The fatal flaw in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's alleged schemes of pay-to-play politics could come down to the quid being too close to the quo. Had the separation been wider, it would have been business as usual among politicians in Springfield or Washington. Sweetheart deals happen all the time in state capitols and in Congress, where politicians are more circumspect. Examples abound:
•Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, got two sweetheart, low-rate mortgages from Countrywide Financial Corp. for his home in Connecticut and condo in Washington.
•Organized labor spent millions of dollars and provided truckloads of campaign workers for presidential candidate Barack Obama, apparently in hopes—hint, hint—of return favors such as supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, popularly called the card-check bill, which would eliminate secret union ballots.
•Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania unilaterally awarded a lucrative no-bid contingency fee contract to the Houston law firm of Bailey, Perrin & Bailey, which had contributed more than $90,000 to the governor's 2006 re-election bid.
•Michelle Obama was employed by the University of Chicago Medical Center. Her husband, as a U. S. senator, requested a $1 million earmark for the center.
The gazillion dollars spent on earmarks for bridges back home are rife with quid separating quo just long enough to appear as constituent democracy in action.
When Dodd, organized labor, Rendell, Obama and Congress do it, it's called "democracy," or "lobbying" or "free speech." When Blagojevich does it, with the quid too close to the quo, it's called "a crime." He was indicted for "efforts to illegally obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official action"—not much different from "efforts to legally obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official action."
Saturday, April 11
Ronald L. Trowbridge opines: