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Double Standards

Mar 31, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 28 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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The Scrapbook continues to scratch its head over the barrels of ink spilled over the Chris Christie bridge scandal. It’s well worth reporting, but none of the Christie revelations to date justify the flood-the-zone coverage. So you’ll forgive us for suspecting that Christie’s political affiliation just might have something to do with the intense media interest. Compare and contrast with this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week, which, unless you live there, you probably haven’t heard about: 

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office ran an undercover sting operation over three years that captured leading Philadelphia Democrats, including four members of the city’s state House delegation, on tape accepting money, The Inquirer has learned. Yet no one was charged with a crime. Prosecutors began the sting in 2010 when Republican Tom Corbett was attorney general. After Democrat Kathleen G. Kane took office in 2013, she shut it down.

The investigation apparently entailed 400 hours of audio and video-tape, with most of the politicians involved accepting bribes in exchange for votes and contracts. According to the Inquirer, as state representative Vanessa Brown put an envelope with $2,000 cash in her purse she said, “Yo, good looking and Ooowee. .  .  . Thank you twice.” Further, “sources with knowledge of the sting said the investigation made financial pitches to both Republicans and Democrats, but only Democrats accepted the payments.”

And yet, the AG dropped the fraud charges secretly last fall despite the investigation’s potential to capture more corrupt leaders. Kane claims the investigation was “tainted by racism.” In a statement given to the Inquirer, Kane’s office quoted the lead agent in the case as saying he had been told to target members of the Legislative Black Caucus. But that doesn’t appear to square with the Inquirer’s reporting: “People close to Thomas said no one ever gave him such an order and he never said such a thing to Kane’s staff. Had anyone made such a suggestion, Thomas would have rejected it, they said.” 

Of course, Philadelphia has such a long track record of corruption—the Abscam scandal of the 1970s ensnared two Philly congressmen and three city council members—one might get the impression that state Democrats aren’t much interested in rooting out corruption. 

The best construction we can put on this is that the media blow GOP malfeasance out of proportion because, while not unheard of, it is comparatively rare. Pervasive Democratic corruption that goes to the top levels of state government is passé. In 2010, the White House even endorsed a well-known mob banker in the Illinois Senate race. The national media shrugged and effectively said, “That’s Chicago politics, what do you expect?” Even The Scrapbook’s cynicism has limits. Americans still expect to be represented by politicians who aren’t bought, and it’s time the media treated corruption as a big deal whenever and wherever they encounter it. ♦

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