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Readers Split on Party-Corruption Connection

May 8, 2019 Featured, Politics/Policy, St. Louis County No Comments

Despite what some of you may think, neither major political party is immune from corruption. Elected officials from both can be drawn into corruption based on the amount of money involved. Common is a pay to play, also known as quid pro quo:

In the early 16th century, a quid pro quo was something obtained from an apothecary. That’s because when quid pro quo (New Latin for “something for something”) was first used in English, it referred to the process of substituting one medicine for another—whether intentionally (and sometimes fraudulently) or accidentally. The meaning of the phrase was quickly extended, however, and within several decades it was being used for more general equivalent exchanges. These days, it often occurs in legal contexts. (Merriam-Webster)

From Steve Stenger’s campaign website

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of public corruption for steering county contracts to campaign donors and faces prison time when he is sentenced in August. Based on the offense level calculated in his guilty plea under federal guidelines, Stenger could get around three to four years in prison. Judge Catherine Perry emphasized she’s not bound by those guidelines, and set Stenger’s sentencing for Aug. 9. He will also be required to pay restitution. Although the exact amount isn’t clear it could be several hundred thousand dollars. The maximum sentence is 20 years and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Perry accepted Stenger’s guilty plea on charges of bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest services. The 44-page indictment made public on Monday accused Stenger of steering county contracts to his campaign donors and political supporters. (St. Louis Public Radio)

This is behavior an accountant & attorney should know better than to engage in. From Stenger’s re-election campaign website:

Steve Stenger grew up in Affton, the youngest of four children. His father was a union telephone lineman with Southwestern Bell. A 1990 graduate of Bishop DuBourg High School, he briefly toured as a singer with two local bands, The Stand and The Painted Faces. He graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, became a certified public accountant, and attended law school at Saint Louis University.

After law school, Steve went to work as an attorney and CPA at the firm of Ernst & Young. He later started the law firm Klar, Izsak and Stenger. In 2014, voters elected Steve to serve as the eighth St. Louis County Executive. He previously represented the sixth district on the St. Louis County Council for two terms.

As County Executive, Steve has focused his first term on improving public safety and bringing new economic investment to all parts of St. Louis County. Steve and his wife, Ali, have a 4-year-old daughter, Madeline, and a 2-year-old son, Lincoln. (SteveStenger.com)

In St. Louis, city & county, the biggest challenge is often from your own party in the primary. The general election is just a formality. In the city every elected  official is a Democrat. In St. Louis County three of seven council seats are held by Republicans.  Cross the Missouri River into St. Charles County and every elected official is a Republican.

Corruption can take different forms:

There are several types of political corruption that occur in local government. Some are more common than others, and some are more prevalent to local governments than to larger segments of government. Local governments may be more susceptible to corruption because interactions between private individuals and officials happen at greater levels of intimacy and with more frequency at more decentralized levels. Forms of corruption pertaining to money like bribery, extortion, embezzlement, and graft are found in local government systems. Other forms of political corruption are nepotism and patronagesystems. One historical example was the Black Horse Cavalry a group of New York state legislators accused of blackmailing corporations.

  • Bribery is the offering of something which is most often money but can also be goods or services in order to gain an unfair advantage. Common advantages can be to sway a person’s opinion, action, or decision, reduce amounts fees collected, speed up a government grants, or change outcomes of legal processes.
  • Extortion is threatening or inflicting harm to a person, their reputation, or their property in order to unjustly obtain money, actions, services, or other goods from that person. Blackmail is a form of extortion.
  • Embezzlement is the illegal taking or appropriation of money or property that has been entrusted to a person but is actually owned by another. In political terms this is called graft which is when a political office holder unlawfully uses public funds for personal purposes.
  • Nepotism is the practice or inclination to favor a group or person who is a relative when giving promotions, jobs, raises, and other benefits to employees. This is often based on the concept of familism which is believing that a person must always respect and favor family in all situations including those pertaining to politics and business. This leads some political officials to give privileges and positions of authority to relatives based on relationships and regardless of their actual abilities.
  • Patronage systems consist of the granting favors, contracts, or appointments to positions by a local public office holder or candidate for a political office in return for political support. Many times patronage is used to gain support and votes in elections or in passing legislation. Patronage systems disregard the formal rules of a local government and use personal instead of formalized channels to gain an advantage. (Wikipedia)

Here’s the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: We have corruption in local governments because voters keep electing Democrats.

  • Strongly agree: 5 [18.52%]
  • Agree: 2 [7.41%]
  • Somewhat agree: 4 [14.81%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [3.7%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 1 [3.7%]
  • Disagree: 3 [11.11%]
  • Strongly disagree: 11 [40.74%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Again, politicians from both parties have engaged in the above forms of corruption at some time or other.  Our region has a blue center ringed by red. From my perspective our city Democrats are too conservative.

I’m a firm believer that local politics should be non-partisan. Only 8 of the 30 most populous cities still have partisan elections (National League of Cities). Of course, this doesn’t root out corruption — it just removes the petty party finger-pointing that solves nothing.

— Steve Patterson


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