It’s interesting how, in the end, it all comes down to money. Assorted “Christian fundamentalists” such as Tom DeLay and Ralph Reed, not to mention many other Washington power brokers, turn out to a large extent to be fanatical worshippers of Mammon. In America’s most intense money lust since perhaps the Gilded Age, high-level public-sector work in Washington is increasingly seen as simply another way to strike it rich. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff may be the J.P. Morgan of this world.
There are, of course, many honest individuals in Washington. But in a culture that increasingly values wealth and its accoutrements, we shouldn’t be surprised at the recent scandals in the capital, mostly connected with Congress and mostly associated with the Republicans, because they control Congress.
There are numerous happy highways for corruption these days. There are the old-fashioned ones, such as bribes for obtaining vast defense contracts. Then there are the newish ones, such as the inevitable influence peddling that goes with the disastrous Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which has led to an explosion of Indian casinos and hence more corruption. (But then, gambling is, as they say, a “cash business” . . .)
Then there is the more indirect sleaze wherein someone like former Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., writes legislation favorable to the pharmaceutical industry, then swiftly goes to work for millions for same. This is why so many former congressmen and senators don’t return to their home states after leaving public office. The big cash is in the capital.
Increasingly, campaign contributions are used to bribe officials. They don’t call it “bribery,” of course _ rather, “contributions to obtain access.” But bribery is often what it is, and the Supreme Court’s stance that campaign contributions are “free speech” looks more and more awkward as spreading congressional scandals reveal just how brazen K Street lobbyists and some of their employees on Capitol Hill can be.
(Robert Whitcomb is The Providence Journal’s editorial-page editor.)