No pay, no play, no way
The December arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on federal corruption charges related to his alleged attempts to solicit favors and cash-up-front campaign contributions in exchange for an appointment to President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat has drawn new attention to ethical lapses in the political appointment process. In the indictment against Blagojevich, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald accused the governor of indulging in so called “pay-to-play” politics, a practice some political pundits say is commonplace.
American City & County asked the readers of its weekly e-mail newsletter, “Local Government Update,” what steps can be taken — such as mandatory sentences in federal corruption cases, better ethics education for public officials or increased whistleblower protection — to curb pay-to-play politics. Below are some of the responses.
“We cannot legislate ethics. The decision to do what is good rather than what is not must come from within.”
— Doug Baker, director of public works, Brenham, Texas
“What can be done to curb ‘pay-to-play’ politics? Elect politicians who do not need the job.”
— J. Michael Carpenter, principal, Formation Methods real estate development firm, Birmingham, Ala.
“It’s just like [a] neighborhood watch: If the public doesn’t notify the local police about crimes and problems, they cannot be investigated and stopped, and their neighborhoods will continue to be plagued by bad people doing bad things. Law enforcement cannot do the job alone. It’s up to everyone who is aware of the problem to work with law enforcement to end the problem.”
— Pete Kirby, retired 911 supervisor, Fairfax County, Va.
“One of the ways to curb the ‘pay-to-play’ politics is to enforce the ethics bills more forcefully and prohibit anyone convicted of a crime [from running] for an office again.”
— Gary J. Smith, Board of Registrations & Elections chairman, Forsyth County, Ga.