Monday, June 14, 2010

Politicians and Bribery, go hand in hand

Arizona : In 1991 a scandal resulting from the government sting known as AzScam exposed the sewer of corruption and blind ambition that remains Arizona politics even today, but its not just Arizona , this sewer of corruption and blind ambition is part and parcel of the American political system; it’s really how Washington works at its best.

Joseph Stedino working with the Phoenix District Attorney's office set up Operation "Desert Sting." Stedino, an ex-Mafia crony and Las Vegas talk show host, became Tony Vincent, a flashy, free spending Mafia capo looking to ensure the passage of a bill to legalize gambling in Arizona . As word of Vincent's willingness to buy votes spread among Arizona politicians, they eagerly lined up to have him grease their palms. Some he bought for as little as $600. Others, like Representative Don Kenney, the conservative Mormon chairman of the Arizona House Judiciary Committee, exacted over $50,000 in bribes. Over seventeen months, Vincent doled out a total of more than $300,000 in bribes, while police and prosecutors recorded it all on tape, ensuring that this sting would be one of the most successful ever.

Ultimately, twenty legislators, lobbyists, and political insiders would be indicted as a result of Desert Sting.

But what did they do that was so different than what goes on every day in Washington ?

Capital Hill: In 2007 and 2008, charges were filed against several well-connected Washington D.C. lobbyists, including counts of conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion, most of them related to work performed for Native American-owned casinos.

In the center of the scandal were former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his colleagues. Former Ohio Republican congressman Robert W. Ney was sentenced to 30 months in prison for receiving gifts in exchange for deals with Abramoff.

Lobbying is a form of bribery that is promoted by the US Congress, this form of selling their votes is to obtain financial support, it goes on every day yet we don’t complain or insist it stop.

It’s called K Street : a line of sparkling office blocks and fancy restaurants north of the White House. It is the heart of the lobbying industry in Washington DC , servicing clients and politicians from all over America and one of the most powerful stretches of tarmac in the world.

It also might be said to be one of the most corrupt: how corrupt was revealed when the Abramoff scandal exploded through the halls of power exposing the ugly role of lobbying in US politics and threatened to bring down some of the biggest names in public life.

The Abramoff scandal had put a rare spotlight on the entire lobbying system and some of the most powerful men in Washington began running for cover. They stretched from President George Bush himself, to top Republican officials, to the heads of think tanks, to senior congressmen from both parties.

Some, including Bush, began giving back money they got from him or donating it to charity. It was a far cry from when Abramoff would wine and dine clients at top restaurants, take them on golfing trips to Scotland or give them tickets to sporting events.

But the fact remains that Abramoff was one man. The real story is that he represents how much of Washington works. That system is fuelled by two things: money and lobbyists, and they are both related. 'Make no mistake: Abramoff was a crook. But crooks like Abramoff can only flourish in an environment where lobbyists and their clients offer lawmakers campaign contributions and gifts,' There are over 30,000 Lobbyists in Washington they outnumber federal elected officials 60 to one. And their money is still sough after daily.

Selling votes is how Washington works, it’s always that back room deal, a hand shake and a roll of bills wrapped with a rubber band. This is the reason America has been for sale, and is often sold cheaper that we would believe, sometime its just an apartment with free rent, or tickets to a ball game, or financial support for an office, but there is always that expectation that the money or trip or tickets just bought that individual. And that expectation has always been warranted.