BANGLADESH WILL HANDOVER ULFA LEADER ANUP CHETIA TO INDIA AT ANY TIME = BLITZ EDITOR BRINGING CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST RAPID ACTION BATTALION = MAJOR PARTIES PROMISE ISLAMIZATION OF BANGLADESH AFTER THE NEXT ELECTION = HIZB UT TAHRIR TAKING SECRET PREPARATION OF MASSIVE OFFENSIVES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY = MUFTI NOORANI CONSPIRING TO DEMOLISH LIBERATION WAR STATUE AT GAZIPUR DISTRICT REGISTRATION NO: DA 5025 - VOLUME - 3, ISSUE - 52, DHAKA, DECEMBER 17, 2008
Current Bangladesh Time: 9:34:45 PM (Tues)

Handing Political Corruption – American Style

Dr. Richard L Benkin

Political corruption has been around for as long as there have been, well, politicians. The essence of politics is power; power and influence over events that shape societies and economies. It should come as no surprise, then, that enterprising business men and women try incessantly to gain an advantage over competitors to influence those decisions in ways that will benefit their enterprises and not incidentally, themselves. The most venal politicians have enriched themselves by betraying the public trust that put them in office. Some, not so venal but weak and lacking integrity, did not partake but turned the other way knowingly allowing others to feed at the public trough. And some politicians truly were ignorant about the corruption of others around them. As citizens, we can hold none of them harmless for the damage done to our societies. The best public officials refused to tolerate any corruption as contrary to their obligation to serve the people whom they govern. The people of Bangladesh and other South Asians have suffered—and still suffer—tremendously from corrupt politicians. But they are not the only ones.

In the early morning on December 9, FBI agents arrested Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois charging him with what they described as a “crime spree” of corruption; a corruption so deep and pervasive as to boggle the minds of even veteran cynics. Blagojevich is the highest elected official in my home state; also the home state of US President-elect, Barack Obama. And in fact, the final straw that forced prosecutors to move against Blagojevich was his attempt to sell Obama’s now vacant US Senate seat for his personal enrichment.

No American would suggest that we do not suffer from public corruption—especially those of us who live in Chicago and its county (the next level of government between the city and the state), Cook. We are notorious for it. It was rumored that one former Chicago mayor, Big Bill Thompson, took his orders from famous gangster Al Capone who provided him with a lot more money that the city did. The current President of the Cook County Board, Todd Stroger, was given the office by his father, John, and ran for it on a promise not to raise taxes. Almost immediately after the election, Stroger gave a number of his friends and allies $100,000 a year jobs on the public payroll. He then complained that the County did not have enough money and—you guessed it—raised our taxes to the highest in the nation.

Eventually, however, our corrupt politicians get their comeuppance. There seem to be enough “good guys” who are willing to let authorities know when some of their colleagues are not on the up and up. Our law enforcement agencies have divisions that are devoted to prosecuting corrupt government officials, and their ongoing investigations are part of our normal legal structure.

Blagojevich’s arrest is very instructive of what it means to be a society of laws, dedicated to rooting out corruption; a system that considers public corruption an exception to what transpires on a daily basis and not something to be tolerated at any level of officialdom. It took no coup to arrest Blagojevich; the military did not have to step in to save things. We did not need to empanel a special commission or government agency to combat corruption. Nothing special was done to bring Blagojevich to justice. It was part of everyday law enforcement. Nor did it require a change of government. In fact, if anything, one might wonder if the incoming Obama Administration might want to keep the matter hidden from public view given the fact that the President-elect and the now-disgraced governor are from the same Democratic Party and the same state. But that is not the case either. Obama quickly called for Illinois lawmakers to remove Blagojevich from office. The State of Illinois, County of Cook, and City of Chicago long have been known as highly partisan areas where Democrats stick by Democrats and Republicans stick by Republicans. Yet, since Blagojevich’s arrest, politicians from both parties have been united in their calls for concerted action to protect the people of Illinois. Nor have the Republicans looked for some political gain out of this Democratic Party embarrassment.

To be sure, our system is far from perfect. When Blagojevich ran for re-election in 2006, there were very strong indications that he was corrupt and shortchanging the citizens of Illinois and that he was drawing serious attention from prosecutors. Despite that, however, the people of Illinois re-elected him handily. The press and the people regularly vilify the aforementioned Todd Stroger for the peccadilloes mentioned above. The people of Cook County have had enough, we are told. Yet, when the candidate who lost to Stroger, subsequently ran for prosecutor on a promise to end corruption in Cook County and send corrupt politicians to prison, he was defeated by a wide margin.

The immediate task awaiting Illinois politicians is filling the Senate seat that became vacant when Barack Obama was elected President. Politicians of both parties both in Illinois and in Washington have made it clear that they will not accept a Senator appointed by this governor and are calling for a special election. The US Congressman considered the front-runner to be appointed by Blagojevich, Jesse Jackson, Jr. (son of the famous activist) is now surfacing in the FBI tapes that are being used to prosecute Blagojevich. That makes his election to the Senate much less likely. Moreover, an appointment would be limited to members of the Governor’s own party, in this case Democrats; but an election opens itself up to candidates from both major parties.

It is very early in the process, but already some names are beginning to surface as likely candidates to take Obama’s seat. More about that as we move closer to the election and things become clearer.