What's In a Name? (Parole if you're good.)

Here at the Sojourners Ethics Desk—with a staff of tireless watchdogs who, while not actual dogs, can't help it if one leg wiggles involuntarily during a nice tummy rub—we keep a keen eye on the nation's government employees, particularly those whose service to the public includes lengthy fact-finding trips inside courthouses and prisons. Lately, it has come to our attention that a pattern has developed in the scandals involving officials, for whom was written the phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely." (It's also true that "a lot of power corrupts a lot" and "a smidge of power corrupts just a tad." But I digress.) While the charges against them range from influence peddling to lying to a grand jury, each of the alleged perpetrators has one thing in common: A nickname.

The list is short, but substantial: Former top CIA official Kyle "Dusty" Foggo is under investigation for his questionable relationship with defense contractors. Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham is in prison for steering federal contracts to friends. (He first raised suspicion after naming his new yacht "The Ill-Gotten Booty.") White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby was found guilty of giving false testimony to a federal prosecutor. And Robert "Hair-Looks-Fake" Ney was convicted of taking bribes from lobbyists.

Okay, we made up that last one. But sometimes you have to bend the truth to make an important ethical point. (And, no offense, but Rep. Ney does have a look that says to passing lobbyists, "I REALLY like to golf, hint hint. And please stop staring at my hair.")

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Sojourners Magazine May 2007
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