You see, now more than ever, there is reason to question if elected officials are serving the public good, or rather serving a select group of insiders on the payrolls of special interests—thereby feeding their own egos and lifestyles in the process. The system has been prostituted and is broken. “You get what you pay for” and “you must pay for what you get” are the central ground rules for legislation, and regulation—or should I say de-regulation. In Washington, you pay for what you want to have happen. In the alternative, you also pay for what you don’t. This was not the system envisioned by our founding fathers and constitution.
The case/drama of Jack Abramoff, K Street’s man in black, is nothing new in DC. It’s the current chapter of an all-too-real novel about greed, corruption, and excess in government which now finds itself the story on page one. We really should thank Jack for his guilty pleas and his “cooperation” with prosecutors because now maybe, just maybe, we will see reform and redress. “Connections in Washington” takes on new meaning as the culpable parties worry who is wearing a wire—and who isn’t. Given we are entering an election/re-election cycle, I hope and pray this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The incumbents implicated will argue that they have done nothing “illegal.” Notice the choice of word—not using unethical, immoral, or wrong. But... we’ve heard that before, and we shall hear that defense again and again. I mean illegal means against the law; let us not forget who is reaping the benefits and who is making the laws. Some recipients have already attempted to cleanse/launder the ill-gotten proceeds by returning them, or “contributing them to a worthy charity.” Let us also remember that “accountability in government” has become a tallying of “who has contributed what,” and more importantly, “what more can be expected?”John McCain put it so well: “Money is the crack cocaine of politics.” (Wasn’t he one of the Keating five?)
The public should be outraged, mad as hell, and not accept such any longer. We are seeing so many revelations coming to a head at one time in this election cycle. Will the pendulum swing to bring real change in the players (the guilty incumbents), the policies of allowable fund raising and influence peddling, and the installation of real checks and controls?
This nation was founded under the premise that our government was to be one “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” What happened? Egos rule over sound judgment. Our federal congress, state legislatures, and executive branches are the most exclusive clubs on the planet—and the most elusive unless you are independently mega-wealthy—or have a political organization which can raise mega-bucks. This was not the intention of our founding fathers and the framers of our constitution, but... it is the reality of our present system.
Election/appointment to high public office elevates mere mortals—albeit highly motivated ones—to levels of power and influence. Holding such offices provides opportunities to make a difference for the public good. As we so often see, it also fluffs egos and it brings on temptations. While some do succumb, many do not; and for those I am so very thankful.
In my three years as an investigative accountant for the FDIC/RTC working on the savings and loan debacle, golf also frequently figured into the mix, providing vivid and juicy sound bites and visions of corrupted excess. The final deals for the costliest real estate failures were cut by the developers as they wined and dined the “bankers” with first-class transportation and five-star resorts/courses over “friendly games of golf.” I wonder how much judgment was clouded because the eyes were focused on the ball and not on the till?
This story was published on January 9, 2006.