Not Necessarily Corrupt

I don’t know any more than anyone else does of the FBI raids on Local 98 offices, the home of John J. Dougherty, and the office of Councilman Bobby Henon.

Which is to say I know nothing, just like everyone else.

And that’s why I’ve objected to the rush to conclude that any of those raided must have done something wrong or that Local 98 is corrupt.

And even more, I’ve objected to people saying that this is one more example of the corruption of Philadelphia politics or of Philadelphia labor unions that “everyone knows about,” as one reporter put it today.

We don’t know any of that and saying it doesn’t make it so.

Is there some corruption in Philadelphia city government? I have no doubt there is. But I’ve got no reason to think it’s worse in Philadelphia than in any other big cities not to mention in smaller cities in Pennsylvania and around the state. Can I remind you that nothing has ever happened in Philadelphia as horrendous as the kids for cash scheme in NEPA?

Political scientists have long studied municipal corruption and, as far as I know, have never been able to show that there is more of it under one party or another or in big cities vs smaller ones vs rural areas. Big cities do make corruption easier because they have bigger budgets and larger governments and that makes oversight more difficult. Small cities, on the other hand, have far fewer reporters and investigators paying attention to them.

So I think the sensible thing to do is just be quiet and let the process unfold rather than to jump to conclusions about individuals or about the city as a whole.

And one more reason not to jump to conclusions: Given some of the recent cases it has brought, there is some reason to think that the FBI is pushing the envelope in defining the usual transactional politics that is found in every political system as illegal.

So, those of you who are gleeful every time the FBI investigates anyone in Philadelphia politics and start reaching conclusions about who is guilty and how bad the system is, please think again. Your moralism is not making Philadelphia better.

The worst thing about contemporary politics is people who says things about matters about which they know nothing. We’ve got a presidential candidate who does nothing but that right now. My suggestion is to just wait and talk when you actually know something.

In the meantime John J. Dougherty and Bobby Henon have done a lot of good things for this city and state, and I expect them to do more.

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