Thursday, December 8, 2011

Harsh Blagojevich sentence leaves corrupt system in place

Some musings about former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's sentence of 14.5 years in federal prison for his conviction.

I can't help but feel this was an overly harsh sentence, even though it was less than the sentencing guidelines would recommend. Some commentators point to the $1.5 million bribe as the determining factor.

And what hypocrisy!

What particularly galls is to date not one Wall Street executive involved in the home mortgage fraud debacle that crashed the US economy has gone to prison despite the fact they knowingly defrauded billions from millions of homeowners and continue to do so.

But this sort of sentence is typical because our criminal justice system is based on punishment rather than rehabilitation. Prosecutors seem to think the harsh penalty will be a deterrent to similar crimes.

To me, this is a pipe dream since the underlying system of corruption largely remains intact, despite a few cosmetic changes imposed by the state legislature. There was a window of opportunity to make some basic changes in campaign finance, but that moment has passed.

With all the attention on Blagojevich, the real culprit has once again been swept under the rug only to reappear at a later date in a more blatant form. It will only get worse with the Citizen's United ruling by the Supreme Court.

And it's based on politics. Blogojevich's attempt to sell the US senate seat of Pres. Obama was too blatant, even though such political connections and favors come into play in any decision like this.

Not to excuse any crimes that Blagojevich committed, but what he did occurs everyday in US politics. His fault was he wasn't a very slick player of the game and had burned too many bridges to too many power players in Illinois politics including his own party. The smartest players don't get caught.

John Bachtell

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