Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Senate seat, get your Senate seat!!

It seems that not even the good ol' U S of A is free from political corruption, as we've seen in the recent scandal involving Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich. Governor Blagojevich was arrested for allegedly trying to trade or sell President-elect Barrack Obama's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. This is certainly not something to be taken lightly, as several high-profile Senate seats will soon be filled, with Senators Obama, Biden and Clinton all leaving in January 2009. The dilemma is clear- do we want seats in our Senate to be open to the highest bidder, as merely political prizes that are capable of being bought? Do we then want these men (and women) to be making important decisions in the national security arena?? Obviously, the answer is no.

This scandal calls into question, however, the very long-held practice of allowing state governors to appoint interim Senators to fill part or all of an unexpired term. Some states, like Oregon and Wisconsin, do not allow the governor to make an appointment and instead hold general elections to fill any unexpired term. Five other states-Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Wyoming and Utah- place some restrictions on the governor's power to appoint an interim Senator. Perhaps all states, however, should follow the lead of Oregon and Wisconsin and remove the power of appointing interim Senators from the governor. Although elections are certainly not free from corruption, especially in Illinois (see 1960 Presidential elections), they are certainly more democratic and more difficult to influence than simply paying off a state governor.

One good sign, however, from all of this is the fact that corruption in the United States, while certainly existent, is not nearly as bad as in other countries. Unlike some countries, like Russia or Angola, corruption in America is not endemic and viewed as simply part of doing business. Transparency International's 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks the United States 18th out of 180 surveyed countries with a score of 7.3, out of 10. While certainly not the worst, the United States must certainly approve. Putting a price on a Senate seat and offering it to the highest bidder rather than the most qualified, is a dangerous bet to make, when one considers the importance of the Senate to our national security. Governor Blagojevich should be dealt with swiftly, so other governors can be warned that an indiscretion of this magnitude is simply not acceptable.

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