Sam Bankman-Fried is currently facing charges in The Bahamas for the largest financial fraud in the history of the US. His failed cryptocurrency exchange owes almost USD 3.1 billion to its largest creditors.
He was accused of “building a house of cards founded on deception”. While his fraudulent swindle was in place, Bankman-Fried also used millions of dollars as illegal campaign contributions to the Republicans and Democrats alike.
In the words of the US prosecutor, “all this dirty money was used in service of Bankman-Fried’s desire to buy bipartisan influence and impact the direction of public policy in Washington”.
In other news this week, the Qatargate scandal broke out in Brussels as several MEPs were caught holding money allegedly paid to them by the Qatari authorities to buy influence within the European Parliament.
Once again, the corridors of representative government had been infiltrated by someone willing to pay the right price.
These two examples at an international level only illustrate a centuries-old truth about politics – that money can be the key to power and influence. Public policy is made and broken in the forums of representation.
The democratic model is typically styled in such a way as to consider the possibility of different interests being represented.
Lobbying by companies and interest groups is part of democratic life so long as this is done openly and transparently, thus consolidating the very principle of representation.
It all turns sour when the rules of the game are not observed, but, instead, the whole exercise of representation is sabotaged, with policy-forming becoming simply a question of the highest bidder.
We are not strangers to these issues. Only a while back, we had prominent lobbyists admitting that in order to make hay while the sun shines, the best option for policy-bending is to lubricate the coffers of the political parties, possibly in equal measure.
It then becomes justified to suspect that the donkey trading in the back corridors of power does not involve powers of conviction as much as it involves deeply lined pockets.
Roberta Metsola vowed to battle this corruption in the European Parliament, promising to collaborate in full with the investigations and also promising to reform the methods of parliament.
It could be too late for the same exercises to be conducted closer to home. I have often commented on the network of interdependence between business and politics.
The situation is such that it is no longer possible to distinguish between governing under influence and governance for the sake of governance without outside interference.
Behind every measure, behind every legal action, there will inevitably be someone standing to gain. The problem ranges from the absence of meritocratic appointment (and consequential appointment by ‘trust’) to the sabotage of public procurement.
The cause is not helped by ministers who act more like Instagram influencers, happy to be given the opportunity to pose with the stars and to be pampered like VIPs in what is little more than an exercise in sportswashing. I’m looking at you and your Qatar trip Ian Borg.
We’re back in the period of fundraising marathons to collect money for the tax-avoiding, law-bending political parties who also dare to claim that they represent our interests in parliament. Their habit of government and representation under influence is doing us no good.