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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What do disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Janet Napolitano have in common?

The use of their high elected office as a personal possession as opposed to a public trust. While the former has done so in a criminal manner and the latter has not, both are unethical.

First speculation about Blago and where he goes from here...

He hasn't resigned or apologized or anything, he totally looks like he is going to fight it out to the bitter end. This could all be posturing, as he tries to negotiate the best deal possible with the feds, but let's say he takes this trial what could his possible defense be? I bet he puts the whole political system, not just Chicago, but everything on trial. Yes he got caught on tape doing a pro quid pro on the open senate seat, trying to maximize his personal gain but what did he mostly talk about? Promises of people to raise campaign funds for him, sinecures after he left office... it wasn't quite a Duke Cunningham who while in office received buckets of cash in exchange for explicit favors.

The whole premise behind McCain-Feingold and Clean Elections was that money in politics corrupts, to receive a campaign contribution involves the potential for some sort of corrupt pro quid pro. The whole controversey surrounding earmarks is based on this premise. Blagojevich can argue that the only difference between him and the rest of the political system was that he caught on tape explicitly discussing these deals... his argument that his crime wasn't so much in the deal themselves but for the indiscretion that he exposed the hidden sausage factory to the public.

The other aspect of the crime is that Blago is guilty, without a doubt, of using his office for personal gain as opposed to the public welfare. The open senate seat was just another thing he could "sell" like a piece of pork... whether it was to benefit him personally or his future political prospects. He treated public office as something he had title to and could wheel and deal like it was a knick knack on E-Bay. Tell me though on what basis is Governor Patterson of New York is trying to fill the open senate seat there? Best person for the state who is available? Or who might support him politically in the future? Or a rival for the 2010 election who could be gotten out of the way?

Now we turn to Arizona Governor Napolitano. No corrupt deals to expose here, I'll just assume (and rather safely) that for a poltiician she's as pure and innocent on such matters as new snow. However her great lapse was that for the past few months (at least) she has treated her office as a piece of private property rather than as a public trust.

A few months ago when she was nominated to the post of Homeland Security, everyone knew that she wouldn't be confirmed until (at least) the new administration took office. She then announced that she wouldn't resign until her new post was confirmed, treating her current job as the top elected official in Arizona as a safety net.

In another time and age, such a stance would be tolerable. However Arizona in the midst of its worst financial, and soon to be political, crisis in a generation. The State is projected to run out of money several months short of the end of the fiscal year and will have to resort to borrowing, if it legally can, in order to keep the lights on. The budget that generated this mess was unbalanced from almost the day it took effect. Leave aside that the budget will probably be in deficit for at least the next 2 fiscal years after this one leaving open the only possibilities of massive spending cuts and/or tax increases.

Leave aside the future fiscal years. Leave aside the fact this current year crisis is almost an exact replay of last year's crisis, just with fewer options. Given that this budget was running unbalanced from the day it took effect, would Governor Napolitano acted differently if she knew she would have to be around to clean things up? Would she have let the State get to the point where it will have to beg banks, during the worst national financial crisis in 75 years, for loans to keep the lights on past March if she was still going to be in office?

Back when the FY2009 budget hit the public fan in early October, she announced plans to call the Legislature into session after the November election in oder to fix it. The session was never called as there was no consensus on hwo to fix the budget. Now legislators are a tough lot at the best of time to get a consensus on and times are tough, but if Napolitano planned to be here after January don't you think she would have found way, even by knocking heads together, to get a session in place and a partial budget fixed?

Arizona budget deficits are tough to eliminate; the State cannot take on debt so the only ways to fix them without raising taxes is to cut spending. The earlier in the fiscal year you cut spending, the better it is; however, we now have at best 5 months left, spending cuts will no longer do it alone. We will either be selling assets, raising taxes, or dependent on the feds for a bailout. Yech.

Personally I think alot of political careers will be ended over the next 12 months as our elected officials take the brutal steps necessary to get the budgets balanced. However Napolitano's career will still remain viable because she will have escaped the consequences of her actions (or inaction.) To top it off, she has chosen to remain in office as a lame duck during this critical time not to provide the necessary leadership and forge solutions, but as a safety net in case her nomination went askew.

Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. She did none of the three. Legally she could do that, but by any means of public service she hurt this state by treating her office as property she could dispose of as she pleased rather than as a public trust that she could hold only as long as she could properly execute it.