Federal law enforcement meddles in politics…

December 31, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

Since embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich still legally holds office and apparently still has the power to appoint a senator to fill the seat left vacant by President-Elect Barack Obama and since he did just that and since even though he, Blago, was arrested by federal authorities, but then released on bail and since even though the state legislature has the power to impeach him and remove him from office or maybe call for a special election but has not been able to or done so yet (and the state’s Supreme Court refused to remove him), I would say: what’s the fuss now that Blago has made his appointment?

On Tuesday he appointed former state attorney general and former primary election opponent Roland Burris, 71, to fill the senate seat.

And besides big talk and bad language was there any evidence that an actual offer to sell the senate seat was made and that anyone responded?

Also, is it not kind of chilling that the feds can listen in on calls made by members of state or lower level governments and decide what the difference is between politics (the competition for power) and out and out misconduct in office and subversion on the democratic process and then proclaim as some type of mandate from on high without trial and the defendant being able to face his accusers that the accused is unworthy to hold office and say or imply that he must be removed?

If there were a hue and cry from Illinois voters it would seem that Blago would be forced to resign or removed from office (Illinois apparently does not have a recall by the voters provision in their law at this time, but they could inundate their lawmakers and even the governor with e-mails).

While Blago is said to be highly unpopular with Illinois voters, they have elected him two times.

So far, no one is accusing his appointee, Burris, of any misconduct or having paid for his appointment.

There is a disturbing suggestion from an Illinois congressman and some others that Burris should get the senate seat because he is black and that any attempt to remove him or prevent him from being seated would be a “lynching”.

No one, but no one deserves a seat in government because of the color of his skin. Mr. Obama is celebrated as being the first Black man to be elected president, but his support was so widespread, and continues to be so far, it is clear that he was not elected because he was black.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Secretary of State has said he would refuse to certify Burris’ appointment. And the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate say they will not accept Burris, even though they have nothing against him, it’s just that his appointment was made by someone who is under the cloud of suspicion and that as such the whole process is tainted.

And now I read that some legal experts question whether the U.S. Senate has the authority not to seat Burris, especially if he has been legally appointed and has not engaged in any misconduct himself.

Burris today asked the Illinois Supreme Court to rule that his selection as senator be confirmed by state officials.

From what I have read about Blago and about Illinois politics, things certainly don’t seem to be right there. Blago by most accounts is a jerk and seems to be up to his ears in various pay to play scandals, but he is not the only one there playing or accused of playing that game. There’s a long history (Obama himself had to wade through the morass that is called “politics” in the Land of Lincoln) .

But the timing (why now?) and manner (going to his home) of Blago’s arrest I find troubling. It was early in the morning, not much different than in the middle of the night. The police came to his door while his family slept.

Sounds kind of Gestapo-like to me.

Not just a bad apple, the whole barrel…

December 10, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Corrupt politics is never the result of the actions of one individual, it is, to use the hackneyed, but accurate phrase: “the culture of corruption”.

And just as Paul Harvey would say, “you know what the news is – here’s the rest of the story”:

Okay, first I have to mention that the latest example is the arrest Tuesday of Illinois’ Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich – he’s already out on bail – for allegedly trying to auction off the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-Elect Barack Obama, as well as a long list of other corruption charges. His chief of staff was arrested as well.

The U.S. attorney announcing the arrests made it clear there is no suggestion that Obama had any part in the corruption. But I note that some Republican governor expressed hope today that this incident can offer his party an opportunity to portray the Democrats as the party of corruption. The GOP needs something after their recent drubbing at the polls, but they can’t crow too much, because they have their own bad apples – former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, an example. And, the last Illinois governor was a Republican. He went to jail over corruption charges. (Other Illinois governors have been in trouble as well. Illinois definitely has a culture of corruption.)

It has long been apparent to me that the notion that politics is all about money contributions and their resulting favors is right on the mark. Sure there are honest people in politics – well kind of. Money rules; money corrupts even the most honest. Many who may start out thinking that they are honest succumb to the cynical truism that politics is a dirty business and they kind of develop, what would you call it? situational ethics?

Sometimes to get something done they turn their head to something that is wrong in order to accomplish the greater good.

In one of my political science classes in college, my instructor noted that the theory in California state government was that getting special access to lawmakers via campaign donations was perfectly logical and acceptable. After all, one was not buying legislation, he or she was just paying for the legislator to listen. That begs the question, listen for what reason? The answer: in order to be convinced a piece of legislation needs a vote.

Way back, I recall attending a meeting of the local prune growers association. The local president suggested that they set up a “political action committee”. He said: “it seems that the only thing they listen to is money”.

So, if all that is accepted, where do you draw the line? Even though the FBI and the U.S. attorneys are confident that they have the goods on the governor, I’ll bet he and his lawyers can come back with an argument that they were just following accepted political practice.

It does sound like they have him pretty good on this one, though.

When you get up as high as the office of the governor or senator or president, you probably have to have professional politicians. But I have always thought we could cut down on corruption if we had citizen politicians who only served part time, but made their actual living at something else.

Of course the argument has been that you have to pay politicians well, otherwise they will be tempted by corruption. We know by experience, though, that relatively well-paid politicians are susceptible to corruption.

Another argument against purely citizen, part-time lawmakers is that they would be too dependent upon an un-elected paid bureaucracy.

In the end, it’s up to journalists, the FBI, and the electorate to keep a watch of these folks and not keep electing them to office and perpetuating the culture of corruption.

I’m afraid they didn’t cull just one bad apple Tuesday — nearly the whole barrel seems spoiled.

P.s. In my own California State Assembly district, my assemblyman has inherited a chief of staff from the former assemblyman. That chief of staff is paid more than $100,000 per year by the state and is a paid lobbyist on the side, all perfectly legal, if not quite so ethical, all this according to my Redding, Ca.  newspaper, the Record Searchlight.  And by the way, the assemblyman is a Republican.