Clap-trap (claptrap) of the day

I only wish the Republicans had a monopoly on corruption.

California Democratic Chair Art Torres, speaking to the new delegates to the California State Democratic Convention:

The Republican Party has a monopoly on corruption.

Gray Davis, anyone? (You remember the coin-operated governor.) Willie Brown? (Target of my favorite negative spot: “When Willie Brown got into politics, he was poor, and California was rich.”) But yes, Torres’s clap-trap bagged plenty of claps, to say nothing of yells and whistles.

Then I looked at the back of the Convention program and saw the list of sponsors: three different Indian tribes with casino interests, plus the trade association of casino-operating tribes, and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, otherwise known as the “dementors’ union,” which has fought hard and successfully to defend the criminals among its members from either administrative discipline or criminal liability when they brutalize, or even kill, prisoners.

No, I’m afraid there’s no partisan monopoly on corruption, though the Republicans have been doing their best to create one. And under the current system of campaign finance, I see no way out of the problem. As long as the libertarians continue to insist that systematized bribery and extortion constitute “free speech,” and until the voters come to understand that public financing of campaigns would be much cheaper than forcing parties and candidates to sell out in order to win elections, money will continue to talk. The “netroots” may do fine at raising money for glamorous races. But you’re never going to support the California Democratic Party with internet fundraising.

As long as Arnold Schwartzenegger was trying to get California’s prisons, and California’s prison budget, under control, the CCPOA, using the nurses and other sympathetic state employees as a front, were able to spend enough money to hammer his popularity down to near-Bushian levels. As soon as he surrendered, replaced his Corrections Commissioner with someone more to CCPOA’s liking, and proposed building another 78,000 prison beds (with running costs of about $2 billion a year), CCPOA stopped hammering him and his popularity soared.

Update Saturday afternoon the head of CCPOA makes an emotional speech denouncing the expansion of the “prison-industrial complex” and demanding that the money be spent on schools instead. No, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.

No, making policy decisions based on campaign contributions isn’t as gross as Cunningham-style corruption. But the aggregate costs are much, much higher.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: