According to a recent article in Time magazine, Tennessee is ranked third among U.S. States in political corruption. I am not sure how they measure such crime in order to make such a charge. Does some purveyor of statistics identify the number of elected officials proved guilty in a court of law; or merely charged with corruption? Certainly no politician would confess to corruption unless caught red-handed; oh, my bad, make that convicted rather than caught red-handed. There is a saying, “All is fair in love and war," yet politics should certainly be added to the list. Charges of corruption or malfeasance in office are implicit in a high percentage of political campaigns. I have even witnessed plausible innuendo used in the waning days of a campaign to unseat a dedicated and honest local official. Since you and I are involved as voters in state-wide local and state elections, this is a timely subject.
My experience as an elected community representative for five years prior to retiring to Tennessee from Ohio, convinced me that local elections are as important as state or national elections. The reason for this is simple: corruption always begins at the local level. As voters, if we want good government, we must pay attention, make inquiries or do diligent research if required, and vote in local elections. Here in Tennessee and in Ohio, my prior state of residence, I was always amazed and chagrined when someone told me they only voted in national elections or for president. If a majority of voters adopted this voting criterion we would soon fail as a nation. In fact, it may be we are continuing to move in this direction.
A nominal scan of internet subjects under federal corruption revealed a Sourcewatch blog of 2009 that listed three senators and 23 House representatives “under investigation,” or convicted. The article was interesting in that representatives from 15 states were listed; none were from Tennessee. California led the way with five representatives, then Florida with four and New York with three; then came Alaska, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Arizona with two each. In 2013, an international survey by Global Corruption Barometer found that 60 percent of U.S. residents believed corruption had increased in the last two years. Corruption of any kind by an elected official is abhorrent in my opinion; this is especially true of judges and police officials.
Unfortunately, our expensive election process and society in general seem to be nudging elected officials more and more toward a supporter based loyalty defined by political party, rather than a constituent based loyalty. Money does corrupt many people; therefore, it is only natural that the poor might believe the rich corrupt and incapable of being a champion for their causes. Certainly, the poor might not be surprised to know that half (50.2 percent) of Congress, for the first time in history, are millionaires. However, they might also be surprised to know that, on average, the democrats led republicans with a net worth of $1,040,000 to $1,000,000. The number would be much higher if Secretary of State John Kerry (D) remained in the Senate, since he was by far the wealthiest member.
Corruption in office may stem from money issues, undue influence, or any number of reasons. It is unfortunate that partisan politics are habitually practiced by a few republicans and democrats at all levels of government.
I may be accused of being utopian in my opinions of government service, however, I believe there is a relatively short tether of partisanship required when serving in public office. An elected official is in office to do the business of the people under the limitations of law, not to pander exclusively to democrats, republicans, Christians, white or black or yellow or any other group – one could add to the list until it ends. We need more "statesmen" and fewer “politicians.” Until then, we will be encased with a Congress mired in inaction toward critical issues, such as tax reform, immigration, prison reform, etc. ... I would need another page for that list! As voters, we should not give our elected officials credit for being a partisan, rather, only for resolving the people’s issues in a prompt and non-corrupt manner. We want progress, not partisanship; anything less and we will all suffer the consequences in our new world marketplace of ideas, innovation, and product, that always includes government.