the legislature to pass a bill – an incentive dressed up with the frills of keeping jobs in North Carolina – that will give them taxpayers’ money or exclude them from taxes other corporations pay.
Is it a coincidence they also give the Democrat Party or the Republican Party or both, say, $100,000?
There is a ‘missing link’ here. The public sees – usually – when an individual or group gives money to a politician. But they seldom see the rest of the picture – what may have been the reason for the gift.
I think it’s time that when anyone with a lobbyist gives a contribution to a politician – they be required to disclose any bill they are lobbying for.
That would show the missing link between money and legislation. And it would turn that kind of thing into an issue in political campaigns. Let Congressmen and Senators explain why they voted to give one financial interest an ‘incentive’ – and then took a contribution from that same group. That’s where this debate should be fought. In public. But to do that we have to drag these ‘deals’ out of the backrooms and into the light of day.
Gary, I get a little ‘itchy’ about overzealous prosecutors too – but if they help do that fine. And what about ‘underzealous’ prosecutors? Does anybody really expect Attorney General Roy Cooper to jump into the lottery scandal ‘hammer and tongs’ in pursuit of justice if it means putting the heat on some of his old political buddies in the State Senate? Attorney General Cooper may surprise me but so far he’s been silent in seven languages.
The issue of corruption in politics is as old as the Republic and it seems to run in cycles. Let’s hope we’ve reached the point where public disgust is about to boil over and puts an end to this one.