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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

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

 

rotten appleIs it a personal character flaw or a problem within the system that makes a seemingly good person like Jim Black cross the ethics boundary? 

Was Black’s character flaw his ambition? Did eight years in the position of House Speaker made him power hunger, too willing to do anything retain his position?

"The seizing and the holding onto power seems to me at the core of Black's downfall," said Ferrel Guillory, director of the Program on Southern Politics at UNC Chapel Hill. (Charlotte Observer) 

If this is the case, it would suggest that North Carolina needs to limit the terms of the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tem to prevent the individuals holding these positions from becoming overly ambitious and too powerful. We have term limits for the Governor, so why not for these two equally powerful positions?