Monday, May 22, 2006

Finding Ways to End Corruption

Looks like U.S. Representative William Jefferson (D-LA) is the latest congressman caught in a serious corruption scandal. Jefferson is accused of taking money in exchange for using his position to help move forward an African telecommunications deal. Over $90,000 in cash was found hidden in the congressman’s freezer in his Washington, DC home. That money is believed to be part of the $100,000 Jefferson received last year during what he thought was a bribery-transaction but was really part of an FBI sting operation.

This case once again sheds light on the seeping corruption infecting Congress. While I am under no illusions that this contemporary corruption is any worse than the dishonesty found in earlier Congresses, I do think we’re at a point where an earnest, clean-government movement is especially necessary.

I doubt many other congressmen or women are shoving cash into their freezers, but I have no doubt that softer, more sophisticated quid-pro-quo influence peddling is going on in both parties. It’s casual, it’s dang-near institutionalized and it needs to end.

One step in the right direction would be to require much greater transparency. All representatives and senators should be required to disclose on the Internet all fundraising sources and every contact with lobbyists. With modern technology, concerned citizens (bloggers or otherwise) could monitor disclosures and look for patterns of corruption. If a pattern is clear enough, the story would almost certainly move from the self-appointed watch-dogs into the mainstream media. Then the voters, armed with much greater information about their representatives, could elect to remove or keep their corrupt member of Congress.

It’s nowhere near a flawless system but it’s exceedingly democratic and gives the people greater knowledge as to how their elected officials are conducting business. Open government is key to a healthy nation. And creating systems to achieve real transparency should be an ever-increasing priority.


Blogger Dyre42 said...

Thats a good idea. What's your opinion of publicly financed campaigns?

10:06 PM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

I really haven't sat down and done a serious cost/benefit analysis for publicly financed campaigns. I do think the current system of strict limits is just as flawed as the system it replaced.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Evan Jones said...

yesterday I found $90,000 in my freezer....should I call the FBI?

10:38 AM  

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