Sunday, September 20, 2009

Call it what it is

verb: persuade (someone) to act in one's favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement
noun: a sum of money or other inducement offered or given in this way

In today's Sunday New York Times, the grand jury investigation into payments to former Senator John Edward's mistress is described as follows:

According to people familiar with the grand jury investigation, prosecutors are considering a complicated and novel legal issue: whether payments to a candidate’s mistress to ensure her silence (and thus maintain the candidate’s viability) should be considered campaign donations and thus whether they should be reported. (my italics)

Campaign donations? Are you kidding me? Please, let's be adults about this and just call these "campaign donations" what they are -- bribes. They were bribes paid by Edward's wealthy supporters to ensure the political survival of their man. In doing so, these supporters would no doubt then gain tremendous levels of access and have a prominent politician in their back pocket. Edward's mistress received "large financial benefits, including a new BMW and lodging, that were used to keep her out of public view".

It's no different than the revelations that Senator John Ensign's parents (!) paid his mistress nearly $100,000 "out of concern for the well being of longtime family friends during a difficult time." Oh please. Wrap it up in the trappings of "a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others" and comply with tax laws on gifts all you like but be honest here. It was a bribe, pure and simple, to try and save their son's political career and avoid the shame and embarrassment that went along with it.

Our language is a powerful tool. But like any tool, it can be misused and abused. Too often, it is employed to obfuscate, confuse, and manipulate in the service of those who seek to the avoid consequences of their actions.

Even as the rationalizations and wordsmithing tumble like so many counterfeit coins from the mouths of these politicians and their lawyers, we all know the truth. People aren't fooled. We know what happened and why. So please spare me the flowery statements and own up to what we all know this miserable business is -- bribery, carried out by and for politicians and their families to save their careers, their reputations, and their influence.

The last time I checked, bribery was illegal. Can someone please tell me why no one has been punished yet?

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