Perpetuating a corrupt political system

By Jack E. Lohman

Imagine this. You’ve worked hard for 25 years building your company. You have an excellent product, good corporate structure, hard-working employees, everything going for you except one thing. Your company’s going down the tubes. Debt is building and you must now downsize. You’re going bankrupt.

But wait. You’ve just learned that your purchasing manager has been taking money from your vendors on the side, and giving away company assets in return. Skimming profits. More assets are going out the door than money coming in. You can’t believe it. You hired this guy as a trusted leader to protect and help grow your company. At the very least you’re going to fire him, maybe even have him jailed for theft.

Well, this may not be happening to your company, but it is to your state and country. The politicians you elected to serve as your trusted management team, are on the take. Deficit spending replaced common sense, and taking money on the side is the norm.

In fact, it’s the way the political system is designed.

Government assets are being given to campaign contributors. Politicians are stealing from the public and giving to the fat cats, all to stay elected. Our constitution is the greatest on earth, but it was never intended to condone this corruption. It has been twisted to the breaking point.

Just as corrupt CEOs have taken over many corporations and changed the rules to let them drain the company, so have our politicians changed the political rules to drain the taxpayers. Business leaders who would not accept corporate corruption, are willing to accept, even participate in, political corruption.

How long can this country survive under a corrupt political system? Ask the people in Burma. Or Mexico.

We need massive political reform. The elimination of this legal bribery can be accomplished with public funding of campaigns. A strong and independent ethics commission is needed (call it a board of directors for politicians). Preferential voting so we don’t have to vote for the lesser of two evils. A “None of The Above” choice so we can eject bad but uncontested incumbents. The banning of voice votes so we can track our politician’s votes. And a solid yet incorruptible voting system.

Even term limits. Though I’m generally opposed, I’d accept them until we get the old-timers out and the system fixed. Or I’d apply them only to those politicians who refuse public funding.

But all of this reform requires politicians interested in cleaning up the system, and they are too few and far between. Not even Republicans can be happy with this corruption, even though it has benefited them more than Democrats in the past. But now the special interest money is going more to the Dems. How’s that for “fair?”

To fix the system is going to take outside pressures, because inside motivation doesn’t exist.

The first step must come from the very people giving the campaign contributions that corrupt the system. They (and their families) will have to live with the outcome too. They must quit funding the elections and force the system to public funding of campaigns. If private money dries up, public money will be substituted.

The second step requires the voters themselves. We must force a major turnover both in Madison and Washington. The trick will be identifying the honest politicians and keeping them in. They are few so it should be easy. Usually following the money works, but even they must take private money under the current system.

Following their legislative votes is not easy, so get involved with groups like Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, League of Women Voters, League of Conservation Voters and

Frankly, the only chance Republicans have of keeping their jobs is to pass meaningful campaign reform in 2008. Not fake reform, like they did following the 2000 campaign reform referendum that won 90% of Wisconsinite votes. It was shot down by the courts because it contained (i.e., was purposely peppered with) unconstitutional provisions.

We must have real reform or a new state legislature.

— Lohman is a retired business owner from Colgate and can be reached at

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