Unexpectedly Intriguing!
May 25, 2006

The problem with corruption in government, any government, is that the people who can actually do something about it are the same people who stand to benefit from corruption. The answer for fixing corruption is almost always the same: create and enforce an open and transparent system where the interaction between public officials and those seeking their favor is easily and instantly accessible by individual members of the public. The requirement of full, instant public disclosure provides the basic sunlight needed to reduce the back-room deals sought by blood-sucking vampirical special-interests, that can't stand up to the light of day otherwise, to dust.

The main problem with setting up a system like this is one of enactment. How, for instance, do you get a vote in support of such an open system from a legislator or group of legislators who benefit, either personally or professionally, from the closed system they've established for themselves? Throw in a sense of institutional entitlement, and suddenly all you have is a proposal that isn't going to go very far, with a lot of lip service and no action, absent the compelling leadership needed to bring it about.

Without that leadership, the Congress will simply keep plodding along its current corruption-tolerant path. Consider the Cunningham (R-CA) case. Here, one of the things that surprised me is that he offered a volume discount for his bribes. Want a $16 million contract? Pay $140,000! Want a $20 million contract? Pay an additional $50,000 for each million over the first $16 million. $25 million? Sure, just pay an additional $25,000 for each million over the $20 million bracket!

This is the kind of pricing strategy that only evolves in a competitive market - one where the "client" has the option of taking their "business" elsewhere. What we know so far about the Jefferson (D-LA) and Mollohan (D-WV) cases would seem to confirm that there is a healthy marketplace for this kind of activity. And the recent joint statement of party leaders Denny Hastert (R-IL) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), would seem to indicate they want to sustain the status quo by circumventing the public's right of discovery. And they will, up until new leadership makes their position in support of the status quo untenable.

Fixing corruption takes compelling leadership. 2008 Presidential aspirants should be taking note. This is a "hygiene" issue. Either you have it, or you don't.

Note: This post was expanded from a comment left behind at Captain's Quarters!

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