Campaign contributions are a semi-legal way for those who benefit from political decisions to express their gratitude, but they can backfire legally if there is some overt quid pro quo. During the Shrimpgate investigation, Capitol politicians were ensnared for demanding both campaign money and personal payoffs from undercover FBI agents seeking legislation to benefit a fictitious shrimp processing company.
So-called “behested” payments are another. Interest groups curry favor by making “contributions” to politicians’ favorite charities that sometimes employ the politicians’ relatives, as CalMatters writer Laurel Rosenhall has detailed. There are limits on direct campaign contributions, but none on behested payments. Belatedly, the Fair Political Practices Commission is promulgating new disclosure rules.
The federal indictment of Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas alleges another wrinkle in the corruption game. Ridley-Thomas, who has jumped from office to office for the last three decades, is accused of helping a University of Southern California administrator obtain hefty county contracts in return for getting his son, Sebastian, a no-cost graduate degree and a full-time faculty position.
Indictments of officials and political players in the small communities on the periphery of Los Angeles are so common that they scarcely raise an eyebrow. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon calls his Los Angeles County district a “corrridor of corruption.”
It’s not uncommon for members of the public to declare that all politicians are crooks. They aren’t. Most are sincere and honest, whether or not one agrees with their actions. However, there is corruption and it flourishes most often when there is no meaningful political competition, when politicians believe that they own their positions and are entitled to pieces of the action, and when the watchdogs are not watching closely enough