Elliott Broidy’s admission of guilt in the unfolding public employee pension fund scandal opens a window into the depth and nature of political corruption in Los Angeles, California and beyond.
This isn’t any simple old-fashioned quid pro quo, pay-to-play, bribery type of corruption — though all those things go on as the guilty pleas New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has rung out of high-flying capitalists like Broidy and fixers like Hank Morris show.
This is a pernicious form of corruption, the kind where one hand strokes another in vast circles of greedy jerks who have lost all semblance of ethics and common decency while keeping their social respectability with the flattery of the well-greased palms of politicians and the selective blindness of civic and business leaders.
It is a cancer that is eating at the heart of our city, state and nation.
It is why we wind up in wars that make no sense, why Wall Street and bankers can get rich destroying our economy, why our pension funds invest our money in ways that eliminate our jobs, why we’d rather talk about abortion than fix our health care system, why we pontificate about global warming and go on destroying our neighborhoods, why our city and state teeter on the brink of bankruptcy and our problems go unsolved.
When reputable people like Elliott Broidy – a man honored by Presidents and mayors, foreign dignitaries and religious leaders — can engage in systematic bribery to enrich themselves at the public expense, we are seeing corruption in the first degree.
His is not an isolated case. Others already have pleaded guilty and the noose of local, state and federal investigations is tightening around many others.
Many others besides those guilty of actual criminal conduct were complicit in the pension fund scandal by peddling their influence, providing the access, having knowledge of what was going on, yet standing by silently. Are they, too, not corrupt, at least in the second degree?
It shouldn’t be a mystery why the pension fund scandal is limited to public employee funds and not private sector funds.
There is no accountability in the pubic sector. If public employee funds are looted or fortunes lost in investments, taxpayers are on the hook to make them good. In LA alone, taxpayers soon will be paying 70 to 80 cents into the Fire and Police Pension Fund — the fund on which Broidy was a board member for six years — for every dollar of payroll for firefighters and cops.
Taxpayer money is like play dough to the insiders and politically-connected people like Broidy who serve on the boards overseeing public employee pension funds.
What we are learning about what has gone on in public pension funds is
no different than what goes on throughout government at all levels –
appointments, development projects, legislative favors, contracts of
all types are for sale through a similar system of inter-connected
relationships greased by campaign contributions, fees, payoffs of one
sort or another.
We have lost even the pretense of democracy as
our institutions and technologies of political discourse have been
taken over by schemers and manipulators.
To one degree or another, we all bear responsibility for the state of our nation. No one is exempt, not those infected
with apathy, ignorance, cynicism or any other defense mechanism. Nor
are those of us exempt who howl in the wind at injustice and pat ourselves
on the back for our piety while achieving little or nothing.
These are the sins of ordinary people. They are nothing compared to
what is going on in high places where people with money and influence
like Broidy commit crimes or look the other way as if that
insulates them from the wrongdoing going on around them.
It is the counterpart to the six degrees of separation — the six
degrees of corruption that connect us all up to one extent or another
as both the cause and effect of our woes.
will go on like this with our heads in the clouds pretending all is
well, taking our share of the spoils until one day the bills come due
and then we will point our fingers and look for somebody to blame as if
we didn’t know what was going on.