Sheldon Silver, former Speaker of the NY Assembly, was indicted in January on corruption charges. Regarding his case, Zephyr Teachout said,
“Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy.
Think of campaign contributions as the gateway drug to bribes. In our private financing system, candidates are trained to respond to campaign cash and serve donors’ interests. Politicians are expected to spend half their time talking to funders and to keep them happy. Given this context, it’s not hard to see how a bribery charge can feel like a technical argument instead of a moral one.”
Representative Aaron Schock (IL-18) may feel his improprieties are mere technicalities as well. In announcing his resignation from Congress he said, “The constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself.” Wasn’t spending half your time fundraising a more concerning distraction?
There are no more high standards. Nearly every member of Congress has a leadership PAC and these funds are used for virtually any purpose, including travel and concerts.
We need comprehensive reform at all levels of government. This does not require amending the US Constitution. We can stop the bribery, whether the payout is through campaign cash today or a future lobbyist job. We can end secret money, mandating disclosure. We can create a system of citizen-funded campaigns, making viable the candidacies of those unwilling to kowtow to special interests.
Here in Illinois we can’t make legislation by ballot measure, but we can generate awareness about reform solutions and send a clear message to those with the power to implement reform.
Please vote “Yes” April 7th on the anti-corruption advisory referendum in Winnebago and DeKalb Counties.