Feb 18, 2013
The federal prosecutor in the corruption case of Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, and his close friend Bobby Ferguson says they used the mayor’s office as a private source of profit for themselves.
They well may have, but they didn’t invent municipal corruption. These people learned their chops in Wayne County government under a famous corrupt white politician: Ed McNamara.
Former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox saved McNamara from a state investigation into the matter. No surprise! Cox also got his training in McNamara's administration, as did, incidentally, Bernard Kilpatrick, who was McNamara’s front in Detroit. Two of McNamara's aides were, in fact, convicted of extortion, bribery and money laundering for work they did for McNamara. McNamara himself escaped federal prosecution – he died of cancer before the charges came down!
Public corruption comes to light occasionally – especially when officials like McNamara or Kilpatrick are so arrogant they think they can take whatever they want and never get caught.
But their corruption is nothing compared to the real corruption going on: the plundering of cities around the country by big corporations and the banks.
Why, for example, did Compuware chief Peter Karmanos, Quicken Loans head Dan Gilbert, racing magnate Roger Penske, and chemical company executive Jim Nicholson rush to hand Kilpatrick $150,000 after he was indicted? Why did Karmanos give him a job – in Dallas? Were they hoping to keep their links with him from coming out into the light?
All four of them received enormous handouts from Kilpatrick when he was in office. The city “sold” Karmanos and Compuware the land for its new headquarters for $1. And it gave Compuware 70 million dollars in tax breaks. Dan Gilbert and Quicken Loans got one and a quarter million dollars from the city for a parking structure. Penske got the use of Belle Isle for his Grand Prix; the city tore up some of the nicest areas of the island for him. Nicholson's company PVS Chemicals got a 13 million dollar contract in 2011 from the city water department.
Should Kilpatrick be prosecuted? Sure! But what about prosecuting the big thieves behind him? What about prosecuting those corporations that benefitted for decades from tax breaks, subsidies and work the city did for them – during Kilpatrick’s administration and before him?
General Motors, for example, got money to build a new plant, money to tear down an old plant, money so it could move its headquarters – and it still has its hand out. Chrysler got tax breaks on plants that have practically stopped production. The Fisher family real estate interests not only got 100% tax breaks on new investments, the city then paid to take their “investments” off of their hands. The Ilich family, with all its “entertainment” holdings, has practically turned the city into its own private checkbook.
Some of the biggest banks in the country threatened that Detroit’s bond rating would be reduced if the City Council didn’t sign on to one of these “exotic” loan deals – a deal which will cost the city four times what it borrowed in the first place.
Corruption? Kilpatrick is a small-time hustler when it comes to corruption. The big guys are all those respected CEO’s who have turned the city’s budget into their very own paymaster.