Why are elected officials not held to the same entry standards as other vital public servants like police officers and firefighters?
In 1791, when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, there was no justice system per se, and no concern about fraudulence, credit ratings, photo I.D., drugs, arrest records, social security cards, birth records and other behaviors that would give cause for concern for anyone holding positions of power over the populace. Times have changed, but the constitution hasn’t changed with it.
Candidates are hardly vetted for high office, nor do negative findings matter in many cases. Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana was convicted of bribery and stashing $90,000 in his home freezer in 2005, yet ran for office again and almost got reelected. Marion Barry, the Mayor of Washington D.C., went to prison for possession and use of cocaine, only to be reelected back in the city council after his release. Ohio Congressman, James Traficant served seven years in federal prison for Bribery, Fraud and Tax Evasion, yet ran for that same office again after release. He garnered over 30,000 votes. Head shaking?
We have one congressman who thinks the island of Guam will tilt to one side and capsize if the population is unevenly distributed. (Hank Johnson, D. Ga.)
1999, in a post by Capitol Hill Blue, numerous members of the house and senate were cited for being accused of numerous misdeeds, from spousal abuse, to shoplifting, drunk driving, bad credit and more.
When police officer applications are submitted, they are painstakingly scrutinized for past arrests and/or accusations of impropriety including drug and alcohol issues, credit problems, job performances, and nefarious associations i.e., communists, racists organizations, terrorists, criminals, etc. All records documenting a police applicant’s history must be submitted and examined, including college records, birth records, passports, selective service, military records, and so forth. In addition, background investigations are conducted which includes interviews with family, neighbors, business associates and past employers. Any suggestion that an applicant may be of dubious moral character results in denial.
The entrance requirements for congressional representatives have not changed since 1791. They’re not much. For a senator, it’s a minimum age of 30 years, citizen of the U.S. for nine years, and a resident of the state for which he/she runs. For a U.S. representative, it’s age 25. That’s it. Convicted felons are eligible. And if someone has a history of immoral or illegal conduct, it doesn’t matter. Not only that, many crooked politicians have wriggled back into the political world as lobbyists, for which there is little or no vetting.
Alcee Hastings was a federal judge in 1998, when he was impeached for bribery and perjury by a vote of 413-3, found guilty by the senate and removed from office. So he ran and got elected for U.S. congress and still serves Florida’s 23rd congressional district today. He could never have passed background investigations to be a simple policeman.
Standards for elected officials in the modern era should be no less than standards for police officers. Both are public servants invested with enormous powers. We deserve no less.
(This article, same title, appears on page seven in this month’s issue of Vero’s Voice Magazine, based in Vero Beach, Fl. Great magazine, take a look )