News involving the word “scandal” will provide you with over 2.6 million hits under Google. Okay, sure, not all of it involves the Obama administration, D.C, or even the United States. But if you’ve been paying attention these days you know it’s the “Summer-of-Scandal.”
One of the more disturbing of the national scandals involves the IRS picking on conservative groups. Though it looks like it stops with IRS administrators, it’s still an outrageous occurrence. Profiling anyone or any group for any reason demands suspicion. And when it involves potential government harassment of political or ideological groups everyone should take notice. That’s standard-operating-procedure in banana-republics. But it should never be tolerated in the United States.
It’s almost become a rite of spring that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch brings forth an article soon after the close of the legislative session detailing the abundance of lobbyist gifts on Missouri legislators. Such articles practically write themselves thanks to public disclosure rules via the Missouri Ethics Commission. Comb through the database. Underscore some of the more outrageous gift giving. Move on.
Oh, some readers might get upset, but not enough. Most have grown accustomed to the idea that perks and goodies will end up in the hands of our representatives. It’s part of the process. It’s always been there and it isn’t going away. Most depressing, however, is the idea that so many of us have convinced ourselves that since it’s so engrained, it probably isn’t that big of a deal.
It is. Here’s why:
Confidence in the political system is at all-time lows. Disgust in Congress is at all-time highs and scandal grips the executive branch. Grim times for those that still care in America. But real efforts at fundamental reform exist! Yes, we’re talking national, organized, and well-funded efforts that go beyond the snake-oil being sold by the major political parties.
If you haven’t already, take a look at NoLabels.org and Rootstrikers.org.
If you want cleaner political campaigns, these are dark days. And they are only getting darker. Oozing onto the darkness is section 501(c)4 of the tax code that theoretically sets up civic leagues (that sounds nice) and non-profit corporations to help promote “social welfare.” Ooooo, that sounds swell! Here’s the kicker: they’ve become havens for political donors to SECRETLY donate big bucks to political campaigns!
Well, it looks like the GOP in Missouri is keeping up with the Dems when it comes to shallow, unethical, disregard for common decency – especially when it comes to the taxpayer’s expense. (Kinder Spends Time in St. Louis at Taxpayers Expense). As the column by Jason Sandoval below emphasized, it’s not really the amount of money that’s involved. Kinder’s greed is not going to come close to bankrupting the state. It’s the principle involved. You’re a public servant. You cannot profit from your position and it should be unconscionable of you to use your official position for fundraising and other various partisan pimping. Shame takes a holiday, indeed.
Gordon Gekko in the famous movie Wall Street said, “Greed is good.” As with greed, humans are saddled with shame on occasion. But that’s not always a bad thing. Like greed, I suppose, sometimes “shame is good.” Shame keeps us from doing bad/sleezy things. But increasingly, we’re seeing people carry on as if shame is no longer in their internal equations. Nowhere is this more true than in politics. Let’s look at some recent Show-Me examples:
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, fresh off his push for a “code of ethics” among County employees, finds no shame in hiring the son of his former chief of staff, John Temporiti. Despite the County’s supposed “hiring freeze”, 27-year old Mike Temporiti landed a $70,000 job with the county. Should Mr. Dooley feel shame? Ah, the shameful-devil appears in the shameful-details:
A baby step of sorts was taken toward needed reform last week when the Democratic National Committee announced that the Democrats wouldn’t be taking corporate, PAC, or lobbyist money to fund their national convention in Charlotte next year. Sounds good especially since it fulfills a campaign pledge by President Obama.
Though such a change in tact is needed – and appreciated – it’s more show than real reform. Though national convention hosting committees usually take in tons of cash from corporate fat cats, this change in policy does NOTHING to stop these same deep-pocketed contributors from continuing their assault on state parties and their money-hungry delegations.
Sorry. We suppose we suddenly got possessed by the ghost of Keith Olbermann. Rep. Tim Jones certainly isn’t the WORST person in Missouri. I’m sure we can find some meth-crazed-serial-killer that fits that description. But he might just be the most ethically-hypocritical public official in the state. As pointed out by the Tanner Report, Rep. Jones has taken in over $2,600 in gifts from lobbyists in the past two months. Here’s the kicker: Rep. Jones is the new Chairman of the House Ethics Committee. Sorry if that made you throw up in your mouth a little.
The controversy with the recent Comcast/NBC merger deserves its own attention. But for those of us in the Show-Me state the Post-Dispatch has uncovered an added subplot: Comcast’s "thank-you
bribe contribution" to our state Attorney General.
The new U.S. Senate this week is debating whether to reform the way it does business – specifically with the way it deals with the “filibuster.”
Derived from the Spanish word “filibustero” which roughly translated means “pirate” – the filibuster allows the minority to block Senate action by the majority. Whereas in the real world a majority of 100 is 51, to control the Senate you need 60 votes. In the Senate, being in the minority has its privileges.