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corporate20welfareThe phenomenon of big special interests literally buying public officials via the obscene spectacle of modern elections has become so ingrained in our culture these days that nearly everyone has become numbed by and immune to the whole thing. It’s gotten to the point that when a political operative goes on TV to brag about how much special interest money he forked over to elect a candidate, we’re more shocked by the operative’s, uh, demeanor than we are by his message.

In the interest, therefore, of reminding folks of what we’re really talking about, you are hereby urged to read (or re-read if you’ve already glanced at it) last week’s New York Times story entitled “Lobbyists, Bearing Gifts, Pursue Attorneys General.” The story is the first in what appears to be a new series entitled “Courting Favor,” and it tells in straightforward and disturbing terms just how blatant corporate mouthpieces have become in their efforts to — there’s no other way to say this — buy and bribe public officials. This is from the story:

Attorneys general are now the object of aggressive pursuit by lobbyists and lawyers who use campaign contributions, personal appeals at lavish corporate-sponsored conferences and other means to push them to drop investigations, change policies, negotiate favorable settlements or pressure federal regulators, an investigation by The New York Times has found. Read More

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Patrick Cannon2Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s arrest on bribery charges yesterday is, of course, just the latest in a long line such events in modern American (and North Carolina) history. Indeed, political corruption arrests and prosecutions are such a part of our story that one can easily spend the day perusing lists of political crooks that have been complied by various media outlets and good government websites.

Here, therefore, to save you from that temptation, are a few of the most recent and interesting lists:

First off, it’s worth noting that, thanks to the FBI, Cannon is part of a list of politicians arrested yesterday. As the Washington Post reports, FBI stings also reeled in a California state senator and a New York assemblyman.

Wikipedia, quite helpfully, has three lists – one for federal politicians, one for state and local and one entitled “List of state and local political scandals.” The second list is also organized by state  and North Carolina – home to Stephen LaRoque, Jim Black and Meg Scott Phipps — holds its own but doesn’t really stand out.  As is often the case with Wikipedia though, all three are incomplete. Perhaps you can suggest an addition or two.

And if you think things are bad here, check out this list published in the New York Times last year entitled “The Many Faces of State Political Scandals,” which features 32 New York officials convicted of a crime, censured or otherwise accused of wrongdoing over the past seven years, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group. Read More

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Patrick CannonBy all (or at least, most) indications. Charlotte’s disgraced former mayor Patrick Cannon is a rather pathetic, small-time crook. Though it’s hard to know exactly how someone with such a massive character flaw will behave in every circumstance, it seems a safe bet that he would be “on the make” in just about any circumstance — whatever the laws and rules governing the people who run for public office.

That said, Cannon’s swift and pathetic fall should serve as yet another powerful reminder of the corrosive and corrupting influence of money in politics — especially for those people who are not independently wealthy (or, at least, whose wealth does not match their perceived status). The hard truth of the matter is that it is very difficult to be an effective elected official in 2014 without: a) lots of your own money or, b) lots of someone else’s money. Part of this is just a matter of the way money can insulate people from temptation, but another big part revolves around how money can assure that a person will have a good chance at getting re-elected (and thus be taken more seriously while in office).

And , of course, the reason for the latter truth is the simple fact that Read More

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Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, a Democrat who took office this year, was arrested today on charges stemming from a federal corruption investigation.

Cannon is accused of accepting bribes from business developers who were actually working undercover for the FBI in exchange for help from Cannon in navigating the city of Charlotte’s permitting and zoning processes. Cannon is accused of taking  $48,000 over the course of several bribes, and the FBI investigation preceded Cannon’s mayoral term when he was on Charlotte’s city council.


News of Cannon’s arrest was made public this afternoon, and developments are likely to continue. A copy of the probable cause affidavit, in which the FBI details its case, can be read here.

Here’s the latest from Charlotte’s WCNC, who met up with Cannon outside the federal courthouse:

In total, Mayor Cannon accepted about $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and use of a luxury apartment, the FBI says.

NBC Charlotte reporter Rad Berky was the only one outside of the courthouse when Mayor Cannon walked out from the building. The mayor didn’t have much to say when asked about the charges.

“What happened? Can you tell us what happened?” — RB

“Well, nothing at this point that I can discuss. But I’ll certainly be back in contact with you.” — PC

“What would you tell the voters of the city today, sir?” — RB

“There’s nothing too much I can say at this point, but when I’m able to, I’ll touch base.” — PC

Cannon is free on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

 

Below is a summary of the accusations levied against Cannon, detailed in the FBI’s probable cause affidavit:

Screenshot of Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon's indictment. Text by FBI agent detailing accusations

Screenshot of Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s indictment. Text by FBI agent detailing accusations