It knows no party lines.
by Kolby LaMarche
On April 1, 2015, the United States Department of Justice, under the supervision of Loretta Lynch, brought indictments against New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez in the case of United States v. Menendez.
Accused of bribery, fraud, and making false statements, Menendez held an incriminating relationship with an ophthalmologist from Florida named Salomon Melgen. Menendez was alleged to have aided Melgen in obtaining visas for his many girlfriends and in return was granted access to a private jet, a hotel in Paris, $750k in political donations, and much more.
Though, Menendez would never be held to account. On November 16, 2017, a district court judge would render a mistrial.
On Friday, Menendez was once again indicted on similar charges: Conspiracy to commit bribery, Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Fraud, and Conspiracy to Commit Extortion Under Color of Official Right.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York accuses Menendez of aiding the government of Egypt, using his influence as a prominent senator to shift the levers of government.
During a raid on the senator’s home, the FBI discovered an approximate sum of $500,000 in cash along with over $100,000 in gold during a raid at Menendez’s residence last year, purportedly as compensation for the bribes.
According to the indictment, Menendez established Strategic International Business Consultants, LLC, as a conduit for channelling proceeds from his bribery activities.
I want you to think back to earlier this year when a fuss began about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s relationship with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow.
For more than two decades, Thomas has accepted luxury trips virtually every year from the Dallas businessman without disclosing them, documents and interviews show. A public servant who has a salary of $285,000, he has vacationed on Crow’s superyacht around the globe. He flies on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet.
Both incidents of misconduct are distasteful, but I argue that it is something Americans are, unfortunately, well accustomed to.
While the media may sensationalise the spectacles of poor conduct – from Trump’s Russia, Russia, Russia or his recent indictments, to Justice Thomas, or Senator Menendez – it isn’t as if the American people held a high regard for government to begin with. There isn’t much these scandals will do in the way of damaging confidence in government. It is already grim.
It should be clear now – if it wasn’t already – that corruption isn’t just a hallmark of the Republican Party, as some Democrats might claim. In fact, corruption and delinquency stretch from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Americans must advocate for serious ethics reform and term limits across all U.S. institutions. Well-established politicians have become entrenched in their positions, resulting in an unhealthy concentration of power amongst those with wrinkly skin and thick bank accounts.
And like it or not, corruption and distrust in government fuels the rise of figures like Trump, who exploit the populist and outsider narratives to capitalize on the real anxieties of Americans. When people see ethical lapses in politics, they become disillusioned, making them receptive to charismatic outsiders promising change.
We have to break free from the tolerance we have built up toward the transgressions of those in government and honestly examine whose name we check off on our ballot paper. Lest we continue to live in an inefficient democracy.
Burning Sky is dedicated to providing critique and commentary on the issues of the day from an unapologetic perspective, fueling change in the heart of Vermont. Authored by Kolby LaMarche every Saturday.