Ben Franklin Said It Best

March 14, 2011

On March 10, 2011, Preet Bharara, United States Attorney For The Southern District Of New York, and Janice K. Fedarcyk, The Assistant Director-In-Charge Of The New York Office Of The Federal Bureau Of Investigation ("FBI"), announced the unsealing of a criminal complaint charging New York State Senator Carl Kruger and State Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr., with accepting bribes in exchange for official acts. Kruger is charged with taking more than $1 million in bribes.

Frankly, I'm sort of tired reporting about political corruption.  If you want to read the details, you can find the blow-by-blow in the official Press Release.  Note that the charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, you're right, I'm quite the cynic these days. I mean, c'mon already, been there, done that - and this recent prosecution is simply more of the same.

The FBI's Fedarcyk states in the Press Release that:

The Complaint lays out a roadmap of bribery, money laundering, influence-peddling and official misconduct that is eye-opening even to seasoned investigators. The web of graft and corruption, of buying and selling influence, is not what representative democracy is supposed to look like. The FBI remains committed to rooting out official corruption wherever it exists.

Ah yes, another roadmap of corruption that runs through our political system and into the very offices and homes of our elected officials. As Fedarcyk so sagely notes, this is not what our democracy is supposed to look like. 

On the other hand, is this what law enforcement is supposed to look like?  At some point, does anyone get tired of laying the same roadworks through the same landscape? 

In the same Press Release, US Attorney Bharara observed that:

today's complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court describes a broad-based bribery racket reflecting an unholy alliance of politicians, lobbyists, and businessmen. every single time we arrest a state Senator or Assemblyman, it should be a jarring wake-up call. Instead, it seems that no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany just hits the snooze button. Maybe this time they will get the message. 

In dragging out the tired verbiage of "wake-up calls" and sending a "message," Bharara only underscores the impotency of present-day law enforcment's anti-corruption efforts. As the US Attorney concedes,  high-profile prosecutions often elicit little more than the hitting of a snooze alarm.  There is no wake up. The messages sent by most prosecutors are returned to sender, address unknown. 

It's nice that the FBI remains committed to rooting out corruption. It's nice that the US Attorney is hopeful that one of his messages will get through.  Nonetheless, the stark reality is that political corruption remains entrenched and unresponsive to the threat of jail or even the reality of incarceration. These crooks just roll over in bed, hit the snooze button, and go back to their bribes. 

All of which leads to the compelling conclusion that our criminal justice system is bankrupt. There are no new ideas, no new approaches, and certainly no solutions.  And while some may feel that the simple of act of bailing water in a sinking boat is at least doing something, I would warn you that we're taking on more water than we're able to toss overboard. It's only a matter of time until we're overwhelmed and sunk.

Why are we mired in trying to fix these pernicious societal wrongs with the same ineffective solutions?  It's absurd to continue to resort to the same failed strategies and tactics.  At some point, does anyone just stand up, blow the whistle, and call time out?  Does anyone say, hey, we need to call a new play because the old one isn't scoring?

Although often attributed to Albert Einstein, I am told that, in truth, the origin of this quote is Benjamin Franklin:  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.