Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Selling a Senate Seat

It’s bad enough that some New Yorkers are unhappy at the prospect of Caroline Kennedy taking over Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat when Hillary takes the position of Secretary of State. I think Carolyn is an intelligent person and could probably do very well, but I can see where people don’t think that her last name should mean she inherited good political sense or experience. Some see the possible appointment as a payback for Kennedy throwing the weight of her name to the Obama campaign. I will admit that I wondered when she endorsed Obama for the office of the president if there would be something in it for her later on down the road. But her career and personal life have always been so low-key and on the up-and-up that I still can’t imagine that she expected something in return for her endorsement.

But news that the Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested by the Feds for corruption - one of the things being that he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s open Senate seat - is the real cause for concern. According to CNN:

“In a 76-page affidavit, federal authorities say wiretaps caught Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat in exchange for financial benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.

The governor also often weighed the option of appointing himself to the Senate seat, saying he was "stuck" at governor and might have access to more resources as a senator than as a governor, the affidavit says. A Senate seat could also help him remake his image ahead of a possible presidential run in 2016. "If ... they're not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it," he said in one conversation….Federal authorities also allege the governor and Harris schemed with others -- including convicted real estate developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko -- to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and others, including his campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich.”


This seems to be a pattern with Illinois governors, seeing that the state’s previous Governor, George Ryan, was convicted in 2006 on racketeering and fraud charges.

If anything, maybe this matter means that we need to find a better way to appoint replacements for open Senate seats. Rather than have them be appointed by one person – the governor – maybe there should be a vote with all remaining members of the senate and congress for the state, plus all the state senators. The party who held the seat being vacated can nominate their candidate, and the others can either ratify or vote down. How hard could this be? It certainly would be a lot harder for someone to sell – or buy – the open position.

I hate to add more bureaucracy to a process, but is seems that in light of the concern over the Kennedy appointment, and the allegations that the Illinois governor tried to sell an open seat, it’s clear that the current method of appointment doesn’t quite match what the people want. It’s a shame that they can’t have a general election and let the constituents themselves vote. Now that’s a radical idea – actually letting the people chose!

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