Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Endemic bribery in South Carolina

Think of bribery and images come to mind of dark and dusty countries with bags of money being exchanged for customs officers and other officials to look the other way when convoys of trucks carrying elephant tusks, ivory, arms and ammunition rumble across the borders. My own experience of bribery was the way in which things were done in the former USSR when working there. Many times, people would sweeten deals and smooth their way through bureaucracy with gifts of expensive wines and expensive chocolates.

Bribery is here too in South Carolina and it affects everybody at some point in their life - whether it's bribing somebody in order to get a job, bribing somebody in order to gain preferential treatment in order to gain a contract or deeper, darker business.

Recently there have been two cases of bribery that came to light. The first was of a National Guard Officer that pled guilty to taking bribes. This is the FBI Press Release. It is unusual for people to be prosecuted for bribery because usually they pay their way out of it. Clearly this fellow had fallen out of favor or somebody else had paid more to get rid of him.

Even the police are not immune to bribery. Though not yet convicted Lexington's own Sheriff Metz has been charged with bribery. The basics of the case are that money allegedly changed hands in order to let illegal immigrants remain working in Mexican cafes etc. This is what USA Today has to say about the case: Sheriff faces bribery charges.

It's not just one agency or two but just about every agency and business that runs on bribery and coercion. An official at a SC based adoption agency, according to South Carolina Radio Network, has pled guilty to bribery.

The image the world has of the South of America is not too far off the truth. It is seen as an area of endemic bribery, drugs and racism. The South is infamous for its Ku Klux Klan and use of low-waged black labor. Little has changed since the days of slavery. Instead of being tithed to an owner, the descendents of slaves are now paid $7.25 an hour which doesn't even cover essentials like housing, food, transport and medicine which the slave owners provided as part of maintaining a slave. Indeed, one could say that life as free men has not benefited many of the descendents of former slaves.
The classic television series, The Dukes of Hazard, was derided for showing the South in a poor light. It showed corruption in the South that lacked the glossy disguise that normally conceals it. Driving through various areas of Lexington county and beyond, a friend was pointing out the areas that one should never enter. The usual comment was "this is full of meth labs". Indeed, my friend once lived opposite a meth lab but didn't realise it was a meth lab until the building exploded and burned to the ground. Apparently meth labs like racism, sexism, bribery and poverty are endemic in South Carolina. 

During a court case, another friend was shushed by their lawyer. The opposing party had apparently been engaged in racist abuse of their employees and potential employees. That party had also apparently been engaged in consuming medicines prescribed for others. The lawyer simply said "shhh... It's South Carolina". No more was said and no more needed to be said.

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