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Bribery in politics unacceptable

Democratic Voices

Posted: August 25, 2008 6:59 p.m.
Updated: October 27, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 
An American tourist might be appalled by the way police take bribes throughout much of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Local customs in these parts of the world not only permit but condone payoffs to the police.

Where police salary is low, it is often expected to bribe to the citing officer. This is seen as a fair way to punish the offender. Also, allowing offenders to directly support the income deserved by law enforcement removes financial burden of the general public.

The same goes for politicians. In regions where politician salaries are minimal, it is generally expected that politicians will carve out a percentage of any budget or disbursement for themselves.

Ministers in Asian countries have told me that they are paid by their government but a thousand or two a month. It is expected that these ministers will take a cut of the action for themselves to make up the difference in personal income.

In the United States, law enforcement is compensated well and it is unthinkable that we could just slip a deputy a twenty to avoid a ticket. It is also against our principals to support a direct pay-off to a politician for passing a bill or promoting specific legislation. At least on the surface, Americans denounce bribes and pay-offs.

So why might we find that one political party continues to be stubbornly supported despite its newfound custom of corruption? Of course I am highlighting the plethora of Republican scandals and criminal acts over the past 10 years.

While there have been a few dozen Democrats rightfully prosecuted for inappropriate behavior since the mid-1990s, the current count of Republican convictions and indictments since 1998 is a staggering 1,725 and counting. There are about 14 new cases a month.

You can find a partial listing at www.RepublicanOffenders.com, but for you disbelievers, here are a few recent Republican convictions and indictments:

Governor George Ryan, racketeering and bribery; Governor Bob Taft, five counts of failure to report gifts from lobbyists; Governor John Rowland, convicted for bribery; Aide Jim Ellis, 13 counts of unlawful acceptance of corporate political contributions and money laundering; Aide John Colyandro, money laundering; Aide Brian Hicks, bribery; Chief of Staff Peter Ellef, bribery; Interior Department official Roger Stillwell, bribery; Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, defrauding of American Indian tribes and corruption of public officials; Neil Volz, bribery and corruption; Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham, conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion; Tom Noe, laundered money for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, theft and corruption; Michael Scanlon (lobbyist and aide to Tom DeLay), bribery; Deputy Secretary Steven Griles, bribery, perjury, obstructing a congressional investigation; Congressional aide Mark Zachares, bribery; Senator Ted Stevens, indicted on seven felony counts of making false statements on his financial disclosure forms; House Republican Leader Congressman Tom Delay, conspiracy to funnel corporate donations to state political candidates through the Republican National Committee.

I guess you get the idea.

The Republicans, proud of taking the moral high ground, have clearly made it common practice to put personal greed and political advantage over serving the public good.

I find it unsurprising that the party that promotes personal wealth and prosperity as one of its seminal missions is rife with personal greed and misconduct for personal gain. But while the human character may be imperfect and we all have our flaws, we don't have to accept corruption.

There are fine and upstanding Republican politicians who put the public good above themselves, but fewer and fewer seem to get elected. If you think that substantial funding wins a race, you have forgotten that we count votes, not contributions. You folks who continue to blindly vote Republican are helping perpetuate this corrupt system.

Local Democratic candidates Carole Lutness, running for the 38th Assembly District, and Bruce McFarland, vying for the 17th State Senate District, refuse to take special interest monies. Their Republican opponents are heavily funded by big business, special interests and developers.

John McCain has lobbyists running his campaign, but Barack Obama has received campaign contributions from more than two million individuals and he refuses to take PAC money. This shows us that an honest campaign can be waged.

Are you going to support those who practice honest politics or just continue to empower the greedy and a party that has failed us all? It is time we start supporting those who aren't beholden to special interests.
Please join me in denouncing these newfound customs of corruption. Use your vote wisely.

Jonathan Kraut is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Democratic Voices" appears Tuesdays in The Signal and rotates among several local Democratic activists.

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