The Corruption ConvictionAs most people know by now, the City corruption trial saw verdicts delivered today, and for former City Treasurer Corey Kemp, it was guilty on something like twenty counts of corruption. Ouch. Commerce Bank officials, including their PA president, were also convicted, while Ron White's "paramour" was convicted of perjury.
See all about the conviction here.
Unfortunately, the saga will still go on. First, because the jury deadlocked on a bunch of counts, the judge has to decide whether to send them back to continue those deliberations, or whether to declare a mistrial, where we could get a whole new trial on these charges specifically. And, of course, Kemp and others will clearly be appealing.
Some people yell that what Kemp and others did was reprehensible. Others have contended this is simply the US Attorney going after business-as-usual in Philly. Well you know what? They are both right. This was awful, and I strongly believe this was generally business-as-usual, or a simple escalation of it at the very least. So, while Kemp should serve time, the city government should be served notice: the pay to play culture is simply unacceptable.
What can we do? Well, an obvious first step is Michael Nutter's ethics bill. (See stopplaytoplay.info to sign a petition for the bill.) But, clearly, that watered down ethics bill is only a first step. It strikes me that if we really want to end much of the corruption that is in the City government, we have to get money out of the political process. It may be pie-in-the-sky to demand that Presidential elections are publicly funded, with strict limits. But what about municipal ones?
Why don't we publicly fund our elections? Once and for all, get money out the process in Philly?
I will put it like this, as the power of this blog grows along with others, as the power of alternate progressive power structures build, I think we need to figure out how to make this a signature issue. It could be simple- raise 50,000 or something, and get 1 million dollars in public funds, or something like that. But only if you agree not to spend a penny more.
I went this afternoon to a GOTV rally on my lunch hour. Speaking were an impressive cadre of people in Philly driving for change- from Joe Hoeffel to Beth McConnell of PennPIRG, to Brett Mandel of Philadelphia Forward. Everyone in the rally was officially non-partisan, and not taking any sides in the primary. But what was clear is that virtually everyone wanted Seth Williams in office. Yet, of course, conventional wisdom says he is still a long shot. Why? Why is the person that everyone wants still shut out by the powers that be? MONEY. If he had it, if he was advertising as much as Abraham, she would be dead in the water. But as it is now, it is too easy for ward leaders, et. al to ignore underfunded challengers. Take out the money from campaigns, and we will get far better candidates running for office, and far less pressure for elected officials to use their office as a feeder to their checking account. And the culture that bred Corey Kemp? Nah, it will not be totally wiped out. But it would certainly be dealt a swift blow. And in the process, we just may get a government less concerned with preserving their own fiefdoms than running this City as best they can.