Calderon Faces the Music: Why No One Cares
What is it about big money corruption in politics that we all hate so much but refuse to do anything to fix? Despite being universally condemned in America, monetary influence on legislation is alive and well -- especially in California.
Do you remember California State Senator Ron Calderon? He was arrested in a Las Vegas hotel room two years ago by Federal agents and charged with accepting over $100,000 in bribes to influence his legislation.
This week a judge will decide if Calderon is guilty of the 24 charges against him, which include bribery, money laundering, and fraud. If he is found guilty (he has pleaded not guilty), he faces a maximum sentence of 396 years in federal prison.
Now let’s pause for a moment and think about that. After reading the full story, I immediately have three questions. First, how does a guy like Calderon get elected and then remain in office for nearly eleven years? Second, what is it about California’s system of government that enables such dubious moral behavior? And finally, why don’t we seem to care?
The answer to the first question is pretty straightforward. The fact is that California’s government is so removed from the people that it has achieved an “out of sight, out of mind” status. In any given day, it is hard enough for the average citizen to stay informed about national politics, let alone State and Local. All that Calderon had to do to get elected was make promises to well-funded special interests who then filled his campaign coffers with money.
The second question is more nuanced: what enables corruptible individuals to behave so contemptibly while in government? Volumes could be written about this, but the most obvious reason is that the system is built on a framework of legal or easily hidden bribery. From campaign contributions, to nice dinners, and behested payments, there are dozen of rat holes through which money can travel unnoticed or with a stamp of legal approval. As a result, the statesman who refuses to participate in money politics is rarely elected and struggles to survive once in Sacramento.
Finally, we have only ourselves to answer the question, “Why don’t we care?” The truth is we have a million reasons that we ought to care. Look at our State’s unfunded entitlements and pensions, the decrepit education system that’s failing our kids and their parents, the deteriorating infrastructure, the cap-and-trade system that forces high energy bulls on the poorest people, the pathetic response to the worst drought in living memory, and the list goes on. Why hasn’t Sacramento developed better solutions, planned for the future, and demonstrated agility in the face of disasters?
Because our representatives are busy gambling with bribe money in Las Vegas, perhaps?
That is why Neighborhood Legislature aims to take money out of politics entirely. We want to shrink districts so that a candidate does not need to take money from special interests to get elected. That allows people of character and integrity to run for office and be elected. As a corollary effect of having smaller districts, there would also be more representatives. The more representatives there are, the less power any single one of them has. That cuts the feet out from under those who would ordinarily bribe (or “influence”) our politicians.
Our legislature would be comprised of our neighbors; people who genuinely care about our communities and our State. Interested to know more about how this would work? Read more about the Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act here.
by John Cox, Chairman, Neighborhood Legislature