Search This Blog


It'll Take More than Hotlines

Amid much fanfare Gov. Kathleen Blanco recently announced increased efforts to stamp out fraud in state government's operation. This is all well in good; I have seen it committed myself both as a state employee and as a user of state programs so anything that can reduce it certainly is welcome.

But the effort echoes of another anti-corruption attack of 20 years ago, when Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and thus the Soviet Union’s president. As part of his reform agenda, he asserted that too much corruption slowed the Soviet economy.

Naturally, he had not yet fathomed the thing that stunted the Soviet economy of course was communism itself, with its failed ideology of taking economic power out of the hands of individuals and vesting it in the state. Without any corruption, or drunken employees, and with all the restructuring and openness possible, none of that changed the fact that command economies underperformed free economies (as well as were immoral).

Blanco needs not to fall into this trap. Many reasons exist why Louisiana’s economy underperforms, with the chief one being much the same as the Soviet Union’s except on a smaller scale. But more directly related to corruption as an allied source of this, altering the reputation of the state away from a perception of too much corruption requires more than hotlines, it requires consistency in application.

It’s a hard argument to make that this consistency exists when, just in the past month, the following matters dealing negatively with state ethical matters occurred:

  • Lawmakers talk about raising limits on lobbyists’ gifts
  • Legislators begin talking again about carving out exceptions in the state’s ethics code regarding lobbying, opposed by good government groups
  • A bill gets introduced (H.R. 4) asking for an ethics exception limited to one judicial district (see the Louisiana Legislature Log for more details)
  • Hiring a chancellor at LSU for a record salary who is under investigation by the federal government, while at the same time throwing Boys’ and Girls’ State off campus
  • Bob Odom (need I write more?)

    You can have all the hotlines you want, but these are the types of things that have to get corrected before any significant change in outsiders’ attitudes about the state will occur. It’s nothing she can directly do, but exercise of informal power can succeed, just as when she effectively sabotaged Odom’s scheme to build sugar mills where none are needed. She’s the only one who has any power of such magnitude that even could begin to start reversing this impression in business shying away from the state because of its ethical reputation.
  • No comments: