Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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The Word on Corruption

Can you feel the anticipation? In just a couple short weeks from now, the AMERICAN DIALECT SOCIETY will reveal its choice for the 2009 Word of the Year (WOTY). Early nominations include the likes of sexting, birther and Octomom. As always, I will let you know the winning word when it is chosen.

I know what word I would choose. It's not some newfangled compound or trendy catch phrase. No, it's an old-fashioned word that we've come to appreciate in a whole new way: Corruption. As a resident of Pennsylvania in general - and NEPA in particular - I can think of no other word that is more representative of the events of the past year.

Just how pervasive has the word "corruption" been? Well, let's start with the obvious. A phrase that seems to pop up in almost every local newscast these days is "the on-going corruption scandal in Luzerne County." So far, 23 people have been charged by the Feds. That tally includes, among others, two judges, one county commissioner and assorted school board members.

Of course, you know that the number of indictments won't stop at 23. Fortunately, the US Attorney's office has created a special Web page to help us keep track. You can check it out HERE. Greg Skrepenak's name hasn't been added yet, but you can bet it's coming soon. How many other names will be added remains to be seen but, from what I'm hearing, a safe guess is "lots."

The Feds are now feeling their way into neighboring Schuylkill County. Two young men face Federal hate crimes charges in connection with the beating death of a Mexican immigrant. The police chief and two officers stand accused of obstructing the investigation into that beating death. And, the chief and a fourth officer face Federal charges for allegedly shaking down illegal gambling operations. Published reports say the Feds have set up a tipline for people in Schuylkill County to call with information about other possible corruption. They did the same thing in Luzerne County, and we've seen where that's led. Will an "on-going corruption scandal in Schuylkill County" be next? Time will tell.

At the state level, we have the Pennsylvania attorney general's on-going corruption investigation known as "Bonusgate." The AG got indictments against a bunch of Democrats. Then, some Republicans got indicted. Now, a few more Democrats. They're all accused of basically using taxpayer money to fund political campaigns. According to prosecutors, they went about this alleged wrongdoing in different ways but always working toward the goal of political gain. I'm not sure what the total number of indictments is here. Around 25, I think. But, that number could increase any day now. As I said, the investigation is on-going.

The whole situation reminds me of a time a few years ago when the corporate types required us lowly employees to take - and pass - an ethics test. It was ten questions, I think, which could be answered correctly by applying what a co-worker broke down into three basic principles:

  1. Don't take anything from anybody;
  2. Don't give anything to anybody;
  3. If you see anybody doing either of those things, tell somebody.

Maybe they don't exactly qualify as rules to live by, but they seem like pretty good tips for avoiding a corruption scandal, on-going or otherwise.

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