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A Disquisition on Greed in Politics, Part 1: Diagnosing Greed in Politics

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Reporter

 

“One who is greedy stirs up strife . . .”

Solomon

 

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“The World is One Big Whorehouse”

Greed in politics. Everyone knows it’s there. A reporter’s favorite hobby is exposing a politician’s hypocritical greed. Yet, tracing the ways of greed in politics is like tracking a snake in a boulder field. Its trail is elusive, and the more you hunt it, the more it seems to hunts you. In fact, greed, like lust, seeks to daily corrupt all of our motives and actions.

The Apostle Paul zoned-in on the severity of greed, when he said that those whose lives are marked by it cannot “inherit the Kingdom of God.”  John Owen, that political firebrand of the English Parliament explained that, “[t]here is nothing that the Scripture doth more severely condemn, nor denounce more inevitable punishment unto” than greed.

When the wild man of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, spoke on greed, he held no punches: “The world is one big whorehouse, completely submerged in greed,” where the “big thieves hang the little thieves.” Jesus himself reserved his harshest words for the political rulers of his day, the Pharisees, who loved to look polished on the outside, yet “inside [were] full of greed and wickedness.”

Diagnosing or identifying greed-in-action is a daunting task. “Greed nowadays has come to be viewed as talented, smart, careful stewardship,” and this has led as well to “sin in general [being] dressed up to look like virtue and not vice.”

David Mathis, from Desiring God ministries, defines greed as “our inordinate desire, our excessive love, for wealth and possessions, for money and the things money can buy — and even for self-esteem, security, status, and power.”

While the accumulation or possession of material wealth, power, and prestige are never condemned in Scripture, what is condemned is obsession with them, and willingness to violate the rights of others to get more.  Rev. Jeph Guinan of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church explains that, “greed is never satisfied and always afraid.  The one thing the person with lots of money and power wants is more money and power. And, the one thing the person with lots of money and power is afraid of is, losing their money and power. They will do anything to anyone to avoid such loss. Those in power will manipulate the system to any end in order to maintain AND GROW their power and financial status.”

 

Greed in Politics is No Surprise

It comes as no surprise then, that greed is present in politics. Because greed, in varying degrees, is present in every person’s heart, and must there be personally combatted, the most difficult question of government is thus how to restrain greed in politics. To this end, the founders of our peculiar American government proposed a Constitution that, if adhered to, would present the most effective vehicle, conceived by man, to restrain greed in politics.

George Washington, skeptical that the Constitution could do just that, restrain greed in politics, lamented that if the American people “would not do what the Constitution called on them to do, the government would be at an end, and must then assume another form.” What would lead a political leader to fail to do what the Constitution called on them to do? What would lead them to violate the bounds of the Constitution, set in party by the 10th Amendment, to gain more power, money, or prestige?

In short, the answers is greed.

 

Four Principles of Greed Politics

In the 1840’s U.S. Senator Calhoun observed realities in government that are still true today:

“I have no doubt from what I daily see that our whole system is rapidly becoming a mere money-making concern to those who have the control of it.” And that “every feeling of patriotism is rapidly sinking into a universal spirit of [greed].”

Calhoun went on to observe that both parties are fundamentally at odds, not over social issues of justice, mercy, and equity, but over control of the government’s tax revenue:

“The Federal Government is no longer under the control of the people, but of a combination of active politicians who are banded together under the name of Democrats or Whigs. And whose exclusive object is to obtain the control of the honors and emoluments of the government. They have the control of the almost entire press of the country and constitute of vast majority of Congress and of all the functionaries of the Federal Government. With them a regard for principle or this or that line of policy is a mere pretext. They’re perfectly indifferent to either and their whole effort is to make up on both sides such issues as they may think for the time the most popular, regardless of truth or consequences.”

Let’s pause to highlight several of Calhoun’s observations. As far back as 1845, one of America’s greatest political minds[1] observed four principles of greed in politics that are still true today:

  • Interests of greed, “business interests,” have hijacked the whole political system;
  • The labels of the two dominant parties (Democrat and Republican, today) are really just manipulative mantles worn by this band of “active politicians” who are voraciously seeking benefit and control of the tax revenue;
  • This cohort of greedy “active politicians” are so powerful as to control most of the Government and the media; and
  • Most importantly, this cohort of greedy snakes manipulates the populous with social issues, in order to gain favor and stay in power.

These four observations of greed in politics are just as true today as they were in 1845.

 

“The Most Dangerous Power Known To Man”

Rep. David Crocket observed in the 1830’s that “the power of collecting and distributing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power known to man.”  Crocket was notable in resisting the urge of the Federal Government to dispense with tax revenue in a manner that surpassed those powers delegated to them by the States – no matter how virtuous the cause may present.

The allure of controlling ill-gotten tax revenue of government was exponentially magnified with the facade-passing of the 16th Amendment in 1913 (not to mention its surreptitious implementation) and the shadowy Federal Reserve the same year.  1913 was the culmination of four generations of work by the Greed Party; 1913 was the year that these “active politicians” could avail themselves of virtually unlimited money and power from the “whole system,” driving it deeper into a “mere money-making concern.”

 

The Puppet Show

This essay began with a quote from an ancient Middle-Eastern ruler, Solomon, “A greedy man stirs up strife.” What Calhoun and others have observed is that the conflict between the two-party system, the Republicans and the Democrats, is a farce – a puppet show. The Greed Party “stirs up strife,” in order to gain the advantage of the tax revenue. 

Certainly there are a few people in positions of power within the Republican Party who genuinely care about “x, y, z” issue; and certainly there are a few people in power within the Democratic Party who genuinely care about “a, b, c” issue.  However, the far more powerful force behind both parties is the same: the Greed Party.  The Greed Party pulls the social-issue strings of both parties like a puppet master.

The great trap of the Greed Party is that whatever noble goal is attained by a Republican politician or a Democratic politician, only serves to fuel the Greed Party’s cupidity. Many politicos have theorized that the Republican Party’s “Conservative” brand – including the pro-life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty platform – was created by the Greed Party in order to garner enough votes to gain control of the tax revenue. The same criticism can be levied against the Democratic Party’s “Progressive” brand – including criminal justice reform, drug-policy reform, and civil rights initiatives.

What must emerge is a solution, not within the system, but without the system.  A third party must emerge whose strings are not pulled by the Greed Party. A third party must emerge whose fight for political good is not directed at opposition to the Republicans or to the Democrats, but rather directly at the serpentine Greed Party itself.

 

For the Noble of Heart in Politics

Scottish preacher, John Knox, observed that “You are working against your king just as much if you allow him to be a tyrant as if you oppose him.” For the noble of heart in politics, for those not ensnared in the trappings of the Greed Party, for those to whom it is not too late, I challenge you to consider this – Do you want you blood, sweat, and tears to be played like a puppet master for the fulfillment of the Greed Party’s own selfish ambitions?  Is your work within the two-party system allowing your government to continue to be a tyrant?

The maxim that “A greedy man stirs up strife” is only half the proverb. The second half presents the stark contrast for us to consider today, “the one who trusts in Jehovah will be enriched.”  True riches do not come from creating strife and profiting from it. True riches come from the peace of apply Jehovah’s wisdom.

 

In Parts II and III we plan to examples of greed in Alabama politics, and potential solutions.

[1] I say this with complete repudiation of his grotesque promotion of the American slave trade.  I lament that he did not equally spend his intellect on eradication of this enterprise. There are no more heroes, but Christ. To quote any man, is to risk “guilt by association.” I hope the reader will be generation with that judgment here.

 

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Opinion | The fight against public corruption isn’t lost yet

Josh Moon

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This will likely not surprise you: I get a lot of correspondence.

Emails. Twitter direct messages. Facebook messages. Text messages.

Every day. All day long. They come rolling in, usually from someone who disagrees with something I’ve written or has taken issue with something I said on TV or who wants to say something bad about my mama.

At this point, there’s very little contained in a letter or message to me that would surprise me.

Or, at least, that’s what I thought until the last couple of weeks.

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When the Matt Hart letters started rolling in.

If you don’t know by now, Hart is the recently fired head of the Alabama Attorney General’s special prosecutions office — the team that prosecutes political corruption. If that seems like it should be a relatively obscure position, well, it should.

Except for a couple of things: 1. We have a ton of political corruption in Alabama, and 2. Hart went after all of the crooks, regardless of party or political influence.

For those reasons, I guess, people in this state paid attention to the guy who was doing the prosecuting. And right now, I feel safe in saying that no one topic has prompted more messages than Hart’s firing by AG Steve Marshall a couple of weeks ago.

Those messages generally fall into two categories: 1. “I’m mad as hell!,” or 2. “What are we gonna do now?”

If you’ve written me one of these letters and not received a reply, consider this your answer.

I get it, and I don’t know.

The fact is Hart’s ouster, which comes a year after his top deputy — AG candidate Alice Martin — also resigned, is a significant blow.

Hart and Martin are a sort of white-collar-crime-fighting duo, beginning with their days in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Alabama. As al.com’s Kyle Whitmire pointed out recently, prosecutions of political corruption spiked in that office while Hart and Martin were on the job.

Then those prosecutions spiked at the AG’s office when Hart landed there.

At the federal level, Hart was chasing primarily Democrats. At the state level, after the GOP takeover, it was Republicans.

Because corruption doesn’t vote straight ticket, even if you do.

But now, we’re in trouble.

Taking Hart’s spot is a prosecutor who has never tried a public corruption case and who has spent her life in and around state politics and defense attorneys. Maybe Clark Morris will be a fantastic prosecutor and turn this state upside down rooting out public corruption — I truly hope that’s the case and I’ll be happy to write about it if so — but I have my doubts that she’ll be half as dogged as Hart has been.

And so, I guess that leaves the business of exposing and stopping public corruption to just one person: You.

That’s right, you. And me. And all of the good people who live in this state who are sick of crooks and political welfare and good ol’ boys and smoky back rooms and brother-in-law deals and pay-to-play scams.

You all care about this stuff. I have your letters to prove it.

So, it’s time to take some action. To pay attention to what’s going on. To show up at board meetings and council work sessions and county commission meetings and state legislature committee hearings. It’s time to start asking questions and making phone calls and writing letters.

If you need help, I guarantee you that we at APR will help all we can. And I’m certain other media outlets will help, too. Whether it be with making sure you know when and where to go for meetings or helping expose the corruption or illegal behavior you find.

Our system of government was set up from top to bottom to represent everyday people, and it is designed — in most cases by law — to give the people it represents a voice.

Look, I know you’re busy. I know you have lives and jobs and kids and the dog isn’t going to drive itself to the vet, but this is important too. In fact, it might be the most important thing, because it literally encompasses almost all of your life — from the taxes and fees and costs you pay every day to the quality of your kids’ schools to the success of the company you work for to the 401k you’re relying on.

It matters.

And it’s up to you to make sure the crooks don’t win.

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Opinion | The Hoover situation gets stranger every day

Josh Moon

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What’s happening in Hoover makes no sense.

Every day, there’s another report that’s stranger than the last report. Every day, someone says something that they have to almost immediately correct. Every day, there is some action taken by city leaders or Alabama Law Enforcement Agency officials that makes it seem as though they actually want bigger and more frequent protests.

We’re now two full weeks past the shooting of E.J. Bradford in the Galleria.

For those who need a quick recap: Bradford was in the mall when a fight broke out and shots were fired, striking two people. There are conflicting reports saying he might/might not have been friends with one of the participants in the fight, but regardless, no one now believes that he was involved. When the shooting started, Bradford apparently headed for the door and was helping others, while at the same time carrying his firearm, which was legally purchased according to his family’s attorney. An on-duty Hoover police officer mistook him for the shooter and shot Bradford. According to a private autopsy paid for by his family’s attorneys, Bradford was shot three times in the back.

It’s a truly awful situation. That has been handled in the most awful way possible.

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Initial press releases from Hoover labeled Bradford, although not by name, as the shooter. When that was obviously wrong, the city decided to say he was involved in the altercation that led to the shooting. That, too, was wrong, so a third swing at it just made him out to be a crazy person waving a gun around — which also had to later be corrected.

As you might imagine, Bradford’s family and the local black community — sensing a city coverup of a white cop shooting an innocent black man — were pretty angry about all of that.

And things haven’t improved much.

City and police officials eventually went to the Bradford family to apologize. But promises to be more open with the investigation and share video from that night have fallen flat. Mostly because ALEA has stood in the way, claiming the release of any info would hurt the ongoing investigation.

And so, now Hoover has a roving band of protesters that shows up at random places, blocking traffic, stopping businesses from operating and generally causing havoc throughout the city. Because they want answers about what happened that night.

And you know what? That’s perfectly reasonable.

At this point, we should have some answers. No, not a completed investigation, and nothing that would jeopardize the overall investigation, but something.

Like that video.

Why can’t the video be made public? Hoover city officials certainly wanted to show it, before ALEA stepped in. It didn’t jeopardize the investigation to allow literally dozens of people, including the attorneys for the Bradford family — al.com reported on Thursday evening — to watch that video.

So, why can’t everyone else watch the thing and see what happened?

It’s a video. Watching it won’t change it. Nor will it change the other facts and other evidence.

Because the silence here isn’t helping. The protests are growing larger and they’re getting more hostile. There’s a serious threat of protests at schools now, which will really elevate the anger.

And things are going to continue to trend ugly. Because the facts in front of the protesters are very ugly.

They know video exists. They know Bradford was shot in the back three times. They know Bradford was wrongly accused by the city and PD after he was dead. And they know there’s been enough time and enough evidence for police to ID the real shooter, find him in Georgia and bring him back.

That’s a lot of one-sided info.

There’s no reason for this to continue on without any answers for the family and community.

That it does is truly mind boggling.

 

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Opinion | Protest is an American right, deserves respect

Joey Kennedy

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Overkill is probably a bad word to use in this context, but it’s accurate. Law enforcement is out in huge numbers to quell protests that continue in Hoover in the wake of the literal overkilling of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford Jr. on Thanksgiving night.

The resources being used to divert or “contain” the generally small and loud-but-peaceful demonstrations appear to far outweigh any danger posed by them.

That’s exactly what’s expected, though. I grew up during the Vietnam War protest era, and law enforcement often overreacted to legitimate demonstrations then. They always have, it seems: Labor strikes in the early 20th century, during the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights movement, among others.

As more information is learned about the shooting, the worse it looks for the Hoover Police Department. At first, Hoover PD said Bradford was the man who shot and wounded an 18-year-old at the Riverchase Galleria that night. (A 12-year-old girl was also wounded, but for some reason, gets very little attention now.) Hoover PD quickly backed off its original story, admitting Bradford was unlikely to be the man who fired the shots that night. Various reports claim Bradford had a gun, but his family says he had a carry permit, though one isn’t required to tote a weapon in Alabama, an open-carry state.

Another man was arrested in Georgia for the Galleria shooting.

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Little else has come from Hoover officials about the tragedy, despite a vow to be transparent during the inquiry. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is conducting the investigation, and requested Hoover not release any evidence because it might jeopardize the work.

The only thing being jeopardized by the silence is the truth.

From an autopsy commissioned by Bradford’s family and released this week, it appears the 21-year-old was shot three times from behind by a Hoover police officer while Bradford was moving away from the scene — as were many people in the Riverchase Galleria that evening after the initial shots were fired.

Again, various reports claim Hoover PD denied Bradford treatment after he was mortally wounded. Some witnesses claim Bradford was helping other people escape the scene. Others say they didn’t see Bradford with a gun, while yet others say he was holding a gun. Police originally said Bradford was “brandishing” a gun, but they’ve backed off of that claim, too.

Witness accounts of crime scenes are often contradictory and confused. But with Hoover PD, ALEA, and other officials deciding not to be open with facts, that’s all we’re left with.

And sadly, that increases racial and other tensions in Jefferson County’s second-largest city.

Some social media comments have been outright racist and ugly, which is not unexpected, either. This is Alabama, after all, and Hoover, a white-flight city, is overwhelmingly majority white. Bradford was a black man, and the protests, while racially mixed, are led by African-Americans.

Underscore, though, that the protests have been peaceful. Yes, there’s hollering and chants, but no threats of violence. Meanwhile, police, including Alabama State Troopers, at one point blocked all the exits to the Interstate in Hoover to keep protesters contained.

We are allowed to peacefully protest in this country. That’s a constitutional right. Police and Hoover city officials – and Hoover residents and business owners — must respect that. They may not like the spotlight blinding them right now, but that spotlight is in large part of Hoover PD’s own making by rushing to judgment on the killing of a young black man, then shutting down information as they continued to change their story.

We’ve seen police overreact in violent incidents against young black men all over the nation for years. When they do, police departments often respond by refusing to release information that could clear up disturbing but valid questions.

As has been shown multiple times, that creates doubt and confusion, and does real damage to a police department’s reputation in the community it is supposed to protect.

E.J. Bradford certainly was not protected by Hoover police Thanksgiving night.

All anybody wants to know is the truth, but don’t blame Bradford’s family and others for wondering whether the truth is being manipulated when officials refuse to release information now, but were so certain Bradford was the man doing the shooting in the beginning.

The other sad fact this highlights is this nation’s dangerous gun culture. There are very real and lethal consequences with laws that allow open carry. When an event does occur, who are the police supposed to be looking for? The shooter may be there, but so maybe are many others with guns strapped to their waists or held in their hands.

Even so, that’s no excuse for a police officer, supposedly trained for high-stress, treacherous situations, to shoot a suspect three times from behind without being certain he is a threat to police or others. Merely having a gun in an open-carry, gun-loving state shouldn’t qualify.

The questions will continue, and the longer it takes to answer them, the less credibility an investigation will have.

Yes, we need to see what the overall inquiry reveals and what can be done to prevent a future repeat, but showing key video and evidence about Bradford’s role now, if he had any role at all, won’t jeopardize anything if the investigation is legitimate.

After all, Thanksgiving was two weeks ago. It took Hoover PD hardly any time to publicly brand E.J. Bradford the Galleria shooter or that it was a “hero” cop who took him down.

We may not have a lot of the facts, but we know today, for a fact, that story is not true.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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Bill Britt

Opinion | Public corruption unpunished, public left in the dark

Bill Britt

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Two former state public officials appear to be receiving extraordinary leniency, and the public should demand to know why.

In one case, former Sumter County Sheriff Tyrone Clark pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges including ethics violations and drug charges. However, District Attorney Greg Griggers who oversaw the investigation announced after Clark’s plea that he didn’t want to see the former sheriff go to prison. “It was never my goal to send Tyrone Clark to prison,” said Griggers.

Grant Culliver, a former top official at the Alabama Department of Corrections, is being allowed to retire after an investigation into allegations of misconduct. The Alabama Ethics Commission, the Department of Corrections and the Attorney General’s Office refuses to acknowledge publicly what the inquiry uncovered.

In both instances, the public is being denied a full accounting of why these high-ranking government employees are being shown preferential treatment. It is also becoming evident that there is no appetite to punish office holders or hold them publicly accountable for misconduct.

These two cases are just a small sampling of how public officials are being given a pass under Attorney General Steve Marshall.

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Marshall has no real interest in prosecuting public corruption which is evident by his firing of Chief Prosecutor Matt Hart.

It is estimated that nearly two dozen public corruption investigations are languishing after Hart’s firing. Perhaps more egregiously, Marshall, according to several well-placed sources still inside the AG’s office, has denied subpoenas, withheld vital documents and generally hampered investigations that involve state lawmakers and business leaders.

More troubling, Marshall is not only compromised by his debt to his political donors but also by those in his office that have critical knowledge about his personal conduct.

As one source close to Marshall explained, “Steve is a dark character with a lot to hide.”

Under former attorneys general, Clark and Culliver would have been treated like any other individual accused of misconduct, but Marshall is side-stepping both cases.

It is entirely within the attorney general’s authority to take control of Clark’s case, as well as revealing Culliver investigations, but Marshall is doing neither.

Culliver, who served as associate commissioner for operations at the Department of Corrections, is being allowed to quietly retire without the public ever knowing what the investigation uncovered.

Clark confessed to numerous crimes including two counts of unlawful employment of county inmates, three counts of ethics violations for using his office for personal gain, one first-degree count of promoting prison contraband, another second-degree count of promoting prison contraband and a count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

The county DA wants him to walk free.

Former Sumter County sheriff pleads guilty to criminal ethics, drug charges

Marshall, with his appointment by disgraced Gov. Robert Bentley and his subsequent election, has ushered in an era where public officials are free to do as they please without fear of prosecution as long as it is in Marshall or his handler’s interest.

Marshall also serves as co-chair of the Ethics Reform and Clarification Commission which is rewriting the State’s Ethics Act to ensure that convicted felon former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is the last high-ranking political figure ever to be punished by the once championed “toughest in the nations” ethics laws.

Both Clark and Culliver were paid with state tax-dollars and should be accountable to the citizens of our state. Clark’s crimes are clear and he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law because, not only did he break the law, he violated public trust.

Culliver, it appears, did something to warrant a forced retirement. He, too, was paid by tax-payers who have a right to know what he did.

The public should demand more, Gov. Kay Ivey should intervene, but for now, there is little hope for equal justice under the law as dispensed by the likes of Marshall.

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A Disquisition on Greed in Politics, Part 1: Diagnosing Greed in Politics

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 8 min
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