Before I get into the main point of this piece, I want to take the time to make, not exactly a disclaimer, but more a statement of support for certain concepts that will sound for all the world, counter to the theme of what follows.
I believe all those who find themselves in the United States Congress, should be beholden to each and every law, congress past or present helps to enact.
Whether or not you wish to argue that the “equal protection clause” found in the 14th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution says or implies that the law applies to each person equally, including members of Congress, making it so they’re beholden to each ordinance as well, members of Congress should be subject to all duly enacted legislation.
I entirely agree that no elected office in the United States at any level was intended to be treated as a lifelong career for anyone found in it.
I also question whether anyone having served in such a position should be disallowed from serving in other positions, at least at the same level as the office they presently occupy.
Put another way, I question for example, whether a Senator should be allowed to run for House membership or the presidency. This applies to any office at the level at which they currently serve, or previously did.
This means if they held a position at a national level, I’m loathe to accept that it’s reasonable for them to attempt to gain access to any other federal job via election. I’m certainly willing to hear why I’m wrong in this.
I support term limits for pretty much every elected office, and also wonder whether they should apply to certain appointed ones, too. An example would be Supreme Court Justice.
Where I believe members of Congress should be compensated for their work, so they don’t have to worry about housing or food while in a given role, I also contend it’s reasonable to review their level of compensation from time to time, to determine whether or not they’re reasonably paid. Obviously, such review should not be accomplished by the entity employing them. That would be a gross conflict of interest.
In general, I believe the primary reason a candidate or existing member of Congress should run for office, is to act for the people he or she represents.
All of the aforesaid is in my mind, totally reasonable—though on at least one point, I could possibly be persuaded to change my opinion, as said.
Here’s where proverbial rubber meets the road.
It’s more the norm than an exception, that folks having spent careers in politics (again, a thing with which I don’t agree), end up wealthy inside their first Congressional term. This tends to be the case whether they came into office that way or not.
Based on what they’re generally compensated, it doesn’t take a genius to conclude their Congressional paycheck is not what’s causing that to be the case.
That being said, the question that needs asked (at least in my opinion) is, “How on Earth do they become so well off, so fast?”
I believe there are multiple answers to this question; and that most if not all of them are not good.
It seems to me highly likely, that the monies and other property with which they find themselves, come largely from either illegal pursuits, or at the least immoral ones. This of course, is not necessarily the case if they came into their position with even large portions of the largess in question.
The point though, is that we need to start looking at how this is happening, or finding individuals who’ve already undertaken that task. Whoever does or has done that research, should have done so without consideration of party affiliation and like or dislike of a given member of Congress. In fact, this should occur with as little bias as possible.
I can agree that if folks are obtaining the cash or property in question illegally, after some sort of due process, if found guilty, they should be potentially be removed from office, and possibly face criminal prosecution. If found to be in breach of law, appropriate action should be taken, up to and including jail time.
If what they’re doing is immoral (and for this a very strong case should be made), laws should be passed making the activities they used to get what they got, criminal as well.
Even if that’s not possible or reasonable for one reason or another, those having placed them in office should be made aware of their impropriety, and various actions should be taken to remove them from their position, or some form of censure should be employed, depending on the gravity of the wrong.
In the end though, even if members of Congress are held to high standards while in office, it’s entirely possible they’ll find ways to corrupt themselves when they leave that office, or before they enter it.
If they do so before they enter office, action can be taken to make those behaviors of less effect in many cases, since they’ll be serving after the shenanigans have occurred.
You can also make it so they’re beholden to a code of conduct that extends to some portion of their life after leaving office.
The truth is though, as long as you have people willing to act criminally and immorally running for various offices, the chances are exceptionally good, they’ll find ways around whatever you put in place.
Whether it’s making it so they appear to get a bona fide position at some company that’s actually “payment for” actions performed during their time in office, or a humongous speaking fee given as a result of making a single oration, or book deals for their autobiographies, or documentaries about their lives, there are ways that will seem entirely legitimate that can be used to enrich them after the fact, for things they did while in some elected or appointed position.
So the question becomes, “How do we fix this?”
The solution to stopping official corruption is not simple, or one-size-fits all. That being said, one of the most reasonable answers may seem entirely counter-intuitive. Those putting the person in their position must choose people of character—folks who are generally immune to the corrupting influence of those who would peddle it to them. In short, if you’re a voter, cast your ballot only for people who will refuse to be bought. Then if you find at some point they’re corrupt, remove them from office.
Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.