Opinion | Politics

Steve Russell: Values make a difference even for our politicians

Democratic presidential candidate and former First Lady Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton. Photo from Facebook

Steve Russell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, looks at the role values play in America's political system:
Most of us would have our tongues hanging out at the prospect of earning $174,000 a year and the idea that each bozo in the Washington circus earns that offends our daily reality. That daily reality does not include trying to maintain two homes, in the home district and the District of Columbia. This is why you see members of Congress stacking themselves in shared quarters like most of us had to do in our twenties. This is why some send their salaries home to the family and eat by grazing at high dollar parties.

A person in that circumstance who is not wealthy has plenty of options to parlay public office into personal fortune, some grey and some black. Trading money for a vote is black. Insider stock trading by Congress and congressional staffers is still technically black, but chances of prosecution have been rendered vanishingly small.

President Obama signed a law in 2012 subjecting Congress to the same insider trading rules the rest of the world is supposed to observe. The very next year, the database that would allow enforcement was abolished. It’s illegal, but good luck catching anybody. The magical stock picking record of Congress will probably remain.

More common, there are business deals where government officials become partners on the cheap. That was the root of Bill Clinton’s Whitewater not-scandal. It was smack in that grey area. My elected judgeship is really small potatoes, but I had opportunities opened to me to participate in real estate deals far beyond my level of sophistication.

It was not illegal, but for me it did not pass the smell test. Other people’s mileage may differ. How do you think Hillary Clinton made all that money trading pork bellies?

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Steve Russell: The Power of Values (Indian Country Today 1/19

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