By William E. Rushman, 10/27/22
Corruption has always been with us. It was present in ancient societies such as Egypt and shows no sign of leaving. Corruption can be defined as the misuse of our common resources for personal gain. Dr. Mariano Mosquera describes three methods in order of risk-oriented preference: influence, agreement, and threat. Others have classified corruption types by FACT (Favoritism, Authority, Competence, and Tribute) or the similar four P’s (Preference, Power, Privilege, and Payment).
U.S. corruption and fraud began shortly after the Constitution was ratified, including the Manhattan Water Company (a fraud which delivered no water but birthed the JP Morgan Chase & Company Bank instead). Those supporting their party proclaim themselves reformers while condemning the corruption of the opposition party. The other party claims the same and there seems no cure. We find out too late: corruption thrives in that delay between dishonest gain and public knowledge. Corruption’s efficacy is extended by public amnesia.
Corruption reflects a decay in the body politic: a congenital defect beyond our power to fully cure but within our responsibility to destroy where we can by policy and practice. It is fatal to justice and yet has been employed under that guise. The “worst form of corruption is fake war on corruption” as Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, economist and vice-presidential candidate for Nigeria’s Labour Party, has said. Reformers too often turn out to be corrupt themselves.
The history of government corruption at every level is full of corruption from federal officials holding stock in companies they regulate down to the recent Angel Stadium deal at the (Anaheim) city level.
Corruption is not limited to government officials: a recent article in Politico explored Fair Fight Action, the nonprofit founded by candidate Stacy Abrams, which paid her close friend and campaign manager’s law firm $9.4 million out of $61 million raised in 2019 and 2020 (later billings unknown). In the article, Norm Eisen, an ethics advisor under former President Barack Obama, said he did not see anything inappropriate. His elaboration was telling: “It happens all the time. It is the way our system is built, that the political leaders and the policy leaders are one in the same. So this is not unique to Allegra [Abrams’ friend]. You can say the same thing about Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi or, or Chuck Schumer or Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy,” Eisen said. “We not only countenance it, we embrace it; that is the American political, legal and ethical system.” Whether government, unions, political parties, nonprofits, religious organizations, education, or any collective endeavor involving money, prestige, or power, corruption is there.
Why do reform efforts seem doomed to failure? Why does it persist?
- Necessity is the mother of corruption - Organizations desire a shortcut to their objectives. Lobbyists hijack government to create or repeal laws that provide either opportunity for an organization or raise the barriers to entry for potential competitors. Billionaire utopians do the same: George Soros put $125 million into one super PAC alone. There are no federal limits on PAC amounts for qualifying persons and organizations. None. Independent (outside) spending is huge because the fiction of being independent of the candidates is tolerated. When the wealthy or corporations want something done, they will invent a way around annoying laws.
- The two-party system is a vector for corruption. Standard practice is to align with a political party for mutual benefit. Just as a virus uses the body’s own cells to replicate, or a plague uses fleas to get into a human body, so does corruption make entry into the body politic via the two dominant political parties. These parties are nearly equal to Fortune 500 companies in revenue (just a single presidential campaign can be more than a billion dollars) and compete for market share: the ruling party (national, state, county, or even by demographic) attracts money and favors where they are strong as a way to bring government on the side of the donor. Few corporations are currying favor with third parties. Those parties have nothing to offer.
- The greatest factor of all is public tolerance. In many cases, segments of the public benefit from the corruption. The billions spent on campaigns go to media buys, brochures, email and text campaigns. When lobbyists obtain favors for some industry, workers make money. Unions support politicians who oppose the values of members yet the members obtain the benefits of party support, too, which means more money and steady employment. Corruption in the defense industry means waste from a taxpayer’s view, but income for defense workers. The trick to corruption is to spread some of the dishonest wealth around in a way that appears honest. A little skimmed off the top is more than enough to make a fortune.
“Nations don’t change unless people do.” Montesquieu wrote that a Republic requires virtuous people. Until the majority reject illicit gains and value integrity in officials, candidates, media, educators, all those in authority, corruption will continue. “Only virtuous people are capable of freedom,” said Benjamin Franklin.
The American Solidarity Party seeks such people, those dedicated to the common good, and accepts only individual donations. Principled voters who want to reject the corrupt practices of the major parties can find an uncompromising home in the American Solidarity Party, and if this nation is home to enough such people, we may yet achieve this Nation’s promise.