Dealing with corruption in American politics

The Justice Department will soon press corruption charges against New Jersey senator Robert Menendez. The case centers on the financial relationship between Menendez and a Florida ophthalmologist. That’s happening less than a month months after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was indicted for corruption. Fordham Law School hosted a conference today to address how corruption affects American politics, and suggested a few answers. Gregoire Molle reports.

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Attendees at the conference ate sandwiches and cookies as the keynote speaker showed up.

HOST: Without further ado, I am giving the US attorney for the Southern

district of New York Preet Bharara.

Bharara’s office recently won an indictment against former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

BHARARA: Public corruption, when it becomes pervasive especially,

undermines people’s faith and confidence in democracy.

Bharara says that it’s not enough to go after corrupt figures. Honest people shouldn’t be let off the hook.

BHARARA: It’s not enough to make sure you’re getting the bad folks you

wanna make sure that you’re empowering or sometimes embarrassing the

good folks at any institution that exist to do something when they see

something bad going on.

But according to New York former guvernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, that’s not that easy. Teachout says it’s become increasingly harder to fight corruption. Thanks to the highest American Court of Justice.

TEACHOUT: The Supreme Court has been striking down anti-corruption

after anti-corruption law, while we’re having a crisis of corruption.

The Supreme Court says that the money people give to political candidates is simply free speech. For Teachout thinks it’s undermining the democratic process.

TEACHOUT: Candidates for office end up being scared that, say,

Godlman Because if you get funding from Goldman Sachs. Or spend a lot

of energy seeking Goldman Sachs’ support.

Harvard Law School professor Lessig it’s effectively discriminating against some American citizens.

LESSIG: I don’t think most people sort of recognize, even get it that they

are the African Americans of you know the 1950s.

Lessig fought for Net Neutrality and other online freedoms. That made him believe that big companies are doing to politics what hackers do to the Internet.

LESSIG: The system has been hacked so the fact that you have one vote

in an election doesn’t begin to address the fact that you have no vote in

the critical pre-election, the money primary, or the green primary that

determines who gets to be a candidate.

In 2012 almost two thirds of political contributions came from less then one percent of the American population.

 

Gregoire Molle, Columbia Radio News.

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