Should We Fear Acknowledging the Corrupt Elephants in the Room?

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As the news continues to unfold on exactly how far-reaching Democratic State Senator Carl Kruger’s corruption allegations go, we Republicans have to ask ourselves about whether we have to fear acknowledging our own corrupt elephants in the room in order to speak honestly about eradicating corruption in government.

Earlier today, New York State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox crowed in light of Kruger’s surrender to federal authorities:

This [corruption] is definitely a Democratic problem and it started with [former Queens Assemblyman] Brian McLaughlin, who was also the head of the Labor Council in New York City.

Of course, the press was quick to respond about the arrest of former Republican State Senator Vincent Leibell and the conviction of former Republican State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno on corruption charges, among other incidents.

Cox then replied:

It seems like it is mostly a Democratic problem. But I agree with you about Senator Leibell.

Now you know that many Brooklyn Young Republicans, and especially me personally, have been honest about the problems on both sides of the aisle.  Corruption can occur among Democrats as much as Republicans.  It has nothing to do with the principles of our party, or who its voters are.

It does have a lot to do, however, with the men and women who lead the party and let these problems go undetected because of the allure of a much bigger political and financial payoff.  That happens in all politics, regardless of party.

Unfortunately, such broad–and perhaps unintentionally disingenuous–generalizations like that which Cox made hurt our party’s credibility to be the party of reform.  I would wholeheartedly agree with Cox that Democratic monopolies, like what we have in New York City, can and do breed rampant corruption.  After all, in not less than 6 years, Democratic City Council Members, State Assembly Members, State Senators, a State Comptroller, and a host of Democratic operatives on government payrolls have been arrested and convicted on a variety of corruption charges.

More importantly, the number of Republican corruption cases pales in comparison to the huge number on the Democratic side.

But let’s not forget that as entrenched as Democrats are here in New York City (in some notable cases with the help of local Republican leaders), there are places in New York State where the Republicans have a stranglehold on electoral outcomes.

It is a fact that your less-than-well-intentioned “political animals” are naturally going to seek public office through whatever organization can get them elected as easily as possible.  In New York City, they run with the Democratic machine.  In some places in New York State, such as Nassau County in its hey-day, they run with the Republican machine.

The only factor that can mitigate the payoffs of corruption is electoral competitiveness.  If Republicans leaders in Brooklyn, for instance, had not allowed Democrat Carl Kruger to run unopposed for over a decade in the second-most Republican district in Brooklyn, do you really think Kruger would have taken the risk of ending his political career and going to jail by performing the kinds of acts that the feds have accused him of?  Probably not.  Heck, we might have even had a Republican in that seat, and that would have been one less corrupt State Senator to talk about!

It is a well known factor in the science of corruption that elected legislative officials who have reason to believe they could lose an election at any time and therefore lose all protection from prosecution are less likely to take the risk of performing corrupt acts.  Carl Kruger is one of many perfect examples of what happens when someone gets too comfortable with cutting deals, running unopposed, and abusing their office to get as much power and money as they can extract from the public without electoral consequence.

(As a rule of thumb, always be cautious of the elected official who never has an opponent, especially if there isn’t even token opposition.  That is, I assure you, never an accident.)

Republicans, however, should not be afraid to speak honestly about our own elected officials when they do wrong.  We should be especially vigilant with our own party leadership and question why Kruger, among many others, have been allowed to go seriously unchallenged for so long.  And looking even beyond whatever our party’s compromised leadership has done, we should be, as Young Republican activists, actively recruiting and supporting principled, reform-minded Republican candidates to challenge and expose the deeds of any incumbent, whether within our own party or not, so that the public knows that it is getting the best, most principled service their tax dollars can provide.

Jonathan J. Judge is President of the Brooklyn Young Republican Club.

(The views and opinions expressed herein are not necessarily that of the Brooklyn Young Republican Club).

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