Americans are rightly concerned about corruption. Unfortunately, they haven’t yet realized corruption is a direct function of size — there are no large, clean governments, and there never will be.
Their concept of corruption is also far too limited. It’s not always about briefcases full of cash sliding across the table in smoke-filled rooms, although a great deal of money usually ends up on the line, sooner or later.
Another form of corruption is ideological. When activists conspire with like-minded bureaucrats to impose mutually agreeable compulsive agendas on the rest of the public, the arrangement is every bit as corrupt as any crude payoff scheme. The result is the same: a conspiracy against the public interest, for the benefit of a powerful few. A great deal of ideological corruption occurs because what activists desire generally involves the expansion of government power and funding, which suits the interests of bureaucrats and politicians. The American people should have long ago been taught that the bureaucracy is itself a “special interest,” arguably the biggest, baddest, and most dishonest of them all. Big Government greatly enjoys lobbying itself to make itself bigger.
The most pernicious form of ideological corruption is regulatory capture, which occurs when special interests work so closely with regulatory agencies that it’s difficult to tell when activism ends and government begins. The Environmental Protection Agency is the paramount example of regulatory capture in modern America. People move back and forth between this agency and its lobbyists with the ease and grace of ballroom dancers.
Lachlan Markay at the Washington Free Beacon provides a classic example of regulatory capture for every EPA-watcher’s scrapbook:
A prominent left-wing group helped formulate Environmental Protection Agency talking points designed to sell a controversial regulatory scheme to skeptical journalists, internal emails show.
The emails show Joseph Goffman, the senior counsel of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, circulating talking points from Center for American Progress climate strategy director Daniel Weiss among EPA colleagues attempting to sell the agency’s controversial power plant regulations to a New York Times reporter.
Weiss emailed Goffman in September 2013 with a series of suggestions for convincing the Times’ Matt Wald of the commercial viability of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, a vital component of the agency’s stringent power plant emissions regulations.
Five minutes later, Goffman sent an email to five colleagues in his office and the agency’s public affairs division. Unredacted language in the email is identical to language in Weiss’ list of talking points.
Even in the Information Age, corruption usually takes longer than five minutes to ripen. That’s got to be some sort of speed record.
This cozy little bit of collusion was uncovered by the Environment & Energy Legal Institute with a Freedom of Information Act request. “The chief lawyer tasked with making the global warming agenda happen cuts and pastes Team Soros arguments and strategies into emails and sends them to colleagues as his own,” said senior legal fellow Chris Horner of E&E, who described the situation as “a spectacular example of how ideological activists brought in to the Obama administration to jam through the left-wing agenda see no distinction between EPA and their former green-group colleagues.”
Amusingly, the EPA insists it’s just an amazing coincidence that five minutes after the minions of George Soros slipped a list of talking points into the EPA counsel’s inbox, he fired off an email to colleagues with the exact same wording.
This sort of thing happens all the time, but it’s generally concealed from the public. When the media is aware of regulatory capture by left-wing groups, it generally forgets to inform readers, no matter how obvious the relationship is. Left-wing advocacy groups are routinely presented as nonpartisan or impartial. On the other hand, caterwauling about too-close relationships between industry and its regulators is deafening.
Money from the likes of George Soros or Tom Steyer is invisible, while money from the Koch Brothers is supposedly covered with radioactive fingerprints. One man’s sinister “special interest” is another man’s “concerned citizen.”
As I said, corruption is an inevitable function of government size and power, and not just because fat-cat crony capitalists are always looking to rent compulsive force for their own benefit, although there’s a lot of that going on.
Who doesn’t want to turn a few million in campaign contributions into a billion dollars in subsidies or regulatory relief? Even if we could “get the money out of politics,” as good-government crusaders demand, ideological corruption and regulatory capture would inevitably continue. There are too many people interested in forcing their ideas on the public, and too many bureaucrats eager to help them do it.