Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Corruption in the US

Margaret Alva set off a storm a few weeks ago when she said the Congress was selling legislative assembly seats in Karnataka. But who says this sort of thing happens only in India? The governor of Illinois was arrested- he was carted away in handcuffs-for allegedly trying to auction the Senate seat vacated by Obama. FT reports:

Rod Blagojevich, governor of Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois, was arrested on Tuesday on a raft of federal corruption charges that included an alleged conspiracy to sell the president-elect’s vacant Senate seat for cash – or favours from Mr Obama himself.

The case was described by federal authorities as a “new low” for a state that has seen more than 1,000 people convicted on corruption charges since the 1970s – including the Democratic Mr Blagojevich’s predecessor as governor, Republican George Ryan, now serving six and half years in prison for racketeering.

<>.... ..The complaint appears to portray Mr Blagojevich as overseeing an auction for the Senate seat. “We were approached ‘pay to play’,” he told an associate of one potential replacement, according to the complaint. “That, you know, he’d raise 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him a senator.”

Mr Blagojevich was also taped discussing whether he could use his power over the appointment to obtain other benefits. He speculated about securing a cabinet position or ambassadorship from the Obama administration or seeking Mr Obama’s help in obtaining a well-paying job at a trade union organisation or corporate board seats for his wife. Mr Blagojevich even mentioned asking Mr Obama to solicit $10m-$15m from Warren Buffett and Bill Gates for a non-profit organisation that the governor could run

Somehow, we think of Indian politics and politicians as uniquely corrupt. I have long pointed out that not just in the US but also in Europe- in France, Germany and Italy, for instance- politics can get really dirty. One thing we can say for Indian politics: it has not been entirely subverted by money power, although huge amounts are required for election finance. What I mean is: elections are not always won by those with the biggest financial muscle.

The prize for political lows goes to Israel: their former president had to quit following allegations of rape.


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Krishnan said...

The world is made of men, women and politicians. There is good, evil and politicians. Politicians transcend religion, national boundaries, philosophies. It will always be about using "public service" to enrich themselves. Corruption is endemic in the US, as it is in India, but how it looks is different.

The solution is to keep government as small as possible an give imperfect, lying, cheating politicians less opportunities to steal from the public.

If this is what a Governor did in Illinois, imagine what can happen when hundreds of billions (perhaps trillions) of dollars are now made available in the US to fix the economy. The number of hands that will attempt to steal that money will be incredible.

Obama is the son of Chicago politics. He is an orator, master with words - but a politician nevertheless. He is slick and so will not do what the Governor did, but will find ways to do harm while claiming public good. Watch Al Gore rake in millions while advancing the global farce and investing in alternate technologies and continuing to consume electricity like there is no tomorrow.

The republicans have had their thugs - Tom Delay for example. It is now the Democrat's turn. It's all the same, no matter who is in power.

Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman got it. They understood that the only real protection tax payers have is when we restrict government. It is something that remains true EVEN as we watch Government bail out every Tom, Dick and Harry.