Government corruption in the United States is hundreds of times more pervasive and costly than in Afghanistan. Every day American newspapers recount the scandals. One day it involves U.S. Customs officials, the next day it is the Secret Service, then the General Services Administration, then the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. Every month there are new scandals involving foreign aid and other funds administered by the U.S. Department of State, the latest involved the waste of billions of dollars in “global warming” funds squandered by Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones and her predecessor, Claudia A. McMurray. Despite the State Department being perhaps worst administered agency in the Federal Government, no one dares utter even a whisper of criticism at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, so the corruption continues.
While billions of dollars in domestic spending and foreign aid are misappropriated, corruptly awarded and mismanaged each year, that corruption is easier to conceal, because the U.S. is a wealthy country with many distractions. Despite the publicity, few members of the public seem able to grasp the size and scope of the cancer of corruption and nepotism that is eating away at the country.
Internationally, government corruption is ranked under a flawed system established by such groups as “Transparency International.” They rank corruption in countries like Afghanistan and the United States based on subjective “perceptions” of corruption. Because the rankings are not based on the actual volume of corruption, this system unfairly maligns developing countries. If the system were based on the dollar amount of corruption, it would list many Western, Arab and Far East nations as the most corrupt.
Supposedly non-profit groups such as Transparency International are anything but transparent. Its co-founder, Michael Hershman, is a former official with USAID and he is also the chairman of the Fairfax Group. Fairfax makes it profits from the corruption that Transparency International “discovers.” Fairfax holds itself out as an expert consultant on foreign government corruption and as a result it has been awarded numerous U.S. government anti-corruption contracts. Transparency International’s U.S. Board of Directors and Advisory Council is filled with former government officials, lawyers for major Washington, D.C. law firms, government consultants and other representatives of organizations affiliated with the U.S. Department of State. Many of these people make money from or advance their careers by pointing the corruption finger overseas, rather than where it belongs, which is at the Federal, State and local governments in the United States.
In the United States, the systemic government corruption is not limited to the loss of public funds and cronyism, but extends to a wide range of dishonest and illegal practices which shield those with political connections. American is literally a land of two peoples; those to whom the law applies and those who are above the law. The problem is too large for a single article to examine, so just one of America’s 50 states (Massachusetts) was chosen for this article and even for that state, there is only space to summarize a tiny percentage of its public corruption.
Timothy Murray Scandal:
The current state government in Massachusetts is called the Patrick/Murray Administration after Governor Duval Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. On November 2, 2011, at 5:26 a.m. Murray was driving his State-owned Crown Victoria automobile in Sterling, Massachusetts, when he crashed the vehicle, completely destroying it. Murray told the police that he was driving at the legal speed limit of 55 miles per hour and lost control of the vehicle. He claimed to be on official business inspecting (in the dark) storm damage in the area. The police determined that he was driving at 108 miles per hour and fell asleep at the wheel. Every statement made to police by Murray was false. Despite that and Murray’s lack of remorse, local prosecutors refused to prosecute him for his false statements or for reckless endangerment. As a reward, Governor Patrick gave Murray a new $40,000.00 State automobile to replace the one he destroyed. Murray had previously been cited in 1992 and 2006 for speeding. Attempts by the Boston Herald to further investigate this scandal have been blocked by lawyers in the Governor’s Office, including E. Abim Thomas, who claims that the records are exempt from public release.
Chelsea Housing Authority Scandal:
Massachusetts has 242 public housing authorities and some of the top jobs within these agencies have historically been patronage appointments, a system prone to abuse. For most of the past year, the Chelsea (Boston) Housing has been rocked by sandals. On June 15th of this year investigators questioned Lieutenant Governor Murray about allegations that Chelsea officials were illegally fundraising for him. Murray has refused to brief the people of Massachusetts regarding any of these allegations. Since then there have been no public updates. The concern is that this criminal investigation, like so many others, has been quietly dropped.
On August 6, 2012, the Boston Globe reported that there were only two bidders on a $1 billion State MBTA transportation contract. Initially, 25 companies expressed an interest in bidding but except for the favored contractors (Mass Bay) and a little known French company, all the rest of the bidders ultimately declined to bid. The reason that 23 companies withdrew from the process is that there is a wide-spread belief that State officials had rigged the bidding in favor of Mass Bay. Governor Patrick has done nothing to dispel this apparently accurate assessment. Due to the lack of competition and in order to try and restore public confidence, Governor Patrick should withdraw bidding authority from MBTA General Manager Jonathan R. Davis, assign the bid evaluation to an independent panel and order that panel to rebid the work. This of course will never happen because the Governor seems quite content with the present corruption.
Deerfield River Levee Scandal:
In the Fall of 2011, a group of wealthy agri-businesses in Deerfield, Massachusetts created several kilometers of sand levees along the Deerfield River in an attempt to prevent future flooding of their low-lying farm fields. The 10-15 foot levees, in some places push into tree-lines and right up to the river’s edge. The legal issue is that State law prohibits any construction work within 200 feet of a river without a permit, which the farmers failed to apply for. The Massachusetts River Protection Act is very clear and it mandates that the levees be removed. According to informed sources, inspectors for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommended in 2011 that enforcement action be commenced against the violators. A letter was sent on December 15, 2011 to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley from Cynthia M. Pepyne of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office requesting a State review of these potential environmental violations. To-date however nothing has happened. The reason is that the agri-businesses involved have close political ties to the Patrick-Murray Administration and party loyalty matters more to these State officials than the environment or the law. It is not clear who within Ms. Coakley’s office or the DEP quashed the enforcement action. The case is presently sitting on the desk of Brian Harrington, Assistant Administrator for DEP’s Western Region. It has been sidelined with the support of DEP attorney Kathleen Delaplain, but the real decision authorities may have been DEP Director Kenneth L. Kimmell and Western Regional Administrator Michael Gorski. In contacts with these officials, they claim that the enforcement action is still under “active consideration” but it is impossible to obtain the truth from any of these individuals.
Department of Revenue Scandal:
An investigation in early 2012 revealed that the Massachusetts Department of Revenue has a new tactic that it is using against the poor. It is called the “desk audit.” For wealthy and corporate taxpayers, the Department will conduct field audits in which revenue agents travel to the home or place of business of the wealthy to review the taxpayer’s records. However, for indigent taxpayers, the Department misuses a device called the desk audit and it orders the taxpayer to copy all of his or her records for one or multiple years and mail all of them to the desk auditor. If the taxpayer cannot afford to do this, the Department labels them as “refusing to comply with the law” and rejects all their deductions, imposing large penalties on them. If the indigent taxpayer tries to appeal this unjust assessment, he or she is hit with the one-two punch by the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board (ATB). The ATB has ignored rulings from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and decided that it will not waive filing fees for the poor. As a result of this misconduct, some indigent taxpayers are barred from appealing State abuses. Even if the indigent could somehow obtain the required filing fees, the ATB requires that all hearings be held in Boston, a long trip for the elderly and in some cases an impossible trip for the poor. The ATB refuses to travel around the State in order to hear cases locally, however, the ATB will travel the circuit for wealthy parties who are contesting property tax assessments. It will hold court for property tax cases for the rich in such upscale western towns as Northampton, but it will not accommodate the poor by holding income tax hearings in Springfield or Greenfield. One of these indigent taxpayer cases is currently being prosecuted by Department of Revenue attorney John DeLosa. Commissioner of Revenue Amy Pitter and ATB Chairman Thomas W. Hammond, Jr. apparently are quite comfortable with these abuses, as they have done nothing to correct them.
USDA - Massachusetts Scandal:
There is an investigation currently underway by U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and the FBI into the corrupt awarding of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Bill funds in Massachusetts. The case has been briefed to top officials in Tom Vilsack’s office. Mr. Vilsack is the Secretary of Agriculture for the United States. The evidence is that USDA officials in Massachusetts have been awarding grants primarily to friends, family members and to a small group of wealthy farmers with close ties to the Patrick/Murray Administration. The grants are under two programs called the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and the Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP). The public has not heard about this case and it will not be hearing about this case for a while because, unfortunately, the U.S. Attorney’s investigation appears to be on hold until after the November election, so as not to embarrass President Obama.
Corruption at the Federal, State and local levels within the United States varies from agency to agency, from State to State and from town to town. Overall, the sheer magnitude of abuses outstrips anything present in Afghanistan. The American metrics far outpace Afghanistan on the dollar number of funds misappropriated, number of instances of corruption and number of people and companies who are immune from and above the law. This is not to condone the level of corruption within Afghanistan, which is believed to be considerable and unacceptable.
Hypocracy has always been a staple of international diplomacy and therefore Afghanistan will have to live with the condescending arrogance of American diplomats who see corruption everywhere but in their own back yard.