As news of "Too Big To Fail" Gov. Chris Christie's spiteful
politically-motivated shutdown of the busiest bridge in America spread
last week, MSNBC's Chris Hayes staged a live "Tournament of Corruption"
to measure New Jersey's venality against crookedness in other states.
Among New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana and Florida, Hayes sought to crown
one state with the coveted and covetous title as the "Most Corrupt."
Making the sad case for Florida as the most corrupt state was our
Congressman With Guts, Alan Grayson (D-FL). Here is what he said:
Chris Hayes: We have Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat from Florida,
here making the case for that state. . . . Congressman Grayson, the
State of Florida barely made it in[to the Tournament of Corruption.] It
was duking it out with Rhode Island [for the final spot]. I had a little
bit more experience personally with Rhode Island. What's your case for
Congressman Alan Grayson: Oh, Chris, you have got to be kidding me.
We've got the numbers! Within the past thirty-five years, we've averaged
one conviction for political corruption every week!
Chris: That's pretty good. [Or bad. - Ed.]
Alan: We led the nation [in corruption convictions in] five out of the
past twelve years, Chris. We had a mayor in Miami Beach who was not
convicted of one instance of bribery, but 41 instances of bribery. In
Tampa, the county commission was so corrupt that there wasn't one
[commissioner] who was convicted of bribery; there were three -- at the
Chris: You also had the story of the Florida Senate President. I really
like this one.
Alan: Yes, Mike Haridopolos, sure.
Chris: So tell me his story.
Alan: Well, his story is that he wrote a "book report" on the state
legislature. It was never published, in any form, anywhere at all. The
state paid him $152,000 [for that], which he never was punished for. A
lot of the worst corruption in Florida goes completely unpunished.
Chris: Wait, he was unpunished for his $152,000 "book report"?
Alan: No, he wasn't punished for that. And look at what the Governor has
done. He owns the largest chain of health clinics in the state, so what
does he do? He shuts down all of the state's public health clinics, so
there is no competition. He turns Medicaid over to privatization. And
then, to top it all off, he requires state employees to get drug-tested.
Tell me, where are they going to go, to get those drug tests? To his
Chris: I see why you were such an effective attorney, Congressman. You
make a persuasive case, thanks. . . . So, Congressman Grayson, part of
the reason that I was skeptical of Florida, although you made a good
case, is that I have never [thought about Florida that way.] I think
about Rhode Island, I think about Louisiana, I think about New Jersey, I
think about Illinois as places that have a traditional boss politics, in
which they have patronage machines. Those patronage machines tend to
control both fundraising and jobs and party machine [candidates] who get
slated. That is a kind of almost feudal system, in which lords control
their turf. I don't think of Florida that way. Am I wrong not to think
of Florida that way?
Alan: Well, on the state level, it's clearly a one-party system, and the
Republican Party in Florida is hopelessly corrupt. They handed out
[Republican Party] credit cards to all of their top officials. Corporate
contributions to the Republican Party of Florida ended up paying for
their personal expenses - including, for instance, a back waxing for
Senator Rubio [R-FL] . I can give you countless other examples, and none
of this ever gets punished. The reason you don't think of Florida [as
often] is because so much of it never gets punished. Why is that? It's
because the [State] Ethics Committee is appointed by the Governor, so
they are not going to do anything to the Governor. The Ethics Committee
isn't allowed to bring any charges; it's not even allowed to perform
independent investigations. And, if a citizen brings a charge of
corruption against a public official of the State of Florida and can't
prove it by clear and convincing evidence, then the citizen, the
informant, has to pay the attorney's fees of the official.
Chris: Well that's pretty good. Everyone, very quickly: [give me a]
ten-second one-line pitch for your state.
Darryl Isherwood [for New Jersey]: We have Boardwalk Empire, an HBO
series devoted to New Jersey corruption and "Nucky" Thompson.
Chris: You definitely win pop-culture references. Tracie Washington?
Tracie Washington [for Louisiana]: I can't top back waxing. I just can't.
Chris: (Laughter) Congressman Grayson? Anything other than back waxing?
Alan: Yeah, we have more corrupt public officials than alligators. And
that's saying a lot.
Chris: I'm going to declare this tournament to close to call. . . .
Thank you very much. I actually learned a tremendous amount in that
segment. Thank you.
Congressman Alan Grayson - incorruptible. Authentic. Sincere.
Straightforward. Above-board. Fair and square. On the level. Laying it
on the line. Telling it like it is. What you see is what you get.