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When Legislatures Go Rogue

Posted on Friday, May 24, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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18 Comments
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Too often, “one-party states” start to ignore ethics, and then go rogue. With no one to hold them accountable, they breach ethics, kill bills that would keep them honest, and allow self-dealing, conflicts of interest, insider trading, and preferential contracting. No one can stop them. They quietly pillage.

Ethics reports have highlighted “trouble states” for ten years, but tend to get buried, for obvious reasons. Legislatures under investigation or facing questions have no appetite for reports calling them out. State media are often sympathetic to policy, fear burning sources, and go silent.

In one-party Democrat states, led by part-time legislators, big spending is a priority. Not surprisingly government contracts are often given to those with ties to the legislators, and you find less transparency, less open bidding, and virtually no oversight, as the public is just kept in the dark.

For reference, consider the “all blue” (all Democrat) state governments in power – a lock on Governor, House, and Senate, some with party Attorneys General, who mysteriously “see nothing.”

In 18 states, Democrats control everything, and have a “trifecta,” which means no constitutional check on power. That, in turn, has permitted ethics abuses and caused them to be ignored, even encouraged.

States with few internal checks include Republican “trifectas,” but at the bottom of the barrel are several Democrat states, notorious for longstanding one-party control, and for avoiding public oversight.

In that group are states like Delaware, Michigan, and Maine. In Maine, Democrats have blocked Republicans from one-party control for 32 of 34 years, while often enjoying the unchecked “trifecta.” In 2015, a non-partisan study found Maine suffers a shocking lack of protections against one-party corruption – and recent evidence reinforces that fact.

So bad was Maine in 2015, that while not as corrupt as Michigan, it got an “F” for integrity. Maine’s one-party Democrat government was judged 47th in the nation for election oversight (keeping elections honest), 46th for ethics enforcement (AG indifference), 44th for procurement oversight, 41st for State Pension Fund Management, 35th for internal auditing (honesty at agencies).

So bad was Maine’s Democrat record for oversight, that their then-AG (2013 to 2019) became their governor, and her AG has done nothing to raise confidence in state government ethics. With oversight of elections, ethics enforcement, procurement, and auditing rock bottom, the state’s Democrat legislature has steamrolled Republicans and buried key ethics legislation.

Rotten apples do tend to rot the barrel – and once ethics starts to slide, it keeps sliding until voters demand honesty, investigations, accountability, and a return to ethical government. That is true in Washington DC and also in one-party states, where arrogance grows until intolerable.

From a different perspective, Maine’s legislature and governor feel empowered to stiff-arm their public, not just overspending, big subsidies, tax hikes, mandates, restrictions on individual liberty, and their “Office of New Americans” for illegals, but a bigger issue – disinterest in ethics legislation.

As elsewhere around the nation, public trust is collapsing, one recent PEW poll showed roughly 85 percent of us, in all demographics, feel those in power at the state and federal level “do not care” about those they presumably represent, only about their own – often rather radical – agenda.

For example, state legislative sessions just ending across the nation have seen ethics reform junked by these one-party legislatures, either buried in committee or just ignored.

In states like Michigan, the Ethics Committee barely met in 2023, effectively saying “nothing to see here.” Yet Michigan is dead last on state ethics.

Historically not far from the bottom, Maine’s legislature and governor did worse than nothing. In 2023-24, they rose to kill 10 ethics bills, each one intended to give average Mainers more insight into their own government, making those who serve accountable, honest, above board, and ethical.

For those who doubt the number, Maine’s one-party Democrats literally killed 10 “good government” bills, each aimed at helping Mainers rein in their runaway government, and restore trust.

The 10 ethics bills killed by Maine’s Democrat legislature included LD 567, “Ethical Election of Constitutional Officers,” to restrict “certain campaign contributions;” LD 737, a law to assure “State Contracts Cannot Influence Candidates or Elections;” LD 790, “Disclosure for Communications Paid for Using MCEA Funding;” LD 1221, 1327, and 1466, with changes to state accounts given to candidates in various ways; LD 1590 requiring “Disclosure of Campaign Funding Sources;” and LD 1811, “eliminating private contributions” to Maine processes, in effect blocking – as states like Wisconsin have constitutionally – the massive infusion of private money, so-called “Zuckerdollars,” as in 2020, into state and local election oversight offices, often producing “activist” hiring.

So, from Congress to Michigan and Maine, when power is held by one party – watch out!  Without checks that give the public a chance to protect the process, go after criminals – that process rots.

Bottom line: Ethics, integrity, honesty, and transparency either count or do not count. Most think they do. If we want to restore trust in state and federal leaders, let’s start there – and get after it.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Bob Hellam
Bob Hellam
22 days ago

Of course, California, where I live, is a one-party state where insanity poses as political wisdom and virtue. Khrushchev made a point of noticing the red star on our flag when he visited years ago.

Melinda
Melinda
22 days ago

Ethics? Integrity? What are those? To quote Joe, “just kidding.” The problem is that the lack of those qualities tends to filter down to the populace (what’s good for the goose is good for the gander). And from there, down to the children. It becomes self perpetuating, and those good, upstanding people can make no headway fighting it. And so society crumbles like the Roman Empire. I hope we don’t get that far, but it’s not promising, even to an optimist (who’s also a realist).

Max
Max
22 days ago

RBC, good article about bad part of politics. Once entrenched, it takes forever to remove. It is up to the voting public to wake up and elect representatives who will make the necessary changes for the good. This cleanup has to go through all levels of government and the people do need to get involved. Sitting on the behind and thinking other people will make the corrections, is what got you into trouble. People get going and take back your respective governments.

John
John
22 days ago

Absolute Power, Corrupts Absolutely !
Not sure who said it but it’s especially true today in America. With all of the Totalitarian Communist Democrat Party Comrade’s.

Linda R
Linda R
22 days ago

Our only recourse to get our country back, and set things right is found in the Holy Bible: 2 Chronicles 7:14; and 2 Chronicles 20:1-29. If we would do this, God is ready to make His presence known and step in and fix this mess that we’ve allowed ourselves to get into…God (please!) bless AMERICA!

sue
sue
20 days ago

People NEED to get out and vote. Exercise their power. Guess the Blue’s are not tired of high taxes and crime. Pity them. They need to get their blinders and rose colored glasses off.

Michael Stevens
Michael Stevens
20 days ago

The state of Oregon was not mentioned but has been under Democrat control for about a third of a century as well. (thanks Californians moving north) but doesn’t sound quite as corrupt as Maine! Hopefully the tide is turning and things will settle in the center once again.

Richard
Richard
21 days ago

As the article states, corrupt Democrats control 18 states but it doesn’t state that totally honest Republicans control 22 states.

Leesson1
Leesson1
21 days ago

Great article! Illinois, my birth state (going back 70+ years) is close to the bottom of every negative statistic: high unemployment, high crime, high taxes, high debt, high # of residents leaving the state, etc. One thing Democrats have done here to keep themselves in power is to create a voter base that is committed to keeping Democrats in office. Public union employees make up a large portion of the employed. Democrats keep them happy by giving them ever increasing benefits, including retirement benefits unmatched in the private sector. That has, in term, created some of the highest unfunded indebtedness in the country. The state’s constitution was rewritten several years ago making it impossible, ie, unconstitutional, to reduce any of the public union employees’ benefits. So Democrats keep kicking the can down the road knowing their voter base will never abandon them (they can’t afford to).

FedUp
FedUp
21 days ago

We’re already there. Biden & Co. are blatantly ignoring Supreme Court rulings and doing simply whatever they please. But wait, don’t we have a Justice Department to enforce laws? Not when they’re in Biden’s back pocket and intentionally looking the other way.

Tim Toroian
Tim Toroian
22 days ago

That means the people are very stupid. It’s their fault rather than the politicians.

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