How many more Mr. Smiths will it take?

| Forum Editor

If you haven’t heard the news yet, promising state senator and Wash. U. professor Jeff Smith pled guilty to charges presented by the FBI regarding illegal campaign practices in 2004. This is yet another case of corruption in politics, and those words are becoming interchangeable. However, as Eve Samborn rails the ex-professor for his heinous crimes, one must decide whether it is the politicians who must be questioned or the whole system that is run by, of and for the crooked politicians.

As a native of Detroit, I am no stranger to corruption. Countless scandals of police commissioners, City Council members and even Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick have plagued the Motor City for years. As a mayor, Kilpatrick had improved much of Detroit’s decaying downtown and brought back suburban customers. However, due to “misallocation of funds” and an affair, Kilpatrick went down and brought disgrace upon Detroit. After his incarceration, thousands of citizens didn’t hold back to point fingers and called all politicians horrible names. Yet, if citizens were really so interested in preventing fraud and crooked dealings, they should have been active members in legislative meetings, like town hall meetings and city council meetings where citizens can keep an eye on numbers and statistics that don’t seem correct.

The lessons we learn from the downfall of politicians can go both ways: You might get caught if you mess up, but you can also figure more ways to get through loopholes. More importantly, kids must be instructed that voting isn’t the only method of civic participation. Politicians in local, state and national governments get away with most of their crimes because most constituents are disinterested to pay attention to information that’s available. If more people just questioned their politicians before any fraud or crimes, then whole communities would not be harmed by corrupt politicians.

To succeed in politics, one must definitely engage in some high-browed activity and questionable actions. Most famous politicians get to where they are by following the money. Senators and high government officials know mere popularity will not take them far enough, and this is the concept that must be changed. Somehow, the “moneyed” people seem to replace each other in governmental positions, leaving the common constituent behind. Capitalism is the best system for a healthy, growing population; however, the bureaucracy intertwined with politics prevents the system from working for the people. It becomes necessary, then, for people to become involved in the legislative process.

Take, for example, Washington University as a self-governing body. Students and faculty participate in meetings and councils where we get to know what is going on, and we get to see how our money is being used by the school. Even Student Life consistently prods students to be more aware of the decisions made by the University. Essentially, we have an understanding that the University is functioning as expected.

If the constituents could change the system so that people win with their merits and legislative record instead of how much money they could raise for their campaign, then countless crooked politicians would be deferred from taking control. To do that, we must strictly limit the amount of money and resources that can be raised for campaigns so that money that could have been given to charity does not go to support corrupt politicians’ selfish purposes.

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