With the drama regarding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich still unfolding, corruption is now back in style with the news media. The Blago scandal allows the usual cast of characters to run out and claim that because Blagojevich tried to auction off Barack Obama’s senate seat, we need to enact whatever campaign finance reforms they prefer – regardless of whether they would actually be relevant to the current debacle in Illinois.
Take the recent ranting from Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, called “The Real Scandal.” He believes the fact that some people do business in Illinois and Wisconsin vindicates his view that government should be able to micromanage political speech. Or something. Basically, his little story has the word “Blagojevich” in it, and that’s all it really needed for McCabe to pretend it was relevant:
Besides, the political crime ring that brought federal prosecutors to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s doorstep has tentacles that reach into Wisconsin. Nick Hurtgen, a former top aide to Tommy Thompson, is a central figure in the Illinois drama. He was indicted for his alleged role in a kickback scheme, then a judge dropped him from the case before he was reindicted late last year. Hurtgen has remained active in Wisconsin, making sizable donations to Mark Green’s failed bid to become governor and maintaining close ties to another Republican known to covet the governor’s office, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. But Hurtgen played both sides in Wisconsin, having helped organize a 2002 fundraiser in Chicago for Jim Doyle.
Wonderful. But, of course, that story has nothing to do with what’s happening in Illinois right now. In fact, I was actually spotted paying a highway toll in Illinois last week – perhaps I am also partly to blame for the Blagojevich scandal. Jim McMahon played for both the Bears and the Packers – seems a little fishy, huh?
Then McCabe gives up on trying to pretend there’s any link between Blagojevich and Wisconsin and pivots to “The Real Scandal:”
It was perfectly legal for the investment bankers and insurance execs and real estate tycoons to spend over $430 million buying federal office holders in the 2008 election cycle alone. These interests have spent well over $2 billion to sew up Washington since 1990. What they bought was lax oversight and the freedom to roll the dice with other people’s life savings. And a bailout when it all went sour. Even as tanking companies like AIG and Freddie Mac and Ford Motor Company were fixing to ask the feds to rescue them from themselves, they were showering money on both major parties to pick up the tab for the national conventions.
Yeah, all those campaign contributions by Ford Motor Company are doing them a lot of good right now. That automaker bailout bill is just flying through Congress. Or not.
Furthermore, any time the WDC throws out a number, it should immediately be discounted. Take, for example, their “report” that says big business gives twelve times as much to candidates as organized labor – a number immediately contradicted by a search of federal campaign contributions by political groups. Actually the top 2 donors were AFSCME and the NEA.
So basically, the Blagojevich story merely serves as the host for whatever snake oil these campaign finance parasites are selling. I may need to check the statutes, but I believe what Rod Blagojevich is accused of doing is already illegal. And not just a little illegal. Does anyone believe that Blagojevich would have magically decided not to auction off a U.S. senate seat if there were tighter limits on campaign contributions, or if there were increased regulation of election advertising? Of course not. It’s like saying too many people are driving drunk, so we need more laws to regulate car ads on television. In fact, the exact opposite is true – the more laws we pass, the more opportunities for corruption there are, as government encroaches more and more into our lives.
As a side note, USA Today last week conducted an analysis of the most “corrupt” states in the U.S. Their list was topped by the state we all consider to be a hotbed of government corruption – North Dakota.
Basically, the newspaper just took a total number of elected officials who have been convicted of misdeeds in each state, added them up, and handed out a “corruption ranking.” Wisconsin ranks in the middle somewhere, with 2.1 convictions per 100,000 residents.
But is this really an accurate measure of corruption? It would seem that a state that arrests and convicts its elected officials that break the law is actually fighting corruption. States that tolerate corruption don’t send their legislators to jail – and therefore would rank pretty low on the list (Illinois ranks 18th, for instance.)
So to the states high on this list, congratulations – you’re doing a good job of weeding out your bad eggs. Not merely tolerating them.