After longtime New York Speaker of the House Sheldon Silver was arrested on corruption charges, the bad news for Democrats and responsive politics continued as Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned yesterday. He faced a criminal investigation probing whether his fiancee “violated ethics rules or criminal laws in advising him about clean energy issues while at the same time serving as a consultant on the topic.” As investigations deepened, he lost support from his own party, which ultimately helped lead to his decision today. The secretary of state, Kate Brown, will succeed him by state law. After being urgently called back to Oregon from Washington for a high priority meeting with Kitzhaber, she couldn’t find the purpose in the meeting and had this to say:
This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation. I informed the governor that I am ready, and my staff will be ready, should he resign.
This scandal sheds light on two political issues: first is how politics attract corruptible individuals or politics eventually corrupt individuals, such as the New York speaker. The second point is how politics, especially in Washington, have a revolving door and lobbyist problem, which while legal, can undermine the political process as much as old fashioned bribery and corruption. The point with the latter issue is that, while the governor shouldn’t have gotten his fiancee involved when there would be a clear conflict of interest, where’s all of the controversy over the blatant conflicts of interest that our current system allows?[New York Times] [Youtube] [Comedy Central] [Center for Responsive Politics]