* Former Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk writing in the Tribune…
I have no particular desire to see former Gov. Rod Blagojevich released early from his 14-year prison sentence. And despite claims about bias by U.S. District Judge James Zagel, as someone who testified in both of Blagojevich’s corruption trials I found Zagel to be consistently fair, objective and reasonable.
Nineteen Illinois politicians signed a letter asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review Blagojevich’s case — and while I don’t see Rod’s fate as an especially valuable use of the court’s time, I do agree that virtually everyone working at high levels of government and politics across the nation could use clearer guidance as to what is legal and what isn’t.
The petitioners argue that the court needs to “distinguish the lawful solicitation and donation of campaign contributions from criminal violations of federal extortion, bribery and fraud laws.”
They have a point. For as long as politicians are allowed to freely solicit money for their political campaigns, there is always going to be an intersection of campaign donations, taxpayer funds and government spending. Giving elected officials, their government staff, their campaign staff and donors abundantly clear rules and guidance can only help reduce corruption, change the social norms around pay-to-play politics (especially in Illinois, where it’s still seen as a cost of doing business), and give the taxpayers far more confidence that the system is corruption-free.
I see this frequently in my work as a venture capitalist. I founded a firm that works with and invests in startups in a variety of regulated industries. My company does business with virtually every state, every major city and the federal government, so I’ve seen how things work pretty much everywhere. Time after time, the entrenched interests our startups are disrupting try to use pay-to-play politics and campaign donations to stifle competition, limit innovation and preserve the status quo.
Pay-to-play politics is a potent threat to innovation, and the lack of clarity about what is allowed and what isn’t only makes things worse.
Go read the rest.