The Root Cause of Government Corruption is the Power over the Economy We Have Given the Government

Corruption is often blamed on the corruptible.  But corruptible people will always exist (see: entire history of civilization) if the incentives for corruption are sufficient.  Here is another example, from a vote-buying scandal in south Texas:

In the deeply Democratic Rio Grande Valley, the primary is the election that matters. And in local races like county commissioner and district attorney a sliver of votes can make a difference between winning and losing the election. Many times, paid campaign workers called “politiqueras” deliver the votes that put a candidate over the top.

Politiqueras—who are paid to turn out voters, especially in low-income neighborhoods and colonias—have been part of elections in the Rio Grande Valley for decades. But the recent suicide of a school board president in the small town of Donna and the indictment of three politiqueras for allegedly buying votes in a Donna school board election with beer, drugs and cash has rattled the Valley’s political world.

Politiqueras are typically older women with deep ties in the community. They meet with seniors at nursing homes and adult daycare centers and residents in colonias to advocate for their candidates. They come bearing barbecue plates or Mexican pastries and offer voters a ride to the polls, none of which is illegal. But over the decades intense competition in an impoverished region for a limited number of jobs and the power to decide who gets a government contract or a lucrative-paying job has pushed some candidates to cross the legal line and offer cash for votes. “The competition for access to [government] contracts has become intense,” says former Edinburg state Rep. Aaron Peña. “Politiqueras have been pushed further and further to perform in a system that has been corrupted.”


  1. Mercury:

    Oh boy have I made this point a million times.
    If the government were not so enormous and powerful, there wouldn’t be so much to buy.

    Just wait until Obamacare gets up to cruising speed. Now more than ever- every centrally planned healthcare tweak, approval, program enhancement, contract or regulation will filter down directly to someone company or other’s bottom line. Want to profit from that by finding out such details before they become public? Call Ted Kennedy’s son. Is he a medical genius? Well no but for a fee his consultancy will (perfectly legally) hook you up with the inside scoop from Washington insiders and lawmakers whom they pay for their “expertise”:

  2. jon:

    Otherwise known as [the Lucifer Effect]( It will corrupt any system where one flesh is given arbitrary power over another.

  3. jdgalt:

    They've taken far more power over it than we ever legitimately gave them. A Supreme Court willing to reverse Wickard v. Filburn would go a long way toward solving the problem.

  4. bigmaq1980:

    Root Cause = ALL the Power we have given to the Government.

    Regulating commerce is a huge item, but there are probably a dozen or so equally weighty issues, for example: Complexity of our taxation system, which enables that branch to becoming a political weapon and a tool for spreading favors; Deficit spending, which allows politicians to "buy votes" without immediate consequence or accountability for how it gets paid....for just two such examples.

    Actually, this last one may render all others "academic" if we end up in full economic crisis after a few more years of kicking the can down the road.

    It is not enough to make corrective changes to these things, but we have to make sure the next step is taken that will not allow it to happen again or mitigate the possibility, as there is an unending appetite, or as George Will would say, a "metabolic urge of the Washington bureaucracy to extend its control".

    To that end, (and along with plenty of other changes) I would support a Constitutional Amendment that would articulate two things:

    1) A Sunset Clause on Every Law that is not part of the Constitution. Set the expiry date to something like 10 years, after which it must be re-introduced as a bill for vote again to survive for another period. This ought to reduce the urge to add new laws to "prove" they are doing something about a problem. It limits the crony value by introducing risk on the time horizon of the benefits.

    2) Every Law must have an Articulated Purpose and at least One Concrete Measure to determine its efficacy against that purpose, with a baseline already measured and stated in the law. This ought to add a useful and meaningful hurdle to getting bills passed. It should add accountability as the results need to be reported on annually and made public, and are subject to audit.

    Perhaps these concepts/ideas are good starting points for how to put limits on what our government can do and how to limit its ability to go too far down a danger path.

  5. Craig L:

    That excerpt suggests that what has been going on down there used to be legal. Hell no. Read about LBJ's 1948 Senate election. He out-and-out stole it through the purchase of votes down in south Texas.

  6. obloodyhell:

    }}} “Politiqueras have been pushed further and further to perform in a system that has been corrupted.”

    While I agree with the principle cited in the topic headline, this is just bovine excreta.

    Buying -- or being involved with or supporting buying -- votes is wrong. Ephin' D. Ephin' U. Ephin' H DUH.

    Either you have principles or you're a worthless shitheel.

    "Integrity is a balloon. Either you have it or you don't. There is no 'middle ground'".

    If the "politiqueras" have crossed a line, they belong in jail. I don't give a damned whose grandmother they are.

  7. ColoComment:

    My version of these proposed Const. amendments includes (1) along with the sunset clause, that any renewal of a law must be passed with not less than the vote required for the initial law, and if the renewal is not passed prior to expiration, it's SOL -- no "temporary" extensions that last years....; (2) along with the measurement & accountability requirements is (i) a requirement that all federal liabilities, ALL of them, must be included on the annual budget, and (ii) congressional pay (including staff) is withheld from the due date under the budget law and until the federal annual budget has been proposed and all budget resolutions have been passed by both chambers (emphasize: BOTH. Let's keep the pressure on!); and (3) as long as we're approving amendments, let's include a federal term limits amendment. We don't need or want, and cannot afford, a "ruling class" of professional federal politicians who make a career of spending tax monies. We need congress people who have actually held jobs in the private sector and/or have met a payroll, and who will have to return to doing the same.

  8. bigmaq1980:

    Excellent point regarding reporting all liabilities. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have gotten away with massively under-reporting the true scope of obligations the government is carrying as claims against future taxpayers. They use the semantics of annual budgets to obscure the issue.

    It is scandalous that the government had gone years without passing a budget. It was a ploy by the Dems to effectively "lock in" $1T deficit spending for those years. It circumvented the deliberative process that was meant to be part of the checks and balance of government. Worse, it led to (baited the GOP to) the broken process of using leverage points like the debt ceiling to force engagement with the Dems on the issue, which the Dems and MSM played to full effect to point to the GOP as "obstructionist" - yet, who, at core, was obstructing? AFAIK, it is illegal to not pass a budget annually, but without consequence. Your proposal would certainly help force that deliberation.

    On term limits, I would widen the scope to something like max 12 years any public office (Mayor, Governor, President, Senator, etc), and 16 years total (max 4 additional years) including senior unelected position in government, senior role in private sector firm that does "significant" business with the government, or in any lobbyist firm, public employee union, or NGO/charity that receives public funds. These could all probably be better defined, but just want to get the concept across to mitigate or eliminate career politicians, lobbyists of all sorts, and revolving door incentives.

    Too many, including some conservatives, have spent most their adult life in and around politics. Focusing only on their Federal terms misses a large bunch of these people, IMHO. Maybe this would force a career path that have them be in the "real world" for long enough and recent enough to understand the impacts of their decisions.

    I like the idea of subjecting all to the same law. I presume that Obamacare prompts this. In this case, they dd get away with it based on how their compensation is structured rather than how the law was structured, Perhaps something could be defined such that it measures who gets affected by a law in the public vs in the public sector (incl Congress, WH, etc), with a forecast to compare against and deem a bill invalid for law? I don't know...hard to think of how to define something that doesn't have so many holes in it that it becomes irrelevant, or could be struck down by SCOTUS.

    Good thoughts, thanks!

  9. ColoComment:

    Yes re: budget comments. And here we go again: Obama blithely includes an increase of 1/2 trillion dollars in his currently proposed budget, and seeks to give away another billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, both of which (should those guarantees be called), will necessitate another rise in the debt "ceiling" whenever that comes around again. And that's just in the last week or so. They spend and spend and commit dollars and promise everyone something, and when there's pushback they say, "Well you passed that legislation, so now we have to pay for it." Bah humbug.

    Note: We don't have any discretionary money to spend on (not with ~1/2 trillion+ annual deficits), but Obama wants us to guarantee loans to Ukraine, who buys its energy from Russia. Ukraine needs to get its fiscal house in order & stop subsidizing the energy costs for its citizens, or we're going to be honoring those guarantees with money borrowed from China. We don't need this crap going on.

    Re: office limits. Nice idea, but I don't see how, under our federal system, we could encompass federal, state, and local, elected, appointed, and hired, all under some singular law. Nor do I think I want to see so broad a prohibition. Some things should stay local, I think. Also, for example (because I'm reading his book right now), Robert Gates served the country well in several capacities: among other things, as CIA director, president of Texas A&M, and Secretary of Defense under Bush 43 and Obama. Do we really want to limit the total service of "good" people?

    Re: same law for all. No, I got irate some years ago when I learned that Congress did not have to follow the same federal labor & employment laws as the rest of us "little people" (since changed, I think.) That's just not right. Exempting themselves from Obamacare was just a gratuitous insult to us "country class" folks.

    Keep thinkin'. We'll get it right sooner or later! :)

  10. ColoComment:

    How's about this sports fans? Obama is now saying that he'll need ~$5.5 billion to fund the Obamacare "risk corridors" for the FIRST year. So, not only are these "risk corridors" not going to be in surplus per CBO, but you and I are going to transfer beaucoup bucks to insurance companies in the first year alone, i.e., we're gonna bail out their Obamacare-kicked butts.

    My math skills taper off around 2+2, but maybe someone else here can make sense of Crimsonic's spreadsheet work, here: