Bribery is a common thing. Just last summer my friend was driving from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. Perhaps, he was speeding but he claimed that he didn’t. We will never know the truth. A policeman approached him and started to question him. He pleaded his innocence before the lawman. The police officer said, “You can plead your case in front of the judge or you can give me S$100 and we can forget about the whole thing.”
Another friend now living in Laos thinks, “It is easier to get things done when you know you can pay people off.” The concept of bribing someone with influence to get what you want is nothing new. It is common.
Like you, perhaps I prefer to close one eye when it comes to these things, especially if it happens in the underworld. If it doesn’t happen to me why bother? What disturbs me most is when it is brought to my attention, especially when bribery and corruption happens right in front of me, in broad day light?
“I’m glad I don’t have to deal with all that.” So you say. In the US, we don’t have bribery. We have campaign finance contribution or for short ‘finance contribution’. What is the difference between bribery and finance contribution? In the Webster dictionary a bribe means “1) money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust or 2) something that serves to induce or influence. In the same dictionary, I can’t seem to find the definition for finance contribution. I can find the word lobby, it means, “to try to influence (the Government etc).”
How does the lobbyist lobby the government? It might not come as a surprise if I tell you it has to do with money. Yes, lobbyist, not just tries to but effectively influences government officials with money. Lots of it! In fact, I was surprised, to say the least.
My debate in my head continues… I kept thinking about it. Is it better for bribery to be underground or in plain view? The S$100 paid to influence the policeman was distasteful; $200 would have been more suitable for the risks.
Where was I? …What risks? I would be uncomfortable making a bribery payoff. If someone else were to do it for me, that would be another story. All I can think about was a scene from some mafia movie where the bad guy passes a bulged envelope to some cop or judge. The delivery usually is very discrete. If I had to bribe someone I would be very concerned. I would also pass the envelope discretely. And that is where I; like most bribery amateur would go wrong. Another thing to consider, what if the person I wanted to bride is not corruptible? In that case, I would drop and run for the hill because everyone and their mothers would know about my failed attempt and I would be ruined.
Bribery is harder than you think. For bribery to be popular, it has to be accepted not just by the corrupted officers and their counter parts, it has to be institutionally acceptable to the general public. Take the case of the cop blackmailing for the S$100, his chance of success would be better if he were to stop someone who actually speeds, unintentionally or not, that is another story.
The guilty driver gets off clean with a minor dent to his wallet and the cop does his job; call it a bonus for his large family with a small take home cop salary; a win win case for everyone. It is easier to overlook this. Now, blackmailing the innocent is plain hard. You never know, someone might just call the bluff and the cop would soon find himself running for the hill.
The hill I refer to is nothing less than the infamous Capitol Hill. In Washington D.C. there is a street called K Street. This is where corporate America sends their elite battalion of lobbyists to bribe government officials, sorry…, to make the ‘finance contribution’. In 2008 there were a reported 14,802 lobbyists. I’m very impressed by these people, these guys are smart they have figured out these amazing secrets decades before I was informed of it. Maybe because the money is so staggering that it is hard to believe. I’m not talking about the S$100, not even US$1,000 or even US$100,000.
You see it all the time on the daily news where some poor out of luck soul tried to rob the bank and succeeded in getting away with US$8,000, and he went in hiding for the rest of his life. Now this would be the dumb guy, if he was smart he would join the other guys on the hill. A reported sum of over US$3 billion, from 1998 to 2009, of ‘finance contribution’, was more to me like bribe money, from just 20 companies. You and I know there are thousands and thousands of companies in America. Just think about it. In fact in just 2008 alone, all the lobbyist spends US$3.3 billion to influence Washington.
Not so long ago the country Iceland needed $5 billion to prevent a national bankruptcy… A National Bankruptcy! That puts things into perspective.
To succeed in the art of bribery, you have to be good at four things:1) Don’t make it a secret, 2) Call it ‘finance contribution’, 3) Pay someone else to do it for you, like a lobbyist, and 4) Last being the most important, practice only on Capitol Hill, anywhere else it could cost you your life.
P.S. Special thanks to opensecrets.org where I have obtained the numbers used in this article.
Copyright 2009 by Farting Camel