Tags: Culture of Corruption

Pointing Out the Social Cocoon of the Progressive Aristocracy


From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Why It’s Worth Pointing Out, and Mocking, the Progressive Aristocracy

Naturally, some folks didn’t quite grasp the point of yesterday’s column that offered a tongue-in-cheek denial of the existence of a Progressive Aristocracy. That denial offered gobs and gobs of examples of high-ranking lawmakers and their offspring who have gone into lucrative and/or powerful consulting gigs, lobbying jobs, appointed government positions, elected offices of their own, or other rewards from being related to a lawmaker.

“This is nothing new!” was the most common cry. Neither is murder, larceny, racism, bad manners, or a host of other bad things in life; a problem’s long history doesn’t mean we ignore it or shrug and accept it.

Then there were the “Republicans do it too!” Indeed, and it doesn’t make it right. I do suspect that Progressives’ certainty that they’re fighting for all that is good and just and noble simply by drawing breath prompts them to cut themselves a bit more slack when it comes to using their offices to help out their relatives. I did appreciate the commenter who added, “When government becomes the family business, the whole idea is to preserve and sustain it, which is inherently a Progressive project.”

Others asked how this differed from garden-variety nepotism. Look, if you build the family business, you’re entitled to hand it down to your children. To contradict our president, “you built that. Somebody else didn’t make that happen.” If you do build something, you’ll have a lot of discretion about how you spend the money that comes in.

But once credit and responsibility for building and maintaining an institution is more diffuse – say, a large public corporation or university – there should be much less tolerance for a head honcho taking bites out of the budget to set up limited-responsibility, limited-accountability jobs to help out his friends and relatives. Sure, you can do it here and there, but at some point, it becomes a problem. Corporate or university boards don’t appoint CEOs and presidents so they can use their power and resources to help out their buddies and hapless nephews. If it’s done, it must be done on the minimal scale.

Public office is a completely different matter. Yesterday, discussing Bill Clinton, I wrote, “We don’t elect a man into the Oval Office so he can score with women more frequently.” We don’t elect people to public office so their relatives can score sweet gigs in the lawmaker’s support network.

(If nepotism is so harmless, why does no one ever want to admit it’s been done? Why do we so rarely hear anyone admitting, “I got the job because my dad has connections”? Why didn’t Chelsea Clinton begin her first appearance at NBC News, “Thanks Brian, it’s great to be here, and I hope that in this position I’ll offer something beyond providing the news division a closer connection to my parents”?)

These little helping hands given to the children of the best-connected parents make a difference. Companies only have so many slots open at any one time; any one handed to a connected relative is one that doesn’t go to an otherwise qualified applicant. Maybe those sons and sons-in-laws of prominent Democratic congressional leaders are brilliant lobbyists – or maybe they represent a legal way of buying goodwill with a powerful lawmaker. Maybe a five-figure fee for “campaign outreach” services paid to a lawmaker’s cousin represents money well spent, but if it isn’t, it’s money that could have more wisely been spent elsewhere. Maybe the offspring of prominent congressmen really are the best choices for various federal boards and agencies – but anyone who isn’t related to a senator or House member then has a tougher hill to climb to achieve that position.

Nepotism isn’t the only way that America’s most wealthy and powerful ensure that their children will also be wealthy and powerful, but it’s a piece of the puzzle. It’s a thumb-on-the-scale bit of legal cheating that everyone averts their eyes from because acknowledging it too openly would raise the question of how many of the folks in the highest positions of our country actually earned them.

About a year ago, Ross Douthat had a fantastic column about this . . . 

The intermarriage of elite collegians is only one of these mechanisms — but it’s an enormously important one. The outraged reaction to her comments notwithstanding, [Susan] Patton wasn’t telling Princetonians anything they didn’t already understand. Of course Ivy League schools double as dating services. Of course members of elites — yes, gender egalitarians, the males as well as the females — have strong incentives to marry one another, or at the very least find a spouse from within the wider meritocratic circle. What better way to double down on our pre-existing advantages? What better way to minimize, in our descendants, the chances of the dread phenomenon known as “regression to the mean”?

That this “assortative mating,” in which the best-educated Americans increasingly marry one another, also ends up perpetuating existing inequalities seems blindingly obvious, which is no doubt why it’s considered embarrassing and reactionary to talk about it too overtly. We all know what we’re supposed to do — our mothers don’t have to come out and say it!

Why, it would be like telling elite collegians that they should all move to similar cities and neighborhoods, surround themselves with their kinds of people and gradually price everybody else out of the places where social capital is built, influence exerted and great careers made. No need — that’s what we’re already doing! (What Richard Florida called “the mass relocation of highly skilled, highly educated and highly paid Americans to a relatively small number of metropolitan regions, and a corresponding exodus of the traditional lower and middle classes from these same places” is one of the striking social facts of the modern meritocratic era.) We don’t need well-meaning parents lecturing us about the advantages of elite self-segregation, and giving the game away to everybody else. . . . 

And this social cocoon of America’s best-educated, wealthiest, and best-connected has serious impact on our national politics. Examine Matthew Continetti’s brilliant dissection of a profile piece of MSNBC host Alex Wagner and White House chef Sam Kass:

Wagner is pretty, bubbly, and informed, and though her show reminds me of an interminable seminar on theories of representation in the West, I’d rather watch an hour of her than any of the other MSNBC hosts. Yet I cannot help being struck by the disjunction between her attitude toward conservative elites and her attitude toward herself, toward her own part of the upper crust. I cannot help being struck by the unknowingness with which she and her guests establish categories such as “rich” and “elite” that exclude everyone they know.

The game is rigged,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) famously told the 2012 Democratic National Convention. What an odd situation in which we find ourselves, where the most influential figures in politics, media, culture, and the academy, the leaders of institutions from the presidency to the Senate to multinational corporations to globally recognized universities, spend most of their time discussing inequalities of income and opportunity, identifying, blaming, and attacking the mysterious and nefarious figures behind whatever the social problem of the day might be. This is the way the clique that runs America justifies the inequalities endemic to “meritocracy,” the way it masks the flaws of a power structure that generates Brown-educated cable hosts and personal chefs who open ballparks with a phone call. This is how a new American aristocracy comes into being, one as entitled and clueless as its predecessors, but without the awareness of itself as a class.

Progressive aristocrats don’t like it when you call them an aristocracy for two reasons. First, it asserts that they think they’re better than everyone else; they often do think that, but they recognize the potential risk in saying so openly. But secondly, it suggests they don’t really deserve that high perch that’s so central to their sense of identity.

Tags: Progressives , Culture of Corruption

Charges Show Leland Yee, Shrimp Boy Plotting Illegal Gun Deals With Islamist Militants


Leland Yee, the Democratic California state senator arrested Wednesday on federal corruption charges, plotted to obtain illegal guns for a Chinatown gangster less than a year after pushing wide-ranging bills to require micro-stamping, restrict magazine choice, and regulate private handling of legally owned weapons, according to an affidavit in support of his arrest.

If you only read one 137-page affidavit of support of a complaint this week, make it FBI Special Agent Emmanuel V. Pascua’s riveting journey into the heart of a truly astounding conspiracy involving Yee, San Francisco political consultant Keith Jackson, alleged Chee Kung Tong Dragonhead Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, dozens of other alleged conspirators, and so many “UCE” undercover agents that the story ends up sounding like a Man Who Was Thursday-style parable set in a universe in which every character is really an undercover agent. It’s interesting to this reporter to learn that Yee is something beyond the dullard he always seemed to be, but the narrative will prove gripping even for first-time Lelanders.

Pascua argues that Yee — who earned rightful hatred from supporters of the right of self-defense with his tireless work to restrict gun ownership in the Golden State — was eager to help convicted felon Chow in an illegal gun deal:

In a further attempt of KEITH JACKSON and SENATOR YEE to gain more money from UCE 4599, in August 2013, KEITH JACKSON told UCE 4599 that SENATOR YEE, had a contact who deals in arms trafficking. This purported arms dealer was later identified. JACKSON requested UCE 4599 to provide a campaign donation on behalf of SENATOR YEE, for SENATOR YEE to facilitate a meeting with the arms dealer with the intent of UCE 4599 to purportedly purchase a large number of weapons to be imported through the Port of Newark, New Jersey. During a meeting with UCE 4599, SENATOR YEE, and KEITH JACKSON, SENATOR YEE discussed certain details of the specific types of weapons UCE 4599 was interested in buying and importing.

Although Yee at points makes “exculpatory” statements such as noting that one FBI asset is requesting an obviously illegal “pay-to-play” arrangement, his flesh proves weak in the hurlyburly of losing a race for San Francisco mayor, running for California secretary of state, and incurring $70,000 in campaign debt on a state senate salary of only $95,291 per year plus $163 a day expenses (which, given the state senate’s official 106-day calendar, works out to at least another $17,278).

Despite complaining about UCE 4180’s tendency to speak frankly and tie payment to performance, and threatening to cut off contact with UCE 4180, SENATOR YEE and KEITH JACKSON continued to deal with UCE 4180 and never walked away from quid pro quo requests made by UCE 4180. In fact, SENATOR YEE provided the introductions sought by UCE 4180 and accepted cash payments which UCE 4180 expressly tied to the making of the introductions.

Yee is accused of multiple felonies including Wire Fraud of Honest Services as well as Conspiracy to Deal Firearms Without a License and to Illegally Import Firearms. At one point in Pascua’s narrative, Yee offers to travel to the Philippines, apparently to help secure a weapons deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In all, Yee allegedly received more than $42,000 in cash and campaign donations from the FBI’s undercover agents, in exchange for services.

Yee is out on $500,000 bail. His state senate term ends this year. Democratic State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has called for Yee to resign.

Photos of the FBI’s raid on the Chinese Freemason headquarters in San Francisco.

Tags: California , Democratic Party , Culture of Corruption , Crime , San Francisco

Thursday: A Bad Day for Trust in Leaders From Coast to Coast


The management of our nation, today, in California . . .

Law enforcement officials said Thursday that they have an open criminal investigation regarding allegations of misconduct in the city government of San Bernardino, which announced this week it was going to file for bankruptcy.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department released a statement confirming the probe but released few other details.

There have been allegations that some financial documents were falsified to hide the seriousness of San Bernardino’s financial woes.

In Pennsylvania:

Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I. who spent the last seven months examining the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, issued a damning conclusion Thursday:

The most senior officials at Penn State had shown a “total and consistent disregard” for the welfare of children, had worked together to actively conceal Mr. Sandusky’s assaults, and had done so for one central reason: fear of bad publicity. That publicity, Mr. Freeh said Thursday, would have hurt the nationally ranked football program, Mr. Paterno’s reputation as a coach of high principles, the Penn State “brand” and the university’s ability to raise money as one of the most respected public institutions in the country.

In Washington, D.C.:

The mayor of the nation’s capital is resisting public calls for his resignation after a federal corruption investigation unearthed damaging details of illegal fundraising associated with his 2010 election.

A local businesswoman said in court this week that she helped create a $650,000 effort to funnel undeclared campaign assistance to help elect Vincent Gray mayor of Washington, D.C. The disclosure prompted three members of the city council to ask him to step down.

Federal authorities began probing the Gray campaign in 2011, first looking at allegations surrounding payments to a long-shot third candidate to keep up a drumbeat of attacks in the 2010 race on the then-incumbent mayor, Adrian Fenty. Two former Gray campaign aides pleaded guilty for their roles in that scheme.

We have a governing class that demands ever-greater trust from the public, at a time when we see that trust violated, time and again . . .

Tags: Culture of Corruption

Former Democrat Party Officials Face Charges for Setting Up Fake Tea Party Candidates


Somehow, this does not surprise me, nor does it surprise me how little attention this has gotten (HT: Jim Hoft):

Two former leaders of the Oakland County Democratic Party [in Michigan] are facing a total of nine felonies for allegedly forging election paperwork to get fake Tea Party candidates on November’s ballot.

“It is not a partisan statement, and we need to make that very clear,” said Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper.

Former Oakland County Democratic Chair Mike McGuinness and former Democratic Operations DirectorJason Bauer face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

“Some of the people didn’t even know they were on the ballot till they began receiving delinquency notices of filings that were required as a candidate,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.

The sheriff says 23 statewide races had questionable Tea Party candidates on the ballot and the investigation may go beyond Oakland County.

If local GOP officials had set up fake Green party candidates, how would the national press react?

Tags: Culture of Corruption , Tea Parties

When Mark Critz Worked For Murtha, Was His Old Title ‘District Director’ or ‘Henchman’?


Back in mid-March, I wrote: “in some ways, Mark Critz is exactly the right man to continue the work of the late John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who spent most of his last years in Congress surrounded by allegations that he traded earmarks for donations. Critz was Murtha’s district director, and he shares many habits with his old boss: malodorous deals, explanations to the public that don’t add up, conflicting political and public-office loyalties, and a cynical sensibility that “the appearance of impropriety” ceased being a worry a long time ago.”

This morning, the Washington Post informs us:

Many of the defense contractors that benefited from the late Rep. John Murtha’s power to dole out Pentagon contracts are lining up to help elect his top aide to the seat.

Defense contractors, local business officers and lobbyists that relied on earmarked federal contracts from Murtha (D-Pa.) recently chipped in $142,400 to elect Mark Critz, an analysis by The Washington Post shows. Those donations made up more than 52 percent of the individual contributions that Critz raised in the first-quarter of 2010 as he seeks to replace his late boss, new campaign records reveal…

Four former lobbyists of the PMA Group, a once-powerful lobbying shop, also chipped in to elect Critz. Murtha arranged for his spending panel to steer hundreds of millions of earmarked contracts to PMA clients. The firm shut its doors amid a criminal investigation scrutinizing more than $1 million dollars in campaign contributions it gave to Murtha and other subcommittee members.

…The House ethics committee identified Critz as a person who prepared earmark suggestions for Murtha, and Murtha told the committee he routinely approved the list his staff gave him without making any changes. The committee found no evidence of wrongdoing by Murtha.

This is the same House Ethics Committee that has so far found exactly one case of misbehavior requiring any disciplinary action since January 2007. Even Inspector Clousteau closed cases faster than this.

We heard about John Murtha and his effort to secure federal tax dollars for the “Airport For No One.” I suspect that if elected, Critz would shift his focus to rail projects in the district, as so many of his contributors seem to be concerned about the Gravy Train.

Tags: Culture of Corruption , John Murtha , Mark Critz

Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review