Thursday, February 05, 2009

Pay-to-play fall out: Tainting good people

marjorie says...

To wrap my head around a nascent story idea that may or not may not come to fruition, I've been having conversations with various people in government--both elected officials and bureaucrats--over the past couple of weeks that touch on the pay-to-play allegations, not to mention the scandals, that seem to be coming out of the wood work.

Through it all, I sense a palpable concern shared by many that people who are quite honest and good at their jobs are being tainted with suspicion by all the scandals. This isn't good for us, as a body politic, at all.

You know, there's the CDR thing. That's the one in which a federal grand jury is looking into whether or not large corporations paid people in the Richardson administration for lucrative contracts. It's the reason Richardson stepped aside from being named Commerce Secretary.

Then, there's the Frank Foy lawsuit. Foy is suing a range of entities--companies and people--on behalf of the state under a whistle-blower provision that would give him a percentage of the proceeds if the suit recoups money for the state. His lawsuit alleges pay-to-play also.

Then there's the collapse of most of the state's regional housing authorities due to rampant fraud piled on top of what appears to be just outright ineptitude.

It's enough to turn the regular citizen completely off when it comes to government. Otherwise, their heads might explode from the outrage of it all.

But it's all quite fascinating to the political news hound, especially when you get to see spectacles that include someone like APS School Board member Marty Esquivel screaming at another attorney in front of the press, as he did in defense of his client Bruce Malott. Malott is one of the primary targets of the Frank Foy lawsuit.

It's striking to me when someone like Esquivel loses his cool--you know, shows his "emotions." Maybe I'm playing into lawyerly manipulation (see how suspicious I am?), but my first thought on seeing the clips from that press conference was that Esquivel really believes what he's saying. He is, after all, someone who doesn't think people ought to get heated and "emotional" when they feel strongly about something. Plus, he's become a political figure. What a way to lay it on the line.

Who knows? But I do have to say, I agree with Heath that the Foy lawsuit--as serious as it may be--is being shamefully litigated in the press. The lawsuit has a long list of "John Does," that will presumably be rolled out for public consumption.

If these allegations, and the many others in related investigations, prove true, it's a psychic blow to the trust of the public. The scandal itself already is, and it could be ten times worse.

If they aren't true, there are a hell of a lot of people who are tainted by it all anyway.

One thing that really concerns me about this entire debacle of piled on scandals is the damage done to our ability to discern who we can trust and who we can't.

This is a concern I've noticed is shared by a lot of the people I've spoken to in government.

And frankly, regardless of whether or not he did anything technically illegal, I blame Richardson for it. Just because a system allows enormous campaign contributions, and has hardly any oversight built into it, doesn't mean one has to assemble a small cabal of people to milk it for all its worth. Especially when you're someone who so brazenly flirts with the facade of being progressive.

With proper safeguards in place--and real, substantive ethics reform--people in government would be a lot safer from the taint that comes with this kind of mess.