Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sen. Menendez: Influence peddling another shade of political corruption?

One might wonder what is worse being accused of using prostitutes, however legal, or being accused of using political influence in exchange for money? It is not difficult to see the moral and ethical implications of either even though the illegality may be difficult to assert and prove in the latter case.

It is a story that at first seemed more like political skulduggery than anything of real substance. The initial media attention came from the story of Senator Menendez using prostitutes while in the Dominican Republic - it is legal. But it quickly became the story of how "campaign donations" appeared to be more like an exchange of money for the purchase of political influence. [American politics - absence of ethics].

It is too a story how the middle class with the lower income in tow are constantly taken for a ride by the political leaders in this country. It is the large campaign donors that benefit. Yes - it is worse in many other countries where corruption is an acknowledged part of the political system. But in the US it is hidden often in the cloak of campaign donations. It reminds me of the cloak of Dracula that he would drag across him to obscure his persistence of evil.

The Washington Post with some effort and time into an investigation has a more complete analysis: Dominican Republic port contract scrutinized, along with senator, eye doctor’s relationship. However, what was once only a story about the good senator and his wealthy campaign donor now includes the American Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. With the two American officials focusing their efforts on behalf of their benefactor the Florida Eye doctor Melgen.

It is a story also about how ethnic alliances overshadows the obligation to represent the interests of the citizens of the United States. Dr. Melgen is a Florida resident, not in New Jersey where Menendez is a senator. The ambassador, a veteran Latino civil rights advocate arguably owes his position to Melgen and Menendez. However, other than the connection to a Dominican port security contract and his residence there, Melgen's connection in the Dominican Republic isn't clear.

The port security contract is a "deal [that] had languished for more than a decade amid stiff resistance from the American Chamber of Commerce, which represents the interests of American and local businessmen in the Dominican Republic, and the country’s customs authorities." [Washington Post].

Now what would be the logical interest that the ambassador and the senator would or should be supporting? Not the eye doctor from Florida who has supported the ambassador and the senator. But it is the eye doctor Melgen's  investment in the port contract that will be financially enhanced if the port contract is enforced.

And it can be surmised that both the ambassador and the senator will subsequently be beneficiaries.
It is one thing to recognize that large campaign donors have the inside line to the recipient of those donations. But ask yourself - but for those donations would the Senator and the Ambassador be opposing those interests that they would ordinarily back?

Friendships bonded with dollars are nearly unbreakable.

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