When William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson, the former congressman from Louisiana, was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in federal prison for bribery in 2009, I thought we had reached the epitome of stupidity and greed among African-American elected officials.
But no–then came the recent sad turn of events with former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in Detroit and the seemingly political ruin of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in Chicago with his misuse of campaign funds.
With the disclosure that State Sen. Malcolm Smith has been implicated in a corruption and bribery scandal brings the widespread lack of political integrity and moral fiber into our precincts.
Smith, already blemished from past poor decisions in Albany, was allegedly seeking to get his name on the Republican ballot in a bid for mayor in the upcoming election. Instead, his name is at the center of a criminal complaint that could land him a long prison stretch.
From the very beginning of the gambit, it appears to have been an idiotic move on the part of a politician who should know better, given how pervasive corruption has been among New York politicians.
There is very little sympathy for Smith from this quarter. If the criminal complaint against him holds–there are taped conversations that clearly implicate him in the scandal–then he, along with the others charged, has violated the public trust and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
It’s hard to see what it will take to discourage our elected officials from succumbing to such illegal enticements. Denying them our vote is one way to deal with them, but sometimes it’s difficult to know which seemingly decent office seeker will later give in to temptation.
More and more, there’s the cry that most politicians are basically corrupt, and as one of those implicated in the Smith scandal said, “It’s part of the game.” I don’t subscribe to this conclusion. Most politicians, like most Americans, are honest, hard working public servants trying to do the right thing–and they are to be commended.
But, every now and then, we have miscreants who are gullible, susceptible to the dishonest way to success and therefore an easy prey for the quick-fix, and perhaps the only way to deal with them is to make sure they are denied any further opportunities to take advantage of us.
Sen. Smith, you’ve made another bad decision, and it may take a long prison term before you understand the gravity of your violation of the public trust and find your moral compass.