With corruption charges likely to be filed against a sitting U.S. Senator from New Jersey, Yahoo News puts forth five explanations for how we got to be the Soprano State. They mostly got it wrong – the reasons not the conclusion.
1. New Jersey has a lot of government – as many places do and normally more eyes watching translates into less corruption. The problem in New Jersey is that most politicians go through the same process to get elected: accept bribes for campaign ads from people who expect to be repaid.
2. New Jersey’s political culture has become desensitized to bad behavior out of necessity. Politicians might rationalize away their corrupt acts but most people would see through the lies…..if they were told about them. All those politicians stealing money get away with it because media outlets who occasionally cover their actions concentrate on the ceremonial to maintain both readership and legal ad revenue.
3. New Jersey is wedged between two big cities: New York and Philadelphia. How many freeholder ads run on New York or Philadelphia stations?
4. New Jersey has an unusually strong governorship compared to the chief executives of the other 49 states. Which simply means that when there are good ones (Byrne, Kean?) it works better than when we have bad ones (pretty much everybody after).
5. Most of New Jersey’s public officials are people of ordinary means who spend their time rubbing elbows with some very well-off donors. True enough but people of ordinary means often have more scruples than those who may have compromised some principles in order to become very well-off.
There is one main reason for the culture of corruption in New Jersey and I realized it in May of 2013 when I laid out before the Local Finance Board details of corrupt practices to no avail.
6. Nobody in a position to curb the corruption has any incentive to do so which is primarily the reason they attained that position.