Dennis Kucinich is a career politician who has worked at the municipal, state, and federal levels and is joining Tom Fox on the Innovation in Compliance to talk about his newest book Division of Light and Power. This book is a story of corporate espionage, corporate sabotage, bank extortion of a city, and a mob-directed assassination plot that took place in Cleveland back in the 70s when Dennis was the mayor at only 31-years-old.
What Happened in Cleveland
In Cleveland in the 1970s, there were two electricity companies: Munilight, a public company, and Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co, a private company. The municipal company was able to provide cheaper electricity to citizens of the city, and so became the target of an aggressive sabotage campaign on the part of CEI, so they could acquire the utility and have a monopoly on power in the city. They succeeded. As Mayor of Cleveland, Dennis tried to block the acquisition and became the target of a mob-directed assassination plot. Tom makes the point that issues like this are still happening, mentioning the recent Texas blackouts during a winter storm which were caused by negligence, incompetence, or criminal activity.
The Role of the Media
This was possible, in large part because of the complicity of the media. CEI had a massive advertising budget, and no qualms about bribing or otherwise “softening up” city council members to discredit Munilight. Tom points out that the press has a huge role in anti-corruption activities and asks Dennis how the media failed to examine the governance of the city of Cleveland, and Dennis responds that “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” The media was subverted to CEI’s agenda, and reporters who went against the party line were fired.
Accountability in Government
Tom and Dennis discuss the fact that government works – the question is who does it work for? Dennis says that if citizens want the government to be working for them, they have to keep their representatives honest by asking questions, demanding explanations, and refusing to be silent when something seems off. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of officials using their power to make a buck.
How to be Incorruptible
Tom asks Dennis what made him able to resist literal suitcases full of cash when they were offered to him, and Dennis says there is a Crosby Stills, Nash song called Teach Your Children with a line that goes: You, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by.” Dennis shares what his code is: an inner moral compass that is a simple understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong. He believes that when you do wrong, you pay for it, and that by leading a decent and moral life where you don’t need to worry about what you did or said – that’s an easy way to live: with a light heart.