West Virginia holds the distinction of being the only recent state to send two governors to prison...one Democrat, one Republican. (Corruption is bi-partisan there.)
Kentucky has been lucky…for now.
I say that because I have just finished a book on my summer reading list...all about politics and corruption in our neighbor---and how one investigative reporter helped uncover it.
The book is “Afflicting the Comfortable” by the late Tom Stafford. Tom was a colleague and competitor when I worked in West Virginia.
What the book brings out is what happens when fraud and kickbacks and corruption are considered commonplace, and how they affect many parts of society. Also, what happens when elected officials, especially governors don’t enforce high ethical standards and when legislatures don’t supervise state agencies spending millions of our dollars. (West Virginia’s experience in investments mirrors some of the problems of Kentucky’s retirement systems…many years earlier. Couldn’t we have learned???)
Guess not, the ethical controls put in place in this state since the BOPTROT scandal of the '90s have, over the years been done away bit piece-by-piece as lawmakers chafed under being “ethical.”
But he also points out problems with the media, which didn’t pursue all the clues to scandal there as they might have…and why the media today (and that includes our Kentucky media) is less likely to pursue such investigations.
The book is not without its faults and errors. What he considers ethical for reporters to do is not always what I would have them do, and so instructed my staff. But his book is important and an eye-opener. It should be required reading in Journalism schools, in ethical discussions and for those who seek to be members of an important, but vanishing tribe, investigative journalists.
It would also be cautionary reading for citizens who should demand much more of their elected officials, and those same officials if they are going to do their jobs properly.
I'm just sayin'...