BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Given the fact that rampant, persistent corruption is one of the sparks that has been igniting bonfires throughout the world recently, e.g., Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Ivory Coast, etc. — and given America’s all-too-prevalent propensity for disparaging such turpitude and the very populations subject to it, I decided to take a closer look our own none-to-exemplary track record when it comes to corrupt high-ranking public officials. Turns out that when it comes to corruption of public officials our much ballyhooed ‘American Exceptionalism’ is but a mirage, mostly fostered by people with something to hide
With no intention of writing a tome on the subject, I realized I’d best set some parameters on how I would recount said shady dealings. I settled on “number who admitted to or were convicted of a crime.” I initially determined that I would limit those figures U.S. congresspersons, high level administration officials, members of the federal judiciary, and state governors. Lastly, I decided to confine the time span to the past 25 years (Kennedy administration forward).
Here’s my tally: U. S. congresspersons = 63; high level administration officials = 58; members of the federal judiciary = 6; state governors = 12. I think it’s worth mentioning that these numbers don’t include the forced resignation and conviction of one Vice President (Spiro Agnew) and that, all told, the number of government officials charged as a result of the Watergate scandal alone totaled 69 of which 48 pleaded guilty. President Nixon himself resigned and was later pardoned by President Ford before formal prosecution could proceed.
Warming to the task, I began to wonder what might turn up if I were to go a little lower in the pecking order. After all, aren’t politicians, officials, and appointees, etc., at the state and local level the ones that have the most direct impact on average Americans on a day to day basis?
Would you believe that between the years 1990 and 2002 federal prosecutors convicted 10,000 government officials of acts of official corruption such as conflict of interest, fraud, campaign-finance violations, and obstruction of justice. That’s right, TEN THOUSAND! Expanding the period a little further, between 1976 and 2000 federal prosecutors convicted more than 17,000! That’s right, SEVENTEEN THOUSAND! And if you think they got ’em all, you might want to take a look at this.
Let me add in closing that there’s more here than just glass houses and stone throwing. This is about power and its inherent capacity to corrupt, and absolute power’s tendency to corrupt absolutely. It is a virus that knows no borders and brooks no denial, and it is how we went from a superpower with the best of intentions to a banana republic with enough firepower to destroy the world 100 times over. We’re like drunks with guns. God bless, America. I miss her so.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.
1,650 = The number of Americans killed in action in Afghanistan
11,191 = The number of Americans wounded in Afghanistan.
0 = To date the number of financial industry kingpins indicted for having committed the most massive FRAUD in American history.