When a prominent platform like the New York Times Op-Ed page features a piece on corruption, I feel like I should say something about it. (Furthering the public dialogue and all that.) But it’s hard for me to come up with something productive to say about Thomas Edsall’s rambling editorial on “The Value of Corruption,” published last week. So far as I can make out, Edsall makes three main points:
- The Congressional ban on legislative earmarks, intended as a means of fighting one form of perceived “corruption,” has in fact undermined one of the key tools legislators can use to build compromise and overcome gridlock.
- The Supreme Court’s campaign finance decisions in cases like Citizens United and McCutcheon have given wealthy interests more power to influence elections (which some characterize as “legalized corruption”).
- Sometimes corruption can be “good” — the “honest graft” praised and defended by George Washington Plunkitt — particularly when it helps certain excluded groups overcome barriers established by entrenched interests.
If your first reaction to this is that these points have little to do with one another — other than the fact that they all use the word “corruption” — then we’re on the same page. But instead of just trashing the Times Op-Ed page (much fun as that is), let me see if I can try to say something substantive. Not sure if I’ll succeed — here goes: Continue reading