Corruption (& perceptions thereof)
Since 2008, Pennsylvania has experienced a crime wave among its top public officials. Unprecedented nationally, eight legislative leaders were in prison at the same time until recently as a result of corruption verdicts. Their convictions included using taxpayers' dollars for political work and campaigns. Seven remain behind bars.
Thirty-eight people with ties to the Capitol were charged by state, federal and local officials. Two were acquitted and one had charges dropped. Despite this sordid chapter in state history, other states, notably Illinois and Louisiana, and perhaps others, have been worse over time.
On a national level, how does the United States fare in the world? How does corruption in this country compare to others? Obviously there's nothing close to a global registrar tracking corruption by public officials. Much of it goes undetected and even conviction data aren't available in some countries.
The watchdog group Transparency International issues an annual report on worldwide corruption. It's about “perceptions” of corruption. The group surveys around 3,000 people, typically businessmen, in about 30 countries.
“Corruption generally comprises illegal activities, which are deliberately hidden and only come to light through scandals, investigations or prosecutions,” the group says on its webpage. “There is no meaningful way to assess absolute levels of corruption in countries or territories on the basis of hard empirical data.”
The 2012 corruption perception index might surprise you. Even if you're pretty cynical, the United States isn't the worst. Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia bring up the rear.
The United States ranks among the 20 nations with the least public corruption, according to the survey. The three lowest were Denmark, Finland and New Zealand.
The U.S. follows Japan and the United Kingdom with the least corruption. At least that's the perception.
Where does corruption breed?
“A government launching a competitive tender, a company setting up operations abroad, a politician raising funds to campaign for office — these are just a few of the areas where corruption can breed. When it does, resources are wasted, the corrupt benefit at the expense of others, and societies suffer,” Transparency International says.
One other breeding ground at the Pennsylvania state Capitol: long-term service in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, where leaders became insulated. Rank-and-file legislators over the long haul tend to abdicate power. That breeds feelings of entitlement and arrogance among leaders. Then comes the volatile mix with campaign money.
At least in the recent scandals, maintaining power in the state House drove scandals among Republican and Democrats. Desperate to cling to power, previous leaders stepped up the use of taxpayers' money to pay for campaigns. Why? Because it's easier. They have easy access. Garnering campaign money involves hours of work on the phone or by staff in setting up a fundraiser.
It's certainly not as easy as dipping in to the taxpayers' cookie jar.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or email@example.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Burnett’s stellar start paves way for Pirates’ victory over Diamondbacks
- Spirit Airlines lifts fortunes of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
- Penguins president: General manager, coach won’t be fired
- Rossi: Penguins’ best bet is on Martin
- Rossi: Rutherford falling apart, too
- Experts: If health insurers’ safeguard goes broke, consumers could pay
- From injuries to front office, Penguins’ season didn’t lack drama
- High risk, reward with 1st-round quarterbacks in NFL Draft
- Elites, media & character
- Hip science: Rock-star physicists make tough concepts easier to understand
- It’s business, but not as usual in Pittsburgh