Our faith-based economy is in the dumper and everything's affected. Does that include the price of corruption? How about the cost of bribery insurance?
Even as people hope for some nobility in the new Administration, I can pretty well promise you that bags of cash will continue to trade hands under political tables, as they always have and always will. But the good news for the corrupt is that buy-off prices may be coming down.
Here's our goofy, dark side Laurel & Hardy bag men tale for today in an AP story about ex-Orange County sheriff Michael Carona, on trial for corruption. A businessman and former Carona associate, Don Haidl, took a plea to testify for the prosecution. Haidl said in court yesterday that he paid former Sheriff Carona and his campaign manager, George Jaramillo, $1,000 each a month so they wouldn't take bribes from anyone else.
A paltry thousand bucks to keep your hand out of other people's tills? "They seemed to be obsessed with money and business deals," Haidl testified, "and they didn't seem to understand how the business world works." No kidding. Even though Carona was only a sheriff, he and Haidl had plans to run for California lieutenant governor where you can really pick some big pockets. Isn't that worth more than a grand a month? "I didn't want them to be politically obligated to people over a dinner," Haidl said. A dinner!? That's probably less than a thousand bucks, even if you invited Carona's mistress, who is also charged in the case.
These guys weren't slouches in the ambition department. The government claims that over several years, three-term sheriff Carona, his mistress, his wife and some other pals took hundreds of thousands in bribes and kickbacks for favors. They also planned, prosecutors allege, to sell 1,000 reserve deputy badges at $1,000 apiece. Nice entrepreneurship.
But you have to keep coming back to the thousand-a-month shutdown money. Crooked and cheap just seems like a bad combo. (Like the old Catskills joke: This food is so cheap! Yeah, and such small portions.) I mean former Congressman Randy Cunningham took $2.4 million in bribes before he got snagged. Louisiana congressman William Jefferson got $90k. Strip club execs in Vegas were paying out $10,000-$20,000 to County officials for a little electoral love. And in Mississippi, lawyer Dickie Scruggs confessed to paying a circuit court judge $40,000.
More recently, in New Jersey, where corruption has been a high art form for decades, an Atlantic City councilman and 10 other officials got arrested for taking from $1,500 to $17,500 "at any one time," according to the Politiker NJ web site, with plans to "continue receiving bribes." That was late '07. Then a few months ago, the Newark Star-Ledger reported another New Jersey case where bribes ranged from $500 to $3,000.
See what I mean about prices coming down? It always struck me just how inexpensive the souls of even big federal officeholders could be. But I really think corruption prices are suffering from the same deflation as homes and gasoline.
The good news in our Sheriff Carona story? His pal Haidl also testified that "Carona had a goal of appearing on the front page of
the local newspaper once a month."
See? Newspapers aren't passe.
Causes Phil Bronstein Supports
Good Ones; anything involving the possibility of redemption.