What corrupts politics and politicians in the political puppet show? (2)
By Marica Micallef
In the 1580s, a “politician” was defined as a “person skilled in politics”, “one engaged in party politics, especially as a trade and one who promotes the interests of a political party” and thus it quickly took a not typically good overtone: “one concerned with public affairs for the sake of profit or of a clique”. Johnson defines it as “A man of artifice; one of deep contrivance”.
The singular “politic” was first attested in English in 1430, coming from Middle French politique—itself taking from “politicus”, a Latinization of the Greek πολιτικός (politikos) from πολίτης (polites, ‘citizen’) and πόλις (polis, ‘city’).
The Maltese language gives us a good definition and distinction: “politiku” and “politikant”. “Politiku” [plural: politiċi] is how the ideal politician, an elected official, should be in a state of utopia and nirvana, serving the people in an honest, unbiased service and representation.
“Politikant” [plural: politikanti] refers to an amateurish statesman who is truly serving his pockets, egos and the puppeteers, swaying the people from the truth with his brainwashing propaganda. Our city assemblage is full of “politikanti” who give an excellent show in the political theatre of the politics of the puppets and what I have called “the politics of Pinocchio”.
Once we get into the specifics of the relationship between politicians and lobbyists, which all comes back to the fine line between lobbying and bribery, you won’t believe that you have seen the worst part of my article about lobbying.
The primary distinction between bribery and lobbying is that the former is intended to effectively buy a particular action from a politician directly, whereas the latter involves paying them in the hopes that it will influence their decision to take a particular action.
Bribery is defined as saying to a politician, “Dear Mr. Politician, I will give you €500,000 if you pass this law,” and it is illegal and forbidden. “Dear Mr. Politician, You know my position on this law, here is €500,000 for your campaign, and you can make whatever decision you want,” would be a typical lobbying message. It is legal and constitutes lobbying.
Does anybody want to guess how blood managed to come out of our city assemblage when the abortion law was passed?
This fine line between lobbying and bribery has created absurd loopholes that lobbyists are exploiting, and it has made it extremely difficult to prosecute politicians for bribery.
I am going to give examples from the American scene again. Let us take a look at a few recent American events. On April 1, 2015, allegations that Senator Menendez accepted gifts from a wealthy Florida businessman and ophthalmologist as well as a convicted con man named Salomon Melgen led to his indictment on charges of corruption and a bribery scheme. In return, Senator Menendez agreed to use his positional authority in the Senate to advance Melgen’s professional and private interests. Menendez received lavish gifts from Melgen, including free use of a Caribbean villa, 19 free trips on his private jet to opulent resorts around the world, fully paid stays at five-star hotels, and a generous $600,000 in campaign contributions.
In exchange, Menendez had to help Melgen settle a $8.9 million Medicare fraud payment, obtain visas for his foreign girlfriend to enter the country, and work with state department officials to enforce a port security agreement with the Dominican Republic that would directly benefit Melgen’s businesses.
Menendez clearly accepted a bribe, as is evident.