Giving Reciprocity a Bad Name

In the world in which you and I reside, reciprocity is generally a good thing. Two people exchange favors or services, and both benefit. Idiomatically, such reciprocity is sometimes referred to as you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. In the world of politics, reciprocity is more dubious. Indeed, it is frequently little more than bribery or collusion. Think of it as you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, using the public’s fingernails and money from their wallets to pay for the manicure. Is it any wonder that we have such little faith in and respect for our public servants?

From the New York Times:

Campaign Funds for Alaskan; Road Aid to Florida

It is no secret that campaign contributions sometimes lead to lucrative official favors. Rarely, though, are the tradeoffs quite as obvious as in the twisted case of Coconut Road.

The road, a stretch of pavement near Fort Myers, Fla., that touches five golf clubs on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, is the target of a $10 million earmark that appeared mysteriously in a 2006 transportation bill written by Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska.

Mr. Young, who last year steered more than $200 million to a so-called bridge to nowhere reaching 80 people on Gravina Island, Alaska, has no constituents in Florida.

The Republican congressman whose district does include Coconut Road says he did not seek the money. County authorities have twice voted not to use it, until Mr. Young and the district congressman wrote letters warning that a refusal could jeopardize future federal money for the county.

The Coconut Road money is a boon, however, to Daniel J. Aronoff, a real estate developer who helped raise $40,000 for Mr. Young at the nearby Hyatt Coconut Point hotel days before he introduced the measure.

Mr. Aronoff owns as much as 4,000 acres along Coconut Road. The $10 million in federal money would pay for the first steps to connect the road to Interstate 75, multiplying the value of Mr. Aronoff’s land.

He did not return phone calls seeking comment. A consultant who helped push for the project spelled out why its supporters held the fund-raiser.

“We were looking for a lot of money,� said the consultant, Joe Mazurkiewicz. “We evidently made a very good impression on Congressman Young, and thanks to a lot of great work from Congressman Young, we got $81 million to expand Interstate 75 and $10 million for the Coconut Road interchange.�

Mr. Young’s role, first reported by The Naples Daily News, has escalated objections to the project. Environmentalists say the interchange would threaten wetlands. And a Republican commissioner of Lee County, Ray Judah, is campaigning against the interchange, calling it an example of Congressional corruption that is “a cancer on the federal government.�

“It would appear that Don Young was doing a favor for a major contributor,� Mr. Judah said. [full text]

One thought on “Giving Reciprocity a Bad Name

Comments are closed.