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FUMARE

Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Sestak Dealmaking Should Be Condemned

I'm bothered that the agreement the White House tried to make with Joe Sestak is not being condemned more than it is. Let's take the White House at their word, that it offered Sestak an unpaid advisory board position in order to get him to drop out of the Pennsylvania senate primary. The sense I'm getting from most pundits and commentators is that "this is no big deal because it happens all the time." This really bothers me. Shouldn't the proper response be "I don't care that it happens all the time, this is an abuse of authority and of the public trust that should be condemned as unethical and illegal"?

Consider a city council which has the authority to award a contract for garbage removal to any company it chooses. We would hope that the city council makes its decision in awarding the contract based on the competence and expertise of the particular garbage-removal company and based on what is in the best interests of the public. Suppose the council approaches one company and offers it the contract in exchange for a political interest that favors the city council. I know this type of thing happens all the time, but I don't care; this is an abuse of authority and of the public trust that should be condemned as unethical and illegal. Our society rightly recognizes that this as an abuse, and so, it legally prohibits it and is often able to bring criminal charges against the government official.

Isn't this an analogous situation? The White House has the authority to award a non-paying advisory board position to any person it chooses. We would hope that its decision in choosing a person for the advisory board is based on the competence and expertise of the particular person chosen and based on what is in the best interests of the public. If the White House instead approaches a person and offers him the position in exchange for some political interest, isn't this a similar abuse of the public trust? I don't care that it happens all the time, shouldn't we condemn it whenever such a deal becomes public knowledge? If we say "who cares, this happens all the time," aren't we implicitly condoning the White House's action here?

Do we really want to approve of a political system in which the White House has the ability to use advisory board appointments as bargaining chips, the ability to offer these appointments in exchange for personal political favors?

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