We take the influence of corporate money in Washington so for granted that until Occupy Wall Street promoted it to the forefront of the collective consciousness, most of us thought about federal influence-peddling – if we did at all – as something whose excesses might be trim-worthy but which had to be accepted as the norm.
Bribe: “A reward given to pervert the judgment or corrupt the conduct.”
To bribe: “To influence corruptly, by a reward or consideration, the action of (a person); to pervert the judgment or corrupt the conduct by a gift.”
Those definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary speak plainly. We all understand lobbying as the buying of influence. When the person being bought is a public servant, such a purchase is by definition corrupt. It fits the definition of bribery so perfectly you can practically hear the click.
So why don’t we call it what it is?
Probably because when we think of bribes, we usually think of the petty kind – slipping a bill to a policeman to avoid getting a ticket, using the money-scissors to snip annoying red tape, and the like. But a politician, just like a cop, is a public official with power over citizens and the potential to be corrupted. The difference is only in scope.
Jack Abramoff, who went to prison for managing to dig beneath even Washington’s bedrock of corruption, has apparently reformed, coming out with a book that’s earned praise even from Michael Moore. WorldNetDaily sums up Abramoff’s history: “The scandals triggered by Abramoff led to the convictions of 20 people for payoffs in exchange for political favors, including Republican Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio. Abramoff was released in June after nearly fours years in federal prison.”
Alas, those 20 unfortunates were only the cutting edge, the few caught going beyond accepted limits.
Now Abramoff, the ex-lobbyist and ex-con, calls for banning campaign contributions from those doing business with the government, and prohibiting former lawmakers from lobbying. What a huge shake-up Washington would feel if those measures were implemented and enforced.
So let’s call a bribe a bribe. Our lives are ruled and regulated by a system of mostly legal bribery – a system that’s sure to respond to Abramoff and his book with a simple Hit the road, Jack. If it even notices him at all.