The past few weeks have evidenced a sad and total disregard that many elected leaders have for Kentuckians. At least two prominent Kentucky politicians have railed against the courts and attacked the decision to strike down last year’s pension reform legislation, legislation which was constructed in the dead of night, behind closed doors, in an old-fashioned smoke-filled room.
For those who might never have heard the phrase “smoke-filled room,” the phrase can be traced back to 1763 in Boston when a small group of men met behind closed doors to select candidates for public office. During those meetings, the room was filled with cigar smoke which made it somewhat difficult to see from one end of the room to the other. Sadly, the decisions made in those smoke-filled rooms were made in secret without any concern for anyone other than those who attended the meetings.
So, one is left to wonder what really has changed since those bygone days when a handful of the self-appointed decision makers met in smoke-filled rooms to decide the future for Americans, decisions which were motivated mostly by greed, not out of any concern for others. In the words of William Saphire, these smoke-filled rooms were nothing more than a “…place of political intrigue and chicanery, where candidates were selected by party bosses in cigar-chewing session[s].”
Take a moment and think about the words of William Saphire, especially the word intrigue, a word that elicits a word picture of politicians involved in decisions which only accomplish their own goals through secret scheming. Or, take a moment to consider the word chicanery, an old French word which is defined as the “use of trickery to achieve a political, financial, or legal purpose.” Some common modern and understandable synonyms for chicanery are trickery, deception, deceit, deceitfulness, duplicity, dishonest, deviousness, unscrupulousness, underhandedness, subterfuge, fraud, fraudulence, swindling, cheating, duping and hoodwinking.
Of course, the answer to the rhetorical question of what has changed since those old days of smoke-filled rooms where self-appointed political bosses engaged in intrigue and chicanery is nothing. Today, there are many elected officials who believe that they know better than those of us who elected them. These are the modern-day political bosses who have never considered, or likely have never read the words of Patrick Henry when he wrote, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
So, as we prepare to open another legislative session in Frankfort, and on the eve of the deadline for candidates to file to run for public office, remember a few simple words from those of us who you represent, or might represent in the future, Kentucky is not for sale.
The time has come for Kentuckians to send a very simple message to these modern day old-time political bosses that enough is enough. It is time to tell every politician or political appointee that Kentucky is no longer a place where old-fashioned political bosses can meet in secret in smoke-filled rooms to decide our future. It is no longer a place where these modern-day political bosses can decide our future based on the political whims of their political donors, donors with buckets of cash who believe they can purchase political decisions about charter schools, pension plans, gambling, legalization of marijuana, sanctuary cities, open borders, and myriad other matters which are bought and paid for every day with campaign donations or promises of future political appointments.
So, as I often do, I would invite each of you to join me on my imaginary mountaintop, a place where we can watch all of those who believe they can make decisions in smoke-filled rooms out of political intrigue and chicanery, decisions which are motivated mostly out of personal greed, not out of any concern for Kentuckians; a mountaintop where all Kentuckians can shout loudly that enough is enough, that it is time to clear out the smoke-filled rooms and conduct the business of the people in the light of day.
Mark Wohlander, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, practices law in Lexington, Kentucky.
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