Thursday, August 20, 2009

Truth or Dare

My earlier posts mentioned testimony I was preparing to give at the New Jersey Assembly's GOP Policy Committee Hearings on Corruption, chaired by Minority Whip Jon Bramnick on Monday August 17, 2009.

After several radio interviews, television segments, countless articles from California to New York in newspapers, blogs and special interest newsletters, I can realistically say I think I've touched a nerve.

Who would have thought that suggesting people running for office should take a voluntary polygraph, would generate so much attention. Some folks initial impression was very critical and almost a, "what is this guy thinking?", kind of attitude. However, once people heard an explanation of the thought process behind it, low and behold, they began to actually entertain the possibility!

Let me explain. First of all, I am not a nut case who routinely comes up with crazy ideas to solve problems. In fact, I had prepared a list of 12 suggestions/recommendations for the committee to address the corruption problem.

What bothered me though, was the fact that almost any suggestion/recommendation given by the witnesses at the hearing, including what was on my list, dealt with corruption AFTER the crooks were already in office. Ethics training, elimination of dual office holding,transparency in government legislation, more in depth financial disclosure statements, consolidation of services, term limits and increased jail time, were all very good suggestions. But still, none of them keep the bad apple out BEFORE it got into the basket. They only dealt with them AFTER they were in office.

So, as I looked at my list, one item that really struck me as "out of the box", was the use of a polygraph examination as a voluntary option once a person became a declared candidate for elective office.

I am a former law enforcement officer, and have taken the polygraph test several times. They were not fun, and I had nothing of substance to hide!

What I noticed, however, was that for those folks who had a little something in their background, the polygraph was a factor in them deciding NOT to pursue a law enforcement career. In essence, it helped weed out folks early in the process, which saved a lot of taxpayer money.

I think this same "weeding out " function could be another tool to use in trying to reduce the amount of corruption we have in this country. Honest folks have nothing to worry about. The crooks are the ones who need to think twice.

Obviously for something this controversial to be enacted, it will take a tremendous amount of legal review and debate to even come close to becoming a reality.

One thing is certain, for us to get a handle on corruption, we need to have "out of the box" solutions. Heck, I knew I was on to something when Sam Antar, a former white collar criminal who also testified before the committee, thought the polygraph for politicians was a great idea!

Antar stated that all the laws, regulations, ethics training and the like, didn't matter one iota to the criminals. But having to take a polygraph? Well that was a different story. In fact, Antar's boss required his people take regular polygraphs to ensure that weren't talking to the Feds or stealing money!

Maybe I'm on the right track. Judging by the feedback I've been getting, at least people are thinking about different ways to deal with corruption on the front end, including this polygraph idea. One thing is certain, to paraphrase Albert Einstein's theory of insanity - we cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results.

I think I'll explore this polygraph option a little further. Tell me what you think. Feel free to offer suggestions of your own. This is going to be interesting.

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