Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Honest Graft

Spin from the 'ole school' may have started with a Tammany Hall guy named George Washington Plunkitt:

"Everybody is talkin‘ these days about Tammany men growin’ rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin‘ the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There’s all the difference in the world between the two. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself. I’ve made a big fortune out of the game, and I’m gettin’ richer every day, but I’ve not gone in for dishonest graft—blackmailin' gamblers, saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc.—and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.
There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin‘: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”

Believe it or not this distinction has become even more refined. For example in the The Abuse of Power there was a discussion regarding 'legal graft'. Legal graft is considered apolitical. It is featured by a quid pro quo. It is apolitical because the parties involved in the 'arrangement' see themselves at a level outside of politics. An example from the book is: "I'll get you a 99-year lease from the city and you give my friend some insurance …." In Robert Caro's book, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, this so-called legal graft was pervasive for decades and at the expense of reforms. Legal graft, is not apolitical and those who participate in it have a vested interest in keeping the status quo.
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