Monday, December 27, 2004

Keeping Crooks out of Office
this is an audio post - click to play

Last Thursday, former Connecticut Governor John Rowland plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal honest services. Basically, he admitted to accepting a lot of things that were personally valuable to him, like vacation home improvements and free trips, in exchange for government favors. After years of denying it, Rowland has now admitted to steering tens of millions of taxpayer dollars toward companies that lined his own pockets. See this AP story for more details on the resignation. See this fact sheet from TheRestofUs.org for details on Rowland's links to big money from Enron and other energy companies.

Self serving politicians are a big problem for democracy, or for any form of government for that matter. The traditional way of dealing with this problem is to pass so-called ethics laws, aimed at curbing the behavior of politicians in office to prevent them from getting rich off the rest of us. Its a little like putting a diamond thief in charge of a jewelry store and then hoping that beefed up security systems will keep him from robbing you blind.

I've got nothing against laws that ask politicians to disclose their sources of income or prevent government contractors from making campaign contributions. But the real solution has got to involve getting more honest people into office in the first place. The trouble is, most honest folks would never think of running for office these days since the only way you get elected is to ask a bunch of special interests for big contributions and then bury your opponent with negative ads. If we don't want our politicians to be crooks, we need to change the campaign finance system that determines what sort of person get elected.

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