Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Watchdog: Sending Poole, Easley to jail won't fix problem

Bob Hall, the persistent elections and ethics watchdog at Democracy North Carolina, applauds federal prosecutors' connecting the dots in the Ruffin Poole case. He's the former aide to Gov. Mike Easley who has just had 56 of 57 charges dropped against him in exchange for his agreeing to help prosecutors understand more about the performance of the governor and his associates. Poole will plead guilty to a single count and could go to jail for about five years, a remarkable turnaround from the blizzard of corruption charges he had faced, but it's clear the U.S. Attorney's office wanted his help in its investigation of Easley.

But Hall says people must understand that sending either of them to jail, or adopting tough new changes to campaign laws, won't solve the problem. As he put it, "New fundraising regulations or ethics reform will just add more limits to the current system; they do not offer an alternative supply of campaign money that could address the heart of the problem, which is: candidates tethered to the endless money chase. Throwing Poole and/or Easley in jail may feel good, but it won’t change the system in which they thrived."

Here's what Hall had to say:

In the court yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Duffy made a point of connecting the dots between campaign fundraisers, political appointments and personal profiteering. He described how major donors to former Gov. Mike Easley’s campaign cozied up to Ruffin Poole, gained appointments and special access to state officials, and traded their political fundraising skills for enormous personal gain. “These guys were falling all over each other because of the value of these appointments,” Duffy said. He could have added: If you want less corruption, shrink the importance of private money in politics.

In plain truth, the current system of endless private fundraising for high public office is poisonous. The money chase nurtures a sinister, pay-to-play mentality. It corrupts officials desperate for campaign cash and enriches insiders at the expense of ordinary taxpayers. Good politicians and donors with a genuine interest in social policy are again and again tainted by the rotten apples that keep turning up in this toxic mix of access, cash and special privilege.

In their own defense as public officials, and in the name of public decency, elected leaders need to speak out more forcefully against this system and in favor of a dramatically different approach to campaign financing – one that puts the public in charge of elections and policy making. New fundraising regulations or ethics reform will just add more limits to the current system; they do not offer an alternative supply of campaign money that could address the heart of the problem, which is: candidates tethered to the endless money chase. Throwing Poole and/or Easley in jail may feel good, but it won’t change the system in which they thrived.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not sending them to jail wont solve the problem either!!

Anonymous said...

Why shouldn't they be thrown in jail? If any common citizen had done the same thing, they would be going to jail. Once again, you chose to place corrupt politicians on a pedistal instead of putting them behind bars. The system may be bad, but Sleazy & Poole made their own CHOICES which were wrong and they should pay the full price of their deeds!!!

Anonymous said...

Since we don't have a better solution, let's give it a try.
If they were to steal a car, would they go to prison??

charles said...

You know, Kidd Brewer must be somewhere out there smiling.
Let the true church roll on!Charles Waters
Charlotte NC

Anonymous said...

I beg to differ with Mr. Hall. Throwing them in jail will send a message that no matter how powerful you become politically, you can and will be punished for your crimes. That's called deterrence.

Anonymous said...

Oh, we see. These crooks broke the law and now supporters are trying to sway public opinion. How about the UNC-CH doctor that drove drunk and killed the balerina last summer? Are we supposed to feel sorry for him too? Is he even in jail?

Anonymous said...

Mike and Ruffin were neglected as children. We should take pity on them and just leave them alone to retire with their ill-gotten stolen money and bribes. That's just the way the system works.

Anonymous said...

Throwing Poole and Easley in jail is what the law calls for. Do the crime, then do the time. These rats are in for a rude awakening in prison. If they go the Bernie Madoff's crib in Butler, NC, be prepared for fights galore. Bernie's already been roughed up plenty.

Anonymous said...

This is Bob Hall and I'm wondering if people are reading the statement in full. I am NOT saying don't send these guys to jail if they are guilty. By all means, make them pay dearly for their crime; throw the book at them; make a lesson of them. However, I am saying that approach to corruption won't solve the underlying problem, which is a political system that involves year-round fundraising and ever larger amount of private money being hustled by public officials, of both parties. That toxic mix will continue to churn up a steady stream of corruption that affects all aspects of society.

tom said...

Uh, guys, how did you ever pass reading comprehension. He never said they don't need to go to jail, he said that sending them to jail doesn't solve the problem. Two completely different things. They definitely need to go to jail. Just wish they could find a way to drag that Perdue woman down with them.

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Samuel said...

A former aide to Easley is suddenly an authority on ethics? Betts, have you lost your mind, or is early old age derangement setting in? I don't give a cow pad what Bob Hall has to say.

Anyone who doesn't think the prospect of going to jail doesn't deter white collar crime - which is what we are really talking about here - is completely clueless.

The REAL rub - these pols have no ethics, no sense of right and wrong.

Let them spend a few years incarcerated with LeRoy, Muhammud and Lefty - that's the biggest deterrent to fundamentally corrupt pols.

essequamvideri said...

Bob Hall of Democracy NC says:

"elected leaders need to speak out more forcefully against this system and in favor of a dramatically different approach to campaign financing – one that puts the public in charge of elections and policy making"

Excuse me? The public already is in charge of elections, Bob. What you want is taxpayer-funded campaigns. What makes you think that the huge bureaucracy of government employees making decisions about campaigns won't result in just as much corruption?

How about walking the walk, instead of talking the talk, Bob?

How is Democracy NC funded? How many registered Republicans are on your Board of Directors? Do you receive taxpayer funds - if so, how much, and for what purposes? How much money do you receive from George Soros institutions? How many Republicans has your organization registered to vote? if you don't know, then I suggest you do a survey, to ensure that your non-profit is truly non-partisan.

FM said...

Criminal behavior is increasingly forgiven, overlooked, and even glorified in this country. It's often difficult to get convictions against powerful people. And with a failed justice system, decadence entrenches forming stronger roots, and grows.

Look to countries like Colombia where many in the general population considered Pablo Escobar a god.

How anyone could say there's no purpose in sending political criminals to jail for their crimes is confusing.

It's true the private campaign money issue should be addressed, while it seems every new campaign law adds more opportunities and/or loopholes for fraud.

This country should find a way to push beyond the present system which nearly requires the selling of one's soul to campaign contributors in order to be elected.

But if Mr. Easley and Mr. Poole, and any others in the administration of NC government have broken laws then they should be tried and sentenced under the same statutes as any other American.

Equal justice under the law.

JT Lancer said...

The voters of NC elected Mike Easley to 'lead' the state - not once, but TWICE!

Seems to me that the problem is with the voters.

darkferi said...

JT: Yes, the problem IS in the voters that put them in office, as well as the NEWSPAPERS that recommended them in the first place. (Observer, I'm talking about YOU!)