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Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Cure for Political Corruption? Pay Them More!

This is a serious policy suggestion.

After a busy week which saw the former New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno get convicted on two corruption charges (the jury hung on six others), and while various investigations including the New York City Council slush fund and the "Bid Rig" super-investigation in New Jersey continue to make reading the papers interesting, here's a solution to the corruption.

Pay these elected officials more. Maybe much more.

There is a common denominator with all of these accused, or convicted, public officials. They are all working part-time.

If elected and appointed officials are required to be full-time, and prohibited from having outside income or any outside interests except purely passive ones, the ability to have the conflicts will be largely removed.
The greed factor can be minimized with a compliance regime requiring full disclosure upon entering the position and at periodic intervals thereafter. Allow officials to make disclosure submissions and compliance regulators to scrutinize the submissions and make additional requests for information, findings of delinquency or non-compliance, and requests for curing or amending prior filings as necessary. This serves the purpose of full disclosure to the public, compliance with the spirit as well as the letter of the principle of full disclosure, and reduces if not removes the danger and unfairness of the "gotcha" mentality which is rarely more abused than in politics.

One hammer on the non-compliant should not be jail. It should be a long-time bar from any public employment. Now there's an incentive for compliance!

Finally, we need to pay elected officials more. They need to be paid in accordance with full-time responsibilities where their interests lie solely with their constituents and with no private interests. By increasing salaries, we should attract a higher caliber of candidate. We should look forward to the days when our citizen-legislators are of a higher caliber than many in the current crowd, who seem incapable of holding any position in the private sector requiring competence, intelligence or integrity.

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