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INCENTIVES OR BRIBES?

 

 

By Bill Holdorf

November 18, 2004
NewsWithViews.com

In simple terms, if someone in the private sector offered any politician money specifically for voting for certain legislation, that is called a bribe which is illegal and those involved are subject to prosecution.

While there is a great deal of money given by Political Action Committees and other lobbyists to politicians, discreetly there is never any public statement that such money is given in exchange for the politicians’ support of certain legislation. Also, no politician receiving such money who later votes for the legislation supported by those who donated such funds, would dare to admit publically that his/her vote was in response to the donated funds, thus, avoiding any conflict with the law against bribery. However, as so often happens in the realm of politics, what is illegal for those in the private sector, becomes a virtue in the political arena.

A good example is the story carried on the website of Keynoter Publishing Co.(1) which posted on 3-10-04 a news release from the Associated Press titled: "Bill would allow seat-belt stops." This was referring to the debate in the Florida Senate at that time over a bill (2) that would change Florida’s seat belt law from secondary enforcement to primary enforcement.

Under secondary enforcement, the police cannot stop a motorist just for not using a seat belt. The officer must first witness another traffic violation and after stopping the motorist, if not using a seat belt the officer can then issue a ticket for not using a seat belt in addition to a ticket for the traffic violation. A primary enforcement law would allow the police to stop any motorists merely under suspicion that a seat belt is not being used.

The AP news release further stated:

"The bill is bottled up in the Senate despite the efforts of U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who came to Tallahassee and personally lobbied Senate President Jim King, who opposes the bill Mineta said "primary enforcement" measures save lives and a federal incentive package would bring $37 million to Florida just for making it law. But Mineta said he couldn’t change the minds of either King or another Senate opponent, Sen. Dan Webster, R--Winter Garden."

In simple terms, a government employee, that is, Norman Mineta, who is Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, a federal agency in President Bush’s Cabinet, clearly offered $37 million to Florida’s legislators if they would pass a primary enforcement law. In simple terms, the offer of $37 million to Florida’s state legislators is a bribe to pass certain legislation.

However, of course, the Secretary dared not call the offer of $37 million to Florida’s legislators a bribe but, instead, he called it an "incentive package." Nevertheless, if the same money was offered by a private citizen to pass a particular legislation, it would clearly be considered a bribe. That such an offer of money in exchange for voting for legislation is coming from within the domain of the federal government to state government, and calling it an "incentive package," that does not change the fact that money is being offered in exchange for voting to pass legislation, which is, again, pure and simple, a bribe..

According to a March 14, 2004 website news story (3), South Carolina had a similar fight going on. It was reported that state Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell had delayed a vote on a primary enforcement bill that had already passed the House. McConnell said he would filibuster to kill it and added: "People should be free from police harassment if they choose not to wear a seat belt." It was reported that South Carolina would get $11 million from the federal government if a primary enforcement law is passed.

Resistance in Florida and South Carolina to the federal bribery offer of millions of tax dollars in exchange for passing a primary enforcement law is not shared by many other states that passed such a law. Many other state politicians who passed a primary enforcement law didn’t mind selling freedom and violating the Bill of Rights, that is, if the price is right. Illinois is a good example.

After nearly two decades of failed attempts to pass a primary enforcement law in Illinois, advocates finally were able to push ahead with the election of the first Democrat as governor of Illinois in nearly those same two decades. According to a July 10, 2003 news story in the Chicago area Daily Southtown newspaper (4), Illinois became eligible for $31 million from the DOT as soon as newly elected governor Rod Blagojevich signed on July 3rd a primary enforcement bill into law. It is most ironic that the governor signed a bill taking away freedom from Illinois citizens on the eve of celebrating the July 4th, a national holiday in honor of freedom obtained by the blood of patriots over two hundred years ago. That just shows how completely disoriented some of our politicians have become in their greed for federal funds even at the expense of taking away freedom and in violation of the Bill of Rights.

It should be fully noted that the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 4 reads: The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribes, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Although Secretary Mineta has no fear of being prosecuted for offering million of federal tax dollars to state legislators in exchange for states passing primary enforcement laws, nor are state politicians who vote for a primary enforcement law in response to the bribe money being offered from the federal government, former Vice President Spiro Agnew, who was reelected with President Nixon in 1972, did not survive charges of bribery. He was accused of accepting bribes while governor of Maryland and supposedly continued to accept bribes as VP. He resigned on October 10, 1973 and pleaded no contest to charges of federal income tax evasion. He was sentenced to three years’ probation, fined $10,000, and in 1974 he was disbarred in Maryland.

It certainly is strange how bribery charges lead to disgrace in the case of Spiro Agnew, while Secretary Mineta is running around the U.S. boldly offering bribes to state legislators without any fear of being accused of offering bribes. Nor are state legislators, who accept such bribes in exchange for voting for passage of primary enforcement legislation, ever accused of accepting bribes.

I wonder what reaction there would have been if Spiro Agnew had said all those bribes he supposedly accepted were really only "incentive packages"? The fact is, if a federal employee, the Secretary of Transportation, can legally offer bribes under the guise of "incentive packages," why can’t everyone else?

Footnotes:

1 www.keynoter.com/news/20040310s15.html
2 HB 15
3 http://thestate.com (Posted March 14, 2004, page B-1; Columbia, S.C.
4 www.dailysourthown.com/southtown/dsedit/x 10-ed2.htm

© 2004 - Bill Holdorf - All Rights Reserved

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Bill Holdorf lives in Chicago and worked in the insurance industry for 23 years before retiring from management in which he audited financial records for more than 100 branch offices of his employer. Bill has worked tirelessly as an advocate to repeal seat belt laws and at 78 years young, plans to continue educating Americans about this issue.
E-mail: Wholdorf@msn.com

 


 

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Under secondary enforcement, the police cannot stop a motorist just for not using a seat belt. The officer must first witness another traffic violation and after stopping the motorist, if not using a seat belt the officer can then issue a ticket for not using a seat belt in addition to a ticket for the traffic violation.