Rather than expand on what Chuck Turner and others said at his expulsion meeting this week, I'd muse on race and class and power.
|John Thompson||1958-64 resigned||Conspiracy; bribery||Died before case resolved|
|Charles Flaherty||1991-96 resigned||Tax evasion for business expenses and conflict of interest for vacation housing from lobbyists||Guilty plea; 2 years probation and $25,000 fine|
|Thomas Finneran||1996-2004 resigned||Obstruction of justice in redistricting||Guilty plea in exchange for dropping perjury charges; 18 months probation and $25,000 fine|
|Salvatore DiMasi||2004-09 resigned||Rigging state contracts to his benefit||To stand trial|
Well, Turner is not exactly Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family and getting prison time for it. Yet in contrast to the wealthy Speakers, he almost certainly will receive a highly disproportionate penalty for the magnitude of his corruption — $1,000 bribe and three counts of lying to the feds about it.
We just saw another black pol, Congressman Charlie Rangel get publicly scolded for many, many times worse at much higher amounts than Turner. Rangel's punishment was to stand in the well of the U.S. House and hear a list of his evil deeds. As my late mother might have exclaimed, "For crying out loud in a bucket!"
This clearly is class and power based. The influential say they're sorry and get probation and a fine.
That's not right. That's not moral. That's not the American ideal, at least not any populist version.
It brings to mind a trivial James Cagney movie of the late 1950s, Never Steal Anything Small. That was about a corrupt union official and played on a recurring theme. Supposedly the Greek proverb related to this is If you steal something small you are a petty thief, but if you steal millions you are a gentleman of society.
We really can't say that the disgraced Speakers were exalted after their crimes. However, none went to prison. Even the $25,000 fines to those rich guys likely caused as much hardship as a pro footballer paying for a nasty hit on another player.
Turner can be annoying and even obnoxious, but not because he's black. Given the same situation as the corrupt Speakers, he did not cut a plea deal nor show or even feign remorse. If that alone did not prevent him from getting just a fine and probation, his small bribe and low political status surely would.
It is difficult to believe in the justice of it all. At the very least, instead of thinking that Turner got hit too hard, how can we doubt that the big guys committing the big crimes got off too easy?
Tags: massmarrier, Chuck Turner, Massachusetts, Speaker, corruption, penalty, race