Sunday column: Corruption follows me

I’m back from the beach … a rainy weekend, but relaxing and memorable nonetheless. The following is my column that ran in Sunday’s Herald. I will post again later this afternoon.

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Corruption follows me


The North Carolina House is considering a bill that would require candidates for elected office to disclose any felony convictions they may have.
Considering recent events, this may not be such a bad idea. Though, really, the fact that you have a clean record going into office doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a clean record coming out.
I have a cynical outlook on politicians, but I feel it’s for good reason. It seems most politicians I’ve met, at least at the national level, have gone corrupt … or have at least made really dumb mistakes.
Or maybe I’m just bad luck. You decide.
My first encounter with a political giant came in 2002 when I was an editor of two weekly papers near Houston. I covered several speeches and events involving U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay. DeLay, known by Democrats and Republicans alike as the “Hammer,” was an incredibly nice guy in person, and he eventually became one of the few people outside my family to formally congratulate me after my wedding day (amazing, since I never told him I was getting married).
It wasn’t until after I left Houston that the talk of ethics violations came to being. Soon enough, DeLay was smiling in his police mug shot and his political career (for now) eventually came to a halt.
That’s one down.
I left Texas for Louisiana … which is more well-known for its political corruption. It was there I met … only briefly once in Baton Rouge … U.S. Rep. William Jefferson of New Orleans. This is the same William Jefferson who was indicted on charges of taking bribes … and hiding the money in his freezer … allegedly.
But I had a much more intimate encounter with U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
You probably recognize his name from recent headlines. And no, it wasn’t THAT intimate.
Vitter admitted recently that his phone number appeared on the list of the “D.C. Madam,” who ran a high-end call girl service in our nation’s capital, and he apologized for “his past sins.”
Now new allegations tie Vitter to a high-priced brothel in his hometown of New Orleans.
Vitter visited my newspaper in Opelousas twice during his most recent campaign. The final visit was an hourlong meeting in my office, where he went on about his conservative, moral platform.
Again, I’m sounding cynical, and I’m by no means picking on all politicians, but as you can see, they leave me little reason to not be cynical.
North Carolina seems to have its own problems. Jim Black is going to prison for taking illegal contributions and just this week, a North Carolina representative resigned due to what House leaders called a personnel complaint involving “serious, improper behavior,” but he vowed to fight the unspecified allegations.
Sounds juicy.
As you can see, these “mistakes” know no party lines, and obviously, they’re happening everywhere.
Local politicians are not immune (I’ve got tons of stories from Louisiana), but I can happily say the corruption has been limited in my first six months here.
Here’s hoping it stays that way.
And here’s hoping future lawmakers are watching and taking notes (or are at least learning how to not get caught).
o
Billy Liggett is editor of The Sanford Herald. He can be reached by e-mail at bliggett@sanfordherald.com.

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