Monday, December 15, 2008

The Real Scandal

Wisconsin has been frequently visited by political scandal in recent years, and that's one good reason to take the advice the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gave the other day and not get too smug about what's happening in Illinois.

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.

A check of the Democracy Campaign's database of campaign donors shows that another lead actor in the Illinois corruption scandal and indicted Friend of Rod, Blagojevich's close adviser and top fundraiser Christopher Kelly, gave Doyle $10,000 in June 2006. It was public knowledge that Kelly was under federal investigation at the time he made the donation. Even after he was indicted, Doyle kept the money. For more on Kelly, go here, here and here.

Such links alone ought to be enough to keep in check any superiority complex Wisconsin might have. But the biggest reason we cannot afford to be smug is that the real scandal is so much more vast than what the U.S. Attorney's office has on Rod Blagojevich.

The real scandal is what's perfectly legal in our political system.

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.

The same thing is perfectly legal at the state level in Wisconsin, albeit on a proportionately smaller scale.

That's why we cannot afford to be complacent. And why we cannot allow reform to be a scandal-driven undertaking.


Forward Our Motto said...

Excellent commentary.

froggyprager said...

What I wouldn't give to listen in on the phone calls and closed door discussions between our governors (current and past) and top politicians and staff with top donors. I agree, it is not an IL thing. Why else would anyone give to candidates running against each other from different parties.

Anonymous said...

I have one solution to two of the most serious problems our Country is facing today.
Problem #1: The US Government is in HUGE and serious debt – from the Federal level all the way down to the municipalities. Their only solution is to TAX us more and then tax us a lot more. (Where are we supposed to get all this extra tax money when there are so many getting laid off?)
Problem #2: Campaign Finance Corruption has peaked to its ugliest height in all of US History. Bart Simpson, Pro Doodad, OJ Simpson and others contributed to Barack Hussein Obama with disposable gift cards using the internet. No further disclosure is offered by Mr Obama’s campaign, especially regarding the contributions coming from Foreign Nationals – which is also illegal…hmm. In contrast, John Sidney McCain made all of his donor information available online – including donations under $200.00.
What happens to all of this money the Politicians don’t use up after their followers/supporters donate Thousands and yes even Billions of Dollars to help them get elected to THAT specific campaign? Well, they can do whatever they want with it. Get hair plugs, donate to someone else’s campaign (You might not even like THAT person), pay off a love child, influence another campaign – oh, I said that already.
My Solution: After each and EVERY campaign, EVERY Candidate MUST dump their big War Chest into the Government Debt Payoff Fund. If they ran at a Federal level – the War Chest goes to the Federal Deficit, if they ran for County Executive – then it goes to the County’s Debt.
Oh, remember last year when the Legislators couldn’t pass the Wisconsin State Budget on time and now our Schools had to ask for more money in the Referendums? The Schools were the LARGEST Contributors of all the Special Interest Groups in this last Campaign. Those same Senators and Assemblymen found the time to Vote Themselves a BIG RAISE before going on their Vacation and after working only ONE Month in 15 (Senator Miller will get approx $47,413 plus an unlimited office expense account, and an average $8,771 in food and lodging expenses A YEAR = all paid for by taxpayer dollars).
A very simple solution to solve two very serious problems We the Taxpayers are facing with our Politicians today. Will the Candidates step up and do the right thing? This is the TRILLION Dollar Question.