When the first government was created in the first nation formed on earth - probably in today’s China, a new political tradition also appeared: the exchange of favors between members of the ruling class and their supporters. The bigger the favor, read the bigger the contribution to the politician’s favorite causes, the bigger the payoff, pardon, the quid pro quo. And now that the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates of financial contributions to candidates who seek a public position, so will the rewards increase for the generous donors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission.
Naming ambassadors has almost always been a political plum given to “friends”, ie, largest contributors. That nefarious practice has had negative consequences as many of the favored candidates had absolutely no diplomatic skills. Another way to reward supporters has been the last minute pardon given by the sitting president on his last day in office. President Clinton famously or rather infamously pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich whose only merits were his financial donations to Clinton’s war chest. No explanation was ever given by the White House.
Now that we have several governors or ex-governors seeking their party’s nomination in the presidential campaign, a magnifying glass is and will be applied to their quid pro quo gestures for big political supporters. The first one to hit the national media is none other than the NY Times which features a series of accusations toward Governor Rick Perry of Texas: “The exchange of campaign contributions for government contracts, favors or positions is all too common in Washington and around the country.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/opinion/gov-rick-perrys-cash-machine.html
Why select Perry in particular who denies the allegations that he was returning favors? “Mr. Perry has long maintained there is no connection between his appointments and their contributions, but the evidence is clear on board after board.” Let’s be realistic; 99.9% of Congress has engaged in this practice, including the President and his cabinet. The infamous “pork” added to proposed bills has been a mainstay of senators and representatives alike who engaged in the hallowed ritual of planting the seeds of reelection. The NY Times has obviously published this article to target a candidate who has a real chance to end up in the White House. And so the battle begins with broadsides being fired on both sides.
While I feel there is something morally and ethically wrong with the quid pro quo policy, there is nothing illegal about it unless of course it results in harm to the country and its citizens. Creating an agency for the sole purpose of rewarding a friend is clearly an example of this, as the millions involved come from our taxes and the times are difficult enough without creating additional waste. There is a fine line between corruption and rewarding cronies. Political contributions are not bribes as they are perfectly within the law; their aim is to help the candidate defray his or her expenses during a campaign. Humans being human, they will fall prey to the understandable desire to say “thank you” to their friends and supporters in a tangible way.
Somebody said once that lobbying is organized corruption; I beg to differ: Influencing the decisions of politicians is quite legitimate. It has always been that way. I can send emails to my senators and representatives to express my opinion. Whether they pay heed or not is another matter. The political system will not and cannot change, simply because they (the politicians) would have to approve it. The only change they approve regularly is to increase their own salaries. I wish I could do the same!