And, the higher the public official was, the more possibilities for corruption that public official had, the more power he or she had to suppress evidence of such corruption - and the more those close to the public official would claim that he or she erred only slightly, only once, and should be remembered for the "good deeds" and not for this "slight slip".
Yet, the slips that the corrupt public official is caught for is usually very bad, and covered some systemic abuse of public trust - because even the federal law enforcement (who usually catches public officials for corruption) is afraid to make a case against a high-standing public official unless evidence of corruption is overwhelming.
I call a public official "corrupt" not only if he or she is involved in financial corruption, but also if he or she is engages in misconduct in total belief of his or her impunity, and uses his or her position to commit misconduct, threaten whistleblowers, and/or prevent prosecution.
Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently made it only harder to prosecute public corruption - by claiming I a recent precedent, "coincidentally" decided right at the time when both heads of New York State Legislature, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, were convicted and sentenced for public corruption, that the "quid pro quo" of favors that the public official provides in exchange for support in election campaigns is not enough for conviction for public corruption.
Yet, there was a conviction - and a 10-year sentence - imposed in federal court in Pennsylvania against U.S. Senator Chaka Fattah,
who has served so far 11 terms in the U.S. Congress, for dozens of counts of corruption under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act) and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, and to pay a restitution of $614,000 to victims of his corruption.
What the esteemed Senator was convicted and sentenced for was:
- took an illegal secret loan of $1,000,000 from his friend Albert Lord, a former Chief Executive Officer at Sallie Mae (a corporation issuing consumers loans, mostly student loans), to support his unsuccessful campaign to become the Philadelphia mayor and paid it off, illegally, with charitable funds and federal grant money from an educational charity run by his own staffers - which raises questions who the staffers were, how come they allowed the charity's money to be used by the Senator at all, and, especially, for his personal needs;
- took a bribe from a personal friend Herb Vederman, to ask President Obama for an ambassadorship for Vederman (Sen. Fattah reportedly signed and hand-delivered the letter to President Obama asking for an ambassadorship for Herb Vederman);
- Sen. Fattah reportedly used the bribe of $18,000 as a downpayment of his and his wife's Poconos vacation home - and lied to authorities that the money was obtained as a payment for Sen. Fattah's wife's Porshe - which, reportedly, never left their garage;
- used campaign funds to pay off his son's student loan debt;
When a U.S. Senator committed atrocious public fraud, people are lined up claiming that his "slight slip" should not overcome, in the eye of the sentencing judge, his "good deeds".
Actually, the judge was influence by the "good deed" argument - by giving Senator Fattah 10 years in prison instead of 17 to 22 years, as requested by the prosecution under the sentencing guidelines.
I hope that the U.S. Prison Bureau will not consider the "good deed" argument though and will not sent Senator Fattah to a country-club prison camp in Florida, as it does for many corrupt public officials.
When Senator Fattah was intentionally committing his crimes against the public - crimes proven to a jury of his peers - he was supposed to think about his own reputation.
And, by the way, Senator Fattah, who, together with his wife drew a combined salary of $674,000 a year, and stole even more from public funds - forced his attorneys in criminal proceedings, through a court order - to represent him for free.
Which only confirms how good and honest Senator Fattah is, and what he needs to be remembered by.
When he ran for 11 congressional terms, he ran not to serve the people, but very obviously to serve himself.
What people got from him in terms of "good deeds" is collateral to self-enrichment.
And, when he voluntarily ruined his reputation by engaging in criminal conduct, there is no point trying to resurrect it.
There is a saying - "stained silk is forever ruined".
So is a public official's reputation.