Culture of corruption often fueled by weak economy - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Culture of corruption often fueled by weak economy

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  • Can we be realistic on roads?

    Can we be realistic on roads?

    Friday, July 18 2014 7:00 AM EDT2014-07-18 11:00:54 GMT
    Building and maintaining roads should not be a political issue. In fact, it should be pretty straightforward. Potholes need filled, drainage ditches need cleaned, the highways need striped — while it might be painstaking and expensive, the overall concept is pretty simple.
    Building and maintaining roads should not be a political issue. In fact, it should be pretty straightforward. Potholes need filled, drainage ditches need cleaned, the highways need striped — while it might be painstaking and expensive, the overall concept is pretty simple.
  • Looking the other way perpetuates criminal politics

    Looking the other way perpetuates criminal politics

    Friday, July 11 2014 10:46 AM EDT2014-07-11 14:46:55 GMT
    Former Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for his role in a political scheme that has dominated headlines for nearly a year and shined a bright light on one part of the state’s tangled web of public corruption.
    Former Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for his role in a political scheme that has dominated headlines for nearly a year and shined a bright light on one part of the state’s tangled web of public corruption.
  • Energy generation economy will require evolution

    Energy generation economy will require evolution

    Friday, June 27 2014 9:38 AM EDT2014-06-27 13:38:18 GMT
    The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed down an interesting decision in terms of what the Environmental Protection Agency can and cannot do in terms of reducing emissions at power plants and factories.
    The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed down an interesting decision in terms of what the Environmental Protection Agency can and cannot do in terms of reducing emissions at power plants and factories.

West Virginia is burdened by a sad tradition of political corruption and graft. Con artists who put themselves and their selfish interests above the common good serve as much more than a simple footnote in our state's history. 

Over the years, as we were reminded by our cover story in the March 28-April 3 edition, "former governors, state senators, delegates, judges, circuit clerks, lottery commissioners, magistrates, county commissioners, sheriffs, police chiefs, an attorney general, a senior center director, even a fire chief and his wife" have been the target of federal investigators. 

Why does this happen? What creates this culture of theft and contempt not only for the voters, but also for the very essence of the electoral system? Is power so corrupting that these scofflaws will do anything to maintain their positions? As with everything in this arena, there is a strong case to be made that it comes down to money. 

It is by no means limited to one area of the state. Take a look at the most high-profile instances of public corruption: Often it happens in rural, poverty-stricken regions where jobs are hard to find. Those in power likely understand their offices are their best chance at good paychecks, so they'll do anything to maintain that power. If that means buying votes, stocking the voter rolls with names found on tombstones, intimidating anyone who threatens the status quo and trampling all over democracy, then so be it. 

For everyone else, raising a voice often means cutting themselves off from those who, directly or indirectly, control the purse strings. 

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin can go in and clean house (and in our article, he identified with the following, very telling line from a popular children's movie: "I just cleaned up this mess — can we just keep it clean for 10 minutes?"), but nothing will change until we begin to create an economic climate that allows for prosperity and we develop a viable two-party political system. 

Politicians will always philander and find ways to work the system, but when financial opportunity extends beyond the courthouse steps, those in power will have less control and will be forced to understand it's the voters who are in charge. Jobs won't change everything, but a thriving, dynamic private sector is a strong weapon in this battle. 

Corruption certainly poisons both sides of the aisle, but nothing drags down the system like total power concentrated in the hands of a select few. A better West Virginia means a state filled with diverging voices — but one where the voice of the people is heard over all else.