Tag Archives: quid pro quo

Political Corruption: Roadblocks to Congressional Convictions

by Anita

Political corruption has been around for a long time in our country. When it comes to political corruption, Republicans and Democrats are both guilty.  The recent conviction of former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia on charges of corruption was no surprise to those who had been following the complicated story. The governor and his family traded government “favors” for gifts and money they received from Johnnie Williams, CEO of Star Scientific. Although the governor tried to stop information gathering by investigators — for instance, he attempted to hold back emails that had been subpoenaed — in the end, he was convicted.

This was just another example of state and local officials who have been charged with and convicted of political corruption during the last four years. Continue reading

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The New Hampshire Rebellion

Last month, in January, Rootstrikers’ founder Lawrence Lessig led 200 followers from 20 states on a 185-mile march from one end of New Hampshire to the other. The march was the first of others that are planned in the state over the next 2 years by the group New Hampshire Rebellion. The objective of the group is to bring attention to the issue of money in politics and to inspire New Hampshire voters to ask all presidential candidates the question, “How will you end the system of corruption in Washington?”

There are several reasons for Lessig’s decision to target New Hampshire. New Hampshire is one of the first states to hold a primary each presidential cycle. It is important to get all presidential candidates thinking about the issue of money in politics and to get their views on the record early in the election cycle. Also, New Hampshire voters have acquired a reputation for being a well informed electorate that requires candidates to have more exposure with them, with a lot of that exposure coming from one-on-one encounters or in small group settings. Candidates wanting to win in that state have to spend a lot of time meeting with voters and discussing issues important to those voters. Continue reading

Utah and Arkansas Scandals Involving Money in Politics

Over the last several weeks we’ve seen two more state government high ranking officials resign over alleged campaign finance abuse and other ethics violations. Near the end of November, Utah’s then attorney general, John Swallow, announced his resignation from office effective December 3. Mark Darr, Arkansas’s current lieutenant governor, recently announced his resignation effective February 1.

Former Attorney General John Swallow was accused of failing to disclose business conflicts of interest, giving preferential treatment to donors, and violating attorney-client privilege while serving in the attorney general’s office. On January 11, 2013, businessman Jeremy Johnson accused Swallow of being part of a plan to bribe a U.S. senator to derail a Federal Trade Commission probe into an internet marketing company owned by Johnson. Continue reading

Quid pro quo: The McDonnell Scandal

On October 16, 2013 a federal appeals court refused to allow Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to shield e-mails from a grand jury subpoena. This decision was just one more step in the scandal which broke earlier this year.

Money in politics can take two forms: campaign funds and bribes after election. In many cases both occur — the McDonnell scandal is a good example. Governor McDonnell has always portrayed himself with a squeaky clean image, so it came as quite a surprise when allegations of corruption were reported.

In addition to the federal investigation, the state of Virginia launched its own investigation of Governor McDonnell. Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli asked Attorney Michael Herring of the Richmond Commonwealth to investigate the McDonnells’ relationship with the nutrition company Star Scientific and its chief executive, Jonnie Williams (Cuccinelli did not investigate the case himself, because he had also accepted money from Williams, although he was cleared of wrongdoing). Allegedly, McDonnell and other members of his family had accepted gifts from Williams in exchange for favorable consideration from state programs. Continue reading

Big Money in Education Part 1

by Anita

It might seem that education in the US – where we have had an extensive public education system for many decades – would be one area untouched by the effects of big money. Unfortunately, it is easy to prove otherwise. The insidious corruption flowing from the power of money can be seen both directly and indirectly in our public school systems from the youngest preschoolers all the way to university level.

Corruption sometimes takes the form of state education officials working hand-in-glove with companies that produce school materials (such as textbooks, online courses, and standardized tests) and making secret decisions about these materials based on money and perks received by officials rather than open bidding. Although standardized testing has been around since the early 20th century, the concept of holding schools accountable based on their students’ test scores began in the 1980s and became a federal issue when George W. Bush started the “No Child Left Behind” program. On the surface, accountability based on testing seems reasonable. It is easy, though, for leaders to turn this process to their own benefit if they find ways to ensure their materials are chosen by each state.

The Tangled Web: Nonprofits, Corporations, and Public Officials

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Citizens United Ruling Part 3

by Barb and Kellye

This is the third in a series of four posts outlining the 7 major questions considered by the Supreme Court in making its Citizens United decision ( Part 1,  Part 2). This post deals with two more of those major questions. One of these questions involves what corruption test should be used to determine whether campaign finance laws are needed to restrict political spending. The other question asks whether the “appearance of political corruption” erodes the public’s confidence in the democratic process. As stated at the beginning of the series, Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and Justice Stevens the minority opinion.

Be sure to read to the end of this post to find out what the Supreme Court decided to do today. Continue reading