Update: On Wednesday another high profile African-American elected official was caught up in a swirl of alleged unethical activity. Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll resigned her position stemming from an investigation into a company she represented while a state representative.
“Individuals were arrested Tuesday for a racketeering and money laundering charges in connection with Allied Veterans of the Worlds illegal gambling companies. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll consulted for Allied Veterans while serving as a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2009 and 2010,” reported the Miami Herald. According to a statement released by Florida Governor Scott’s office, Carroll resigned to keep her former affiliation from being a distraction. Note: this is a developing story.
Another African American elected official has been found guilty of corruption while in office. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was found guilty on 24 of 30 charges of running a criminal enterprise from the mayor’s office. Kilpatrick is the second high profile African American elected official in the last month to be found guilty of financial misappropriation of funds. Jesse Jackson, Jr. was found guilty of using campaign funds for personal expenses in a Chicago court last month.
Kilpatrick and Jackson are blights on politics and a disgrace to the African American community. Their crimes and indiscretions should give pause to all African Americans and remind them that the color of your elected official’s skin is not as important as the integrity of their character. It is time for the community to reaffirm its commitment to transparency and high ethical standards.
Prominent African American politicians have been caught doing things that range from questionable to criminal over the past few years, and yet African Americans have not been vocal in having the stories told or having the officials replaced. In the last four years, four high-profile African American elected officials from high-profile liberal cities - Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Detroit, have been accused of unethical behavior. Three of the four have been convicted, and two are going to jail.
Unfortunately this is not the story being told in the community. It is not making the rounds in the barbershops, churches, and newspapers. The press is not connecting any dots to the names and figures and asking the question ... is there a problem within the community?
U.S. Representatives Maxine Waters (D-Calf.) and Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) both faced ethics violations in 2010 and the ethics committee actually recommended censuring Rangel.
It wasn't the actual hint of impropriety that caused the concern with Waters and Rangel; lots of elected officials are accused of improprieties. Rather, it was the nature of the transgression in relation to their assigned duties in Congress that should have given African Americans reason to pause. Waters was accused of using her influence to have OneUnited Bank receive bank bailout funds at a time when she was monitoring T.A.R.P. legislation while her husband was listed as an investor in the bank. The House Ethics Committee cleared Waters of all charges just prior to her being named the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, which is the congressional banking panel. Rangel, on the other hand, was convicted of ethics violations while he was the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee. He additionally filed misleading financial statements for a decade including understating his assets and not paying taxes from income on a villa he owned in the Dominican Republic.
Former U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. plead guilty to campaign financing fraud and diverting over $700,000 into his personal accounts. Jackson, Jr. is now facing a prison term of 46 to 57 months. Kilpatrick has already spent over a year in jail for perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from a "sexting" scandal he had with a former employee. As a result of that scandal he had agreed to repay the city of Detroit $1 million in restitution. The new charges include "racketeering, extortion, attempted extortion, bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and filing false tax returns."
Waters and Rangel are old guard members of the African American political community. Jackson, Jr. and Kilpatrick were legacy babies that were born and groomed to be representatives of the community. In the last four years they have failed the community with their inappropriate and criminal behavior.
Reacting to the news of Kilpatrick’s conviction, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing sent a statement to the Huffington Post saying it was time for Detroit "to move forward with a renewed commitment to transparency and high ethical standards in our City government." Detroit, of course, is the largest minority majority city in America and has been basically placed under receivership by the Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
Mayor Bing’s feelings can be extrapolated to the African American community at large. It is time for the African American community to move forward and reconfirm its commitment to high ethical standards from its elected officials.