“We have three people in the State Legislature facing trial. Four of the last seven governors have gone to jail,” said Andy Shaw of Illinois’ Better Government Association. “And we’re a fiscal train wreck.”
That four-of-the-last-seven-governors record is really hard to argue with. New York, of course, had the disastrous resignation of Eliot Spitzer. But that was about sex. Sex scandals, while embarrassing, are far less depressing than financial corruption. I would way rather have an important elected official who patronized prostitutes than one who spent $60,000 of the taxpayers’ money on sushi and lobster. Although in New York we have recently had both.
Over the last few years New York has had 32 officials get into trouble with the law. Gail Collins’s op-ed is largely beside the point. Sadly, there are just four kinds of state officials: those who’ve been convicted of corruption, those who haven’t been caught, unindicted co-conspirators, and those who are so stupid and incompetent that they’re completely in the dark.
I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned it before but many years ago there was a purge at the Fortune 500 company for which I worked at the time. A regional sales manager had been found to have been “watering” sales, i.e. booking bogus sales in one quarter to boost commissions and then canceling them later. One by one every person who worked directly for the regional sales manager or alongside him was brought in to an office and interrogated by representatives from corporate. Most were fired, either for being involved in the scam or for knowing about it and keeping mum.
Make no mistake: they all know.