Friday, December 12, 2008

Some powers are made for abuse

Everyone is crying corruption at the allegations that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. And corrupt that would indeed be, if it’s true.

But what’s more corrupt is the fact that he has the power to appoint a replacement at all. Blame the seventeenth amendment, which has this to say:

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of each State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

A state can call a quick by-election, but it need not. The Governor – if the state legislature agrees – can appoint anyone to fill the vacancy, unelected, often until the next set of normal biennial elections.

It’s a corrupt power, one of a number in US politics – presidential pardons being the most egregious example. It allows someone in one part of the system to meddle with the workings of a part that’s supposed to be separate, to the benefit of whomever that person likes.

(Not that other countries don’t also have systemic corruption – the UK, after all, has an entirely unelected upper house.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The thing to remember is that as a politician in the same state and party any politician has to interact with people. However, he or she does not have to befriend a person, and limit the interactions to professional boundaries. Obama might have endorsed Blago in the general but in the primary he did endorse his opponent. So, the conclusion is that all the interactions were strictly professional. In a similar analogy, a lots of folks who endorsed Hillary then turned their endorsement to Obama when he won the primary. Even though he was not their first choice, he was the Democratic nominee so they endorsed him. That is politics works. Obama does not need to discuss any interaction once he indicates that he has not have any discussions regarding the vacant seat. Therefore, he was not involved in any wrongdoing - it's time to move on and look forward! Let's focus on all other critical problems at hand!