Rennie: In politics, corruption from coast to coast

Kevin Rennie

“Ninety percent of politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.” Henry Kissinger would have made a fine prosecutor of public corruption, a job that is keeping law enforcement officials busy across the nation.

Oregon’s John Kitzhaber resigned his governorship in February after a torrent of revelations about his longtime fiancee’s doings collided at the intersection of Cylvia Hayes’s lucrative private interests and her public policy influence as an unpaid adviser to Kitzhaber. The cull from disclosures included Kitzhaber’s grip on reality as the deluge swept him out of office on a tide of incoherent and contradictory statements on the scandal at the beginning of his fourth term.

Allies, friends and admirers of the governor and his fiancee seemed surprised that two people who, the New York Times reported with admiration, “shared passion for a low-carbon energy future,” would get into such a grimy mess. How could all that renewable virtue be mixed with a potent cocktail of old-fashioned greed?

The Kitzhaber scandal started with digging by Willamette Weekly Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Nigel Jaquiss. Federal law enforcement authorities around the country want in on the Jaquiss method.

That easy-to-remember number can be used from sea to shining sea to report suspicions of abuse of public office. You, upright citizen, may attach your name to a tip or remain anonymous.

Someone spilled the goods on former Pennsylvania state treasurer Rob McCord’s bullying ways. The two term Democrat made campaign fundraising calls that included threats to hurt potential donors’ ability to do business with the state.

McCord called these “talking points” in what even for modern politics seems a misuse of the English language. Federal prosecutors characterized them as two counts of attempted extortion. McCord resigned his office at the end of January and pleaded guilty to the criminal charges a couple of weeks later.

The former first couple of Virginia traded their freedom for $150,000 in loans, golf trips, vacations, expensive frocks and assorted fripperies from a Virginia businessman. Greedy Republican former governor Bob McDonnell and his grasping wife Maureen will each do a stretch in the hoosegow after a jury last summer convicted them of corruption. That’s a hefty price to pay for a grab bag of graft that included a swank Louis Vuitton bag.

The McDonnells’ criminal troubles started when a chef in the governor’s mansion tipped off authorities to catering services for a McDonnell family wedding paid for by the ingratiating businessman. Todd Schneider, the chef, had his own troubles with billing and bookkeeping that brought him to the attention of law enforcement.

The best defense in these things is not always innocence; it’s providing evidence of crimes committed by the powerful.

Kevin Rennie, a contributor to InsideSources.com, is a lawyer and former state legislator in Connecticut.