Tuesday, May 22, 2007

They All Look the Same to Me: CPs

(Supervisor Ed Jew)

Two San Francisco politicians are at the center of brewing tempests that may boil over into full-bore scandals, lesbian state Senator Carole Migden, a French-American, who rear-ended another vehicle last week on the highway, and heterosexual Supervisor Ed Jew, a Chinese-American, under federal investigation for accepting $40,000 in cash from local businessmen who he guided to a permits expediter to help them resolve their regulatory troubles.
They're just the latest in a string of corrupt politicians of the local and state variety, making the news these days. I've reached the point where it doesn't matter what their ancestry is, if they're gay or straight, male or female, or their party. When they're a corrupt politician, acting as though laws and good government rules don't apply to them, they all look the same to me.
Another two California pols quickly come to mind, who were forced from office because they arrogantly acted above good ethics and sometimes the law - former state Insurance Commissioner Charles Quackenbush, forced from office in 2000 after accepting campaign money from companies he regulated, and former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, who resigned in 2005 because he allegedly was a sexually abusive boss and engaged in campaign laundering.
If I Googled other corrupt politicians from either the Bay Area or around California and at the state capital, at least a few dozen names would turn up, along with all the dirt behind the scandals, resignations and willful malfeasance they brought on.
And at the national level, some names instantly jump out as fitting in the CP category, many gone from office, under clouds of suspicion: Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, Rep. Duke Cunningham, Sen. Bob Packwood, Rep. Wilbur Hayes, Rep. Rick Renzi.
In the annals of corrupt politicians getting their comeuppance, today is unique in that two SF pols, Migden and Jew, were subjected to very unflattering media coverage, raising troubling questions in need of addressing.

(State Sen. Carole Migden)
Let's start with a small taste of the bad press for Migden, with more sure to follow before the week is out:
State Sen. Carole Migden bounced her state-issued SUV off the concrete median on Interstate 80 and nearly ran other motorists off the freeway before slamming into the back of another vehicle last week, the California Highway Patrol and witnesses said Tuesday.

More than half a dozen motorists made emergency calls about Migden's erratic driving before the Friday accident, the CHP said. The rear-end collision in Fairfield, midway between San Francisco and Sacramento, injured a woman and her 3-year-old daughter, who were sent to the emergency room.

In a statement released by her office last week, the San Francisco Democrat said the accident happened after she took her eyes off the road while reaching for a ringing cell phone.

But about a half dozen motorists had called 911 before the crash as Migden traveled more than 30 miles on Interstate 80, heading east from the San Francisco Bay area.

"We have drivers calling from apparently down in Berkeley all the way up to where she crashed," CHP Officer Marvin Williford said Tuesday. "Her driving was just erratic. Unfortunately, she crossed three different CHP districts, so by the time we got into position in one area, she was in a different jurisdiction."
Now let's look at one of the local stories, sure to not go away as the Memorial Day approaches, on Jew's legal problems:

Jew, who was elected last November, spent the weekend answering a barrage of questions about reportedly accepting $40,000 in cash from Quickly tapioca franchise store owners in payment for the services of a consultant who Jew says helped the owners with permit issues after Jew recommended his services.

Jew said he asked the consultant, Robert Chan, to direct some of the money toward neighborhood needs. Jew told The Examiner $20,000 of the money that was in his possession was intended to be spent on neighborhood improvements, such as a playground. When asked late Friday evening where that $20,000 was, Jew told The Examiner he no longer had the $20,000 because federal agents had confiscated it from his safe.

Corrupt politicians are not a dying breed in danger of extinction any time soon, unfortunately, which is good for the news media and political junkies, but detrimental to a healthy democracy.

It's never too late to hope other parties will produce better politicians, that the electorate smashes the dual party stranglehold on the political process, and that Democratic and GOP party bosses prevent other Foleys and Rostenkowskis from gaining too much power.

(Ex-Rep. Dan Rostenskowski)

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