Stenger acted like an IL governor because ‘absolute power corrupts’


Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

On the last Monday in April, we awoke to the news that Steve Stenger had resigned from his office as St. Louis County executive as a result of a federal indictment on bribery and mail fraud charges.

It is probable that he didn’t do anything that a good number of his predecessors or a good number of his contemporaries in other municipal governments have done. Let’s be honest here; power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This isn’t anything new. It isn’t anything unique to St Louis County or the St. Louis region. It isn’t anything limited to the Democratic Party.

Frankly, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to the political leaders who work hard to serve their constituents and do their best to keep their noses clean. And yes, there are some of those out there.

Most likely, Stenger got caught because he just got sloppy. Most likely, as an elitist, as he rose higher and higher in the ranks, the more he felt entitled to the spoils.

Right across the river in the Land of Lincoln, we can see several examples of this type of abuse of power. Four of the last seven Illinois governors have been sent to the big house for a variety of corruption, racketeering, bribery and fraud charges. Too bad Steve could not learn from those lessons.

What a shame for Steve. He had a bright future in politics. Until Better Together dropped its plan for a city-county merger vote, there was a vote set for a little over a year from now that would attempt to unify St. Louis County and St. Louis city. Steve was the frontrunner to become mayor of that new larger metropolis.

I am wondering though, could it be that this episode may become a poison pill for the well-financed, elitist-driven effort to unite the county and city?

There are a whole lot of movers and shakers with deep pockets who can benefit from a “friendly” larger government entity.

These well-connected people were positioning their chess pieces to get this deal done next year. They were arranging to have the entire state vote on this instead of just the people living in the St. Louis region. That in and of itself is clearly an attempt to rig the results and reeks of a scam. They want to water down the voice of county voters opposed to the merger.

Perhaps this Stenger episode might just shed a tiny bit of light on the issue to those in outstate Missouri. Perhaps they can ask themselves if they want Missouri politics to start looking like Illinois politics.

In Illinois, the openly corrupt politics of big city Chicago has so much power, they in fact run the entire state. The result is obscenely high taxes and a state teetering on bankruptcy. The people in downstate Illinois have little or no voice in how things turn out.

Yes, it is too bad Steve Stenger wasn’t able to learn from the mistakes made by past Illinois governors.

It remains to be seen if Missourians will be able to learn a lesson from the Stenger affair and reject the kind of corrupt political system that is in place in Illinois. Yes, corruption can infest smaller governments just as well as larger governments.

But remember, the larger the government, the more absolute the power. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Victor Kremar

Editor’s note: Stenger is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 9 after pleading guilty to three federal charges May 3.