Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More than pay-to-play

The term pay-to-play originates with school sports that require payment in exchange for a position on the team.
Athletic merit is, of course, another requirement. But the losers are those who might have athletic promise, but lack the money to pay for the chance to show it. The other losers are the fans who get a lesser team from a smaller base of candidates.
While such practices on athletic teams are objectionable, they are not in the same league with the allegations agains New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And using the term in these political cases is putting a pretty soft spin on the crime of corruption.
Politicians who use their elected positions to seek personal financial gains — and particularly those who do so at the expense of their public responsibilities — are playing a game that is much more serious.
And although the implications are the same — those who can't pay can't go to Washington or win the state contract — in political pay-to-play, the accurate terms are corruption and graft. The big losers are the citizens who get less than the best in leaders and less than the best in services.
And, it is not just theft of money, it is theft of the trust of voters in our leaders.
The United States, while not immune to corruption, remains relatively graft-free when compared to a world where many governments are marked by bribe-taking and the corrosive impact this process has on progress and freedom.
This is no time to go soft on the names we apply to corruption, or to go soft on the penalties for those public servants found guilty of these crimes.


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