The Dishonest Politician

by Blair Sullivan | 11/21/06 6:00am

I have always had a strong interest in politics, but as I become more aware of the scandals and corruption among both political parties, I find myself somewhat disillusioned. What I find even more disheartening is the American electorate's failure to punish such despicable acts of corruption which tarnish our political system.

Alan Hevesi was just re-elected to his position of New York State Comptroller despite his involvement in an ethics scandal. While in office, Hevesi had used state funds to finance a personal chauffeur and car for his wife. These funds were exorbitant. In addition to the $83,000 that Hevesi was charged when the scandal broke, it was recently announced that he owes an additional $90,000. As if Hevesi's despicable act was not outrageous enough on its own, there is also the disgraceful manner in which he handled the breaking scandal. Rather than step down in shame, he decided to continue his campaign for re-election. Hevesi ran television commercials in which he apologized to voters. He condemned his behavior, acknowledging that he had made a "stupid mistake," but asked voters for their forgiveness, and for their votes. Hevesi asked voters to "weigh my mistake against my 35 years of public service." One of the things that Hevesi failed to mention is that, while serving in a prior position as comptroller for New York City, he had been involved in a very similar scandal. Furthermore, Hevesi had the nerve to attempt to spin the scandal to make himself out to be the victim. In his commercial, he asserts, "Now, unfairly, some politicians want to stampede me out of office ... If you give me the chance to keep serving you in the job I love, I'll owe you everything, and those politicians nothing."

Unfortunately, the Hevesi situation is not the only one of its kind. Politicians' shameful acts have been going unpunished for years. Alcee Hastings was impeached and removed from his position as a federal judge in 1989 after committing bribery and perjury. Yet, today, he represents Florida's 23rd District in Congress. Furthermore, there is talk that Hastings may be appointed to serve as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was tarred in the 1980s for ethical violations after being involved in the Keating Five scandal. Yet he is now widely admired and viewed as one of the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

What is even more disturbing than the shamelessness of some politicians is the electorate's propensity to tolerate dishonesty. Hevesi easily won re-election with 56.37 percent of the votes. Exit polls suggest that the majority of those who voted for him were well aware of the scandal, but that they simply were not very bothered by it. Voters seem to have an attitude that officials in powerful positions are entitled to a greater amount of leeway than the average person. The electorate fails to realize that just the opposite is true. The level of responsibility of these politicians should be heightened. A leader needs to set the standard and provide an example of proper conduct

Political scandals have occurred since our government's foundation, and the dishonest politician is certainly nothing new. It seems, however, that some politicians are now able to engage in outrageous misbehavior without suffering any backlash or experiencing any negative repercussions. We the electorate need to step up and use the power invested in us by nature of democracy. All politicians are ultimately accountable to their voters. In our system of checks and balances, it is we the voters who hold the ultimate check. It is time we start using this power.