Jonathan Kraut: Should we treat elected officials differently?


We are reminded again and again to consider as to whether elected officials or political representatives have an obligation to conduct themselves at a higher, the same, or a lesser moral standard than the general public.

What do we expect- leniency or harsher treatment for those who hold great responsibility? Does public service exonerate or make more culpable those whose conduct violates the principles and moral codes we consider so dear?
Convicted former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca used his authority to hide the abuse of jail inmates and directed county employees to conceal the whereabouts of a federal witness. He was sentenced to prison for three years.
Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort is accused of lying about his income for years, lied under oath to Federal agents, and failed to disclose he was a paid agent of a foreign government.

Shouldwe expect severe or light sentencing for Manafort who not only deceived the Feds but also laundered at least $75 million from Russian backed anti-Ukraine interests?
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted of ordering his deputies to target for harassment those “who look” Mexican? Trump issued Sheriff Joe a pardon of wrongdoing. Should the President pardon his buddy Manafort for wrongdoing as he did for Arpaio?

If one day it is proven that the Clinton Foundation was part of a pay to play scheme to win favor and privilege to work with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should we politely nod in understanding or should we expect overwhelming punishment for leveraging the goodwill of this nation in trade for “donations?”

The question is if we as a society expect more or less from those we entrust to do our bidding?

To me it seems we expect less from the powerful, office holders, and even the famous and dismiss even the most egregious acts of misconduct as simply “bad choices.”

Perhaps because many seeking and holding office have egos the size of Montana, we have come to expect the worse from our leaders. Many of our electeds, movie stars, and professional athletes show signs of sociopathic behavior, i.e. they never take responsibility for their behavior and feel above the law- the very traits synonymous with habitual criminals sitting in prison right now.

In many countries, paying a modest fee to a government official for special consideration is not only acceptable, but is perfectly legal and expected.
I was fortunate to be selected to oversee the use of donations to rebuild some schools after the Great Tsunami of 2004 that had hit Sri Lanka and other Indian Ocean nations. In Sri Lanka I discovered that to get permits through the government and critical support required a 10 percent “fee” to the official in charge. I was told that the extra costs would pay for added coordination, extra overtime, and processing that was needed from a department to move things along.

Rather than conceal what in the U.S. would be considered a bribe, in Sri Lanka, as in most of the world, there is openness about using money as a way to get preferential treatment. While I chose to find alternate worthy projects not needing permits and decided against using donated funds as payola, other donation driven project managers were happy to buy cooperation because it was also customary in their home countries.

One of the biggest criticisms I heard from my foreign counterparts was that human nature is essentially driven by self-serving motives and that in America we claim it awful but just hide it better.

Do we hide our low expectations and ongoing corruption with lighter than typical punishment for those in power?
We get the message from Trump that so far he has not been indicted. Wonderful.
Whenever a trusted person close to him gets hit with collusion and other accusations Trump revels that he has not been accused as though his status is the sole issue of importance and those with whom he surrounds himself are irrelevant.

But if all the king’s men wreak of fraud, collusion, perjury, evading of Federal law and reporting requirements, is the King still innocent?

And should the day comes to charging Trump with criminal misconduct, corruption, or lying under oath, should we forgive and forget or let the hammer come down for using our good will for self-serving endeavors?

Perhaps I am in the minority, but I believe doubling the punishment, withdrawing any right of government pension or benefit, and excepting more, not less, is necessary from those who we have hired to do our bidding.

Jonathan Kraut owns an investigations and private security firm and is a Democratic activist and community volunteer. His views and opinions do not necessarily represent the Signal Newspaper or any other group.

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