Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Conservative’s Viewpoint
Corruption: A Road to Recovery ?

Article by Bob Steinburg - Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

Revelations of corruption in politics here in North Carolina is endemic to a system that is broken and needs fixing, not just here but across this great country. Simply put, it is all about power; acquiring it and keeping it. A political consultant told me recently that each member of the state legislature is worth at least $1,000,000 to their respective party leader’s agendas, and I am confident that is a conservative estimate. Politics is as “high stakes” as it gets, meaning the door is wide open for influence peddling and corruption at every level of government. The losers? The taxpayers of course.

Political corruption is the misuse by government officials of their governmental powers for illegitimate private gain. It comes in all shapes and sizes; bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft and embezzlement. Corruption is not partisan. Republicans and Democrats are quite capable of succumbing to the temptation of ill gotten financial betterment. Former Democrat House Speaker Jim Black will be spending time in prison for his misdeed; while in addition, officials are still trying to sort out the potential ramifications of his accepting a $500,000 “questionable” contribution from a lobbyist that went into a campaign account, some of which was distributed to fellow Democrat legislators throughout the state. Hopefully these legislators took the money unwittingly, and nothing discovered to date proves otherwise, and will divest themselves by donating all funds received to charity, and then publicly reporting it, through news outlets or a letter to their constituents. A complete list of all of the legislator’s receiving money from Speaker Black is available at .

Today it is estimated to cost between $ 75,000 and $150,000 to run for, or keep a seat in the North Carolina Senate, depending on the district. The House, $50,000 to $100,000. Congress, millions! Is it any wonder money is flowing downstream to help underwrite these costs? Campaign expenditures have exploded over the years. Even the best intentioned legislators can find themselves getting caught up in this never ending search for money to stay in power. When the money needed appears from somewhere outside their district, it is reasonable to assume there is going to be a “payback” in some form or fashion, and that payback could be in the form of their votes. That legislator, whether federal or state, is now, at the very least, compromised to some degree, and that spells trouble for you and me.

Lobbyists, who are not very difficult to find in Washington or Raleigh any time government is in session, pay particular attention to those members with seniority that can get it done. Freshman legislators may upon their arrival think all this talk about influence peddling they have heard about from constituents back home is bunk. No one is approaching them. Get reelected and then appointed to a couple of powerful committees and “Katy, bar the door”! Now there is an excellent argument for term limits, something I whole heartedly endorse.

Dirty money, no matter where it originates, is bad for all of us. Speaker Blacks arrest and punishment is a step in the right direction. Legislators of all stripes, Republicans, Democrats and Independents, need to be accountable to their constituents, themselves and each other, on each and every vote they make, and why they made it. Who is driving this proposed legislation and why? Where did the campaign money from the bills sponsors come from? Could that donor be someone who may have impacted this legislation or was it a lobbyist who has funneled money to the legislator for his sponsorship, vote, or appointment? Compromise is fine. Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little. Corruption is NEVER compromise!

There are watchdog groups that monitor the action and votes of those who govern us. We too need to be personally responsible in monitoring our representatives and not just “assume” they are “always” looking out for our best interest. When they realize our eyes and ears are open, and that they will be held accountable for their actions and their votes, the likelihood of another “Jim Black” in government leadership will be greatly diminished. Only then will “we the people” begin to realize the true benefits of good, open, transparent and honest government; the kind of government we voted for, and expected we would get, when we cast our votes on Election Day.

Do we really care about honesty in our elected officials and what our legislators do with our tax money? Only time will tell. As for me, you can put it in the bank!

Term limits? Sheesh Bob. Get a grip. Republicans have lost power every place term limits have been enacted. Republicans are the party of free enterprise, not the party of government. Their most talented people do not want to make a career of government. Democrats are the party of government and have numerous talented people (or at least they are talented campaigners) who want to run for office. It takes years for Republicans to find and elect good people who are reticent to run for office. Term limits throws out the people of both parties and immediately the Democrats have numerous people seeking the open positions. Republicans have to spend years finding people and asking them to give up their careers and do something that is not their first choice. In the immediate aftermath of term limits there is always a disaster for conservatives.

What happens? Liberal democrats take over.

Forget the term limits idiocy.

Let's simply work to put the criminals in jail, no matter what party they are from. Let's work to make sure that the lobbyists who give out money are exposed. Open and transparent government is the solution to both graft and pork. Even Republicans are guilty of getting sucked in when the process is not open. How else do you think that Jack Abramoff was able to do so much damage. The money being given by lobbyists was not known by the public. If it had been open, Hastert would not have been able to get so many Republicans at the federal level to go along with increasing the pork at such an incredible scale.

Here in North Carolina the overwhelming corruption is in the Democrat Party. They run the state, all three branches. They control the legislature by a proven bribe that allowed for gerrymandered districts. Yet we still have people on the street complaining about our government and saying the budget problems are the fault of Republicans. Thursday I heard a local pastor complaining about the need to elect Democrats to state government to fix the problems the Republicans had caused. That is at least part of the problem. So many people who don't have a clue about what is going on.

However I cannot understand how any conservative who has been paying attention can honestly think that term limits is any part of the solution. That is simply insane. That merely leads to a revolving door government that is even worse . . . and even more liberal.


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