Corruption is a bipartisan problem but has a bipartisan solution

Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Organizers and Candidates, n°122 | 14 October 2021

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Flagging my latest article in Jacobin (please read/share!):


In a recent survey by Project on Government Oversight (POGO), 89% of respondents said corruption in government is a problem and 65% identified it as a very big problem. Of the prominent issue areas listed in the survey, in the aggregate corruption ended up at the top of the list. Nearly three-quarters said corruption’s getting worse, too.


First, concern about government corruption is a sentiment shared across party lines. Moreover, even if someone identifies solidly with one party, chances are they don’t actually believe that it’s only a problem with the party that isn’t theirs. This is more or less explicitly stated in the report.

Second, government corruption really pisses people off. This one obviously isn’t explicitly stated in the report, but I feel like it was implied: Among the buffet of anti-corruption measures the survey offered to respondents, the most popular option was firing corrupt politicians and banning them from ever holding public office again. The supermajority of respondents (66%) thought this option would be “very effective.”

That the zero-tolerance approach ended up as the most popular couldn’t be explained only by a shared technocratic or dispassionate assessment on how to best root out corruption, could it? Rather, I see the preferred policy option as the product of popularly shared sentiment and not widespread agreement over a particular methodology.

^Source (POGO)


Corruption should feature more prominently in anti-war/-imperialism activist campaigns. A more energized base is needed, and popularizing a confrontation with the military-industrial complex (MIC) on these grounds could be a tool to help do that. 

Within foreign policy advocacy, there’s tons of examples of how MIC money corrupts national policymaking. Here’s a recent example on the $778B Pentagon budget vote. The lowest third of military contractor cash recipients in the House voted closest to what public opinion is (albeit still far off) while members who took the most MIC campaign cash were most out-of-touch:

Thanks for your time,

Stephen (@stephensemler;

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