Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Don’t worry, tomorrow I return to “bits.”

Charges of Corruption

The charge of corruption was leveled on the House floor on the second to last day of session by Republican Utilities Chair Doug Funderburk.

Then on the last day of session, the corruption charge returned.  This time it was on the Senate floor by Republican Commerce Chair Brad Lager.

I think this is significant because these were Republicans – not the disenfranchised minority – that were making the claim.  These were chairmen, not disgruntled members.  In other words, these are folks who have seen the process, and are saying that it’s corrupt.

Funderburk’s Comments

“Because of interests I will tell you that are outside this chamber right now, there’s been a deal cut behind the Chairman’s back, behind the sponsor’s back, to gut out the consumer protection that’s built into this bill to make sure the residential rate payers are made whole. Mr. Speaker, that’s not what I came to this body for, and dare I say I don’t think anyone else did either.

“But Mr. Speaker, from the day I started seventeen years ago to the day I’m standing before you, I’ve always tried to be an honest broker, I’ve always tried to work for good public policy, and I’ve never let this system corrupt me. And today I’m seeing this system be corrupted. By a policy, by a standard, by a position that was developed through our caucus many many months ago. And because one little entity has decided they don’t like something doesn’t even affect them – this only effects residential rate payers – it doesn’t affect the industrials, but because they all of a sudden have some heartburn it’s coming out.

“Mr. Speaker, that’s wrong. Ladies and gentlemen, Chairmen, Vice Chairmen, Ranking Minority Members, look what’s going on!  Is this what you want this process to go? Because if so, what are you doing?”

Lager’s Comments

“On tax credit reform, there’s been a consensus that we could reach here, but we’ve never been able to get the House to move… Until the day comes that they are no longer allowed to take contributions. They’re never going to move… What is frustrating for me is this idea that the Senate, and or the members of the Senate, should cave because the leadership in the House is corrupt…

“Two summers ago, three summers ago now whatever it is, man (Sen . Eric Schmitt) and I did not see our families for weeks.  When the session ended in May, we literally kept working, and we worked for almost two month trying to get to resolution. And I’ll tell you how those negotiations went.  He and I would sit down in the room with the negotiators from the House.  We’d work out a deal and when it was done they’d say, ok we need to call the developers and make sure that this is okay. And the next day they would literally drive to Columbia, or wherever they needed to go, to meet the developers, show them the proposal and make sure it was okay. There were a couple of occasions, they just brought them with them.  Where we literally sat in the room with the tax credit recipient across the table. I mean I’ve never seen anything like it… It’s just fundamentally not right.”

What is Corruption?

What’s going on here?  Are these two legislators who were outflanked or outmaneuvered by lobbyists or other legislators and are blaming a “corrupt” system for coming to an end other than their desired result?

I do think that’s part of it.  But they are able to make the claim because the system has become infected with large-scale, wide-spread corruption.

It’s not the chuckling fat-cats in the backroom who name a price for a bill getting passed and then take a bag of cash in exchange for the service.

Our corruption is so subtle that it goes unnoticed.  We have gotten used to it.  It is the policy position which was once held with equivocation and is now a “core” issue after years of the drip, drip of campaign contributions.   It is where a contributor gets their bill on the calendar a little faster, or the debate lasts just a little longer. 

We are all corrupt.  Corruption is in human nature.  And so, to keep the public’s trust, public systems should be designed to prevent even the appearance of a conflict of interest

Instead we have the opposite.  We have no limits on campaign contributions, and campaign committees with budgets in the millions.  We have no limits on lobbyists’ gifts and meals.  We have term limits, but no limit on what people can do afterwards.  In short, we have system of temptations and enticements.  And lots of people telling themselves that they’re beyond temptation!

$5K+ Contributions

Lewis & Clark Regional Leadership Forum - $12,000 from Drury Development Corporation.

Birthdays

Happy birthday to lobbyists Mo McCullough, and Jessica Land (28).