The saying goes, you get what you pay for. To the working class citizens of Bell city, California, their hard-earned cash got them a sleazy, overpaid and corrupt government run by Democrats. The government officials got rich.
Today, thankfully, eight of them – every single one a Democrat – also got arrested. Former City Manager Robert Rizzo, who earned nearly $800,000 a year, was joined in the pokey by the mayor, two council members, two former council members, an assistant city manger and, my favorite, the “vice mayor.”
According to ABC, Rizzo was bringing home $787,637. That’s nearly twice the minimum salary for a Major League baseball player, but the only thing they steal are bases. Rizzo was charged with “53 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest” amounting to $5.5 million in public funds. His team couldn’t muster that many charges, but they apparently did their best – earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in a city where the average salary is $28,000. With that kind of money, every one of the politicians should have the title “vice” in front of his or her name.
This is the kind of incident that destroys trust in government, not just in Bell, but everywhere. Bell is the appropriately named warning for politicians and voters across America. How can citizens respect a government that bleeds them dry while politicians earn outlandish salaries, drive expensive cars, and owe their jobs to lobbyists, not voters?
It’s easy, they can’t. That culture breeds corruption from the presidency and Congress all the way to hometowns like Bell. But the Internet age is proving to be a nasty antidote to corruption. Politicians can’t hide what they do behind closed doors as easily. And for those who want to serve the public trust, they had better learn right now that there are consequences for abusing it.
We don’t tar and feather our villains any more, but by the time this prosecution is over with bloggers, Twitter, international news and 24-hour cable covering it round the clock, I bet those involved will feel even worse.
I certainly hope so.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.