Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is really in for it now.
I’m sure many of you have tuned in to watch the latest developments regarding the investigation of Blagojevich. A little more than a month after America witnessed a historic election, which turned a relatively unknown figure from the Illinois senate into the 44th President of the United States, the governor of Illinois is arrested after a federal investigation uncovered a horrifyingly huge amount of corruption that was going on.
Like Blagojevich, people cannot resist the temptations of power and then continuously pursue the faulty idea that they are invincible and everything is hush-hush. After the investigation is brought into the public spotlight, those who engaged in corruption never show remorse or reflect on what they’ve doing. Politicians never say, “Looking back, I shouldn’t have done that.” Instead, they smile, wave, and wait for a time — that is convenient to them — to resign. Often they’ll hire lawyers to wiggle them out of serving jailtime without issuing an apology or showing signs of regret.
Blagojevich said he was “blindsighted” by the news and sources close to Blagojevich said he needed time to digest everything before making a decision to resign. This is also coming from the same guy who said, “If anyone wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead,” on the day before he was arrested partly based on conversations that were taped.
According to the Washington Times, 62.6 percent of people polled said that they “strongly agree” with the statement that political corruption is mainly responsible for the current U.S. financial crisis. After the financial crisis is publicized, to see something like this happen is disheartening, but not surprising to the American people.
When people like Blagojevich are in the news, faith in the system crumbles. Many of us will grumble about it in the midst of our busy, daily lives, but slowly America comes to a boiling point. There will be an uprising of disobedience and rebellion against the government on a wider scale if we don’t advocate more aggressive internal investigations against corrupt practices.
Interestingly enough, even though Illinois has its share of problems with corrupt public officials, there are other states that have even more convicted public officials. According to the New York Times, their study uncovered that Florida had the most convicted public officials followed by New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and California. Like all the other states on the list, the corruption that we find out about only scratches at the surface, the tip of the iceburg. Most of the time, the corruption is deeply rooted and widespread; going against the grain is complicated.
According to FBI statistics released last spring, more than 1,800 federal, state and local officials were convicted of political corruption within the last two years. The amount of cases has risen 51% since 2003. In everyone’s mind, they’re probably thinking that there are more corrupt officials out there than what we see publicized.
One problem is that we’re not seeing enough scrutiny in the media. It’s talked about once in a while. The media tends to pick at feeds from the Associated Press and Reuters to give people the meat and potatoes of what’s happening in the news, but rarely does it address the issue of corruption in an investigative fashion. There’s virtually no insight into the legislature that unmasks motivations. Why did Blagojevich veto a recent ethics law that limits the impact of money in Illinois politics? Why aren’t politicians doing enough to curb Illinois’s laws that make unlimited donations possible?
The media is also responsible for turning the political arena into an issues vs. image argument. In light of the current economic crisis, Barack Obama’s mild-tempered but firm handling of the issues pertaining to the economy made Americans feel safer. If the U.S. economy wasn’t in a recession and bailouts were out of the question, it would be politics as usual. “Don’t vote for the black guy. Vote for a POW!” There wouldn’t be questions regarding ethics or views.
According to Dan McCaleb of the Northwest Herald, despite the fact that three-time Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards had been indicted more than a half-dozen times on political corruption charges, voters went to the polls and elected him for his fourth and final term. In light of the fact that Edwards opponent was David Duke, a known white supremicist and a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan, voters chose to “vote for the crook.” Before the 1991 election, Edwards had a southern charm that warmed and wooed Louisiana voters into voting for him three times before.
But in 2001, Edwards was convicted by a jury of accepting bribes in exchange for Louisiana gaming licenses while serving his final term in office. Despite being pressed on charges prior to his fourth term, Edwards didn’t learn his lesson. He was overcome with power and greed and had a false sense of security, which lead him to excess and that excess ultimately led to his downfall. Edwards had become “defiant to the point of delusional,” wrote McCaleb.
There has also been a severe lack of enforcement other than the feds. Normally we don’t see the state’s attorney indicting someone like the governor or political associates that are close to the attorney professionally. There aren’t a lot of checks and balances found on the state level. It’s frightening to see that there’s a lot of paralysis in government when it comes to holding public officials accountable internally. The government has become addicted to loyality and cronyism so much so that many people, who engage in those practices, don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s like an alcoholic who denies that they’re addicted to alcohol. In all cases, there needs to be some sweeping reform or rehabilitation to bring people back on track.
Corruption in our country, while religiously veiled in non-transparent bureaucracy, is just as rampant as corruption around the world. We have more white-collar crime cases than the amount of political corruption cases found in third-world countries, nations and societies that show no signs of progressive reform such as Cambodia, Taiwan, Nigeria, and Venezuela.
We, the people, the voters, need to push for more ethics reform instead of leaving it up to the potentially corrupt individuals in power to define what ethics mean to them. As Californians, we have the right to create change through voter initiative since writing letters to our congressional representatives is no longer effective. If change comes from the bottom up, so be it. Rod Blagojevich has demonstrated to us that we need to be proactive when it comes to addressing the problem instead of complaining about it without coming up with a solution.