Two examples of corruption in Washington surfaced in June, illustrating the shameless determination of political leaders to serve corporate interests over the public good, and neither involved the ethically challenged Tom Delay, majority leader of the House of Representatives.
The first involved Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Cooney was an oil industry lobbyist before the Bush White House hired him in 2001, where he edited government reports to protect the oil industry. When his actions were made public, he abruptly resigned and was immediately hired by Exxon Mobil for a position that the oil giant declined to describe.
Cooney, who has no scientific education, edited reports to water down links between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, a connection that the oil industry vigorously fights.
"Phil Cooney did a great job," said a White House spokesperson, "and we appreciate his public service and the work that he did, and we wish him well in the private sector."
The second involved Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), a member of the defense appropriations committee, who sold his house in San Diego for $1,675,000 in November 2003 to Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor.
Wade put the house back on the market a month later where it went unsold for 261 days. He finally sold it for $975,000, taking a $700,000 loss.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, "Around the time he purchased Cunningham's house, his company began to secure large contracts with the Defense Department, increasing its Pentagon business by tens of millions of dollars. In all, its revenues tripled in 2004."
Cunningham declared, "I haven't done anything wrong."
Joining the corrupting power of the oil and defense industries is the pharmaceutical and health products industries that spent $759 million since 1998 to lobby Washington. This amount included $93 million that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent.
PhRMA's president, the former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) shepherded through Congress a bill to keep the federal government from negotiating lower prices with the drug industry and to prohibit the importation of identical but lower-costing drugs from other nations. Tauzin "coincidentally" left Congress to head PhRMA, where he reportedly makes $2 million per year.
The love of money clearly sets private gain above public good, creating harm wherever it surfaces.
Apostle Paul warned: "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils" (1 Tim. 6:9-10).
Regrettably, those who yammer so much about moral values tend to ignore the corrupting power of corporate money.
What if we used love of money as moral measuring sticks instead a handful of hot button issues like the filibuster?
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.