Pearls of Wisdom: Using Political Power for Personal Gain

As too many of us know, corruption is rampant in our country. However, few times have I seen it more blatant than this.

Last week, David Samson, the now-former Chairman of the Board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, pleaded guilty to bribery under a federal charge. Samson oversaw one of the busiest ports in the country, operating six airports, the tunnels and bridges connecting New York City with New Jersey, an enormous office complex in New York City, a train system connecting New York City and New Jersey, and several other hugely important facilities.

As a long time political operative in New Jersey, Samson had been appointed by Republican governors to numerous positions over the years, including a 2011 appointment to Chairman of the Board of Port Authority by New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie. You may remember Mr. Samson from his involvement in the Fort Lee lane closure scandal, popularly known as “Bridgegate,” after which he was pressured to resign. But the scandals did not end there for Mr. Samson.

Samson had a weekend home near Columbia, South Carolina. To get there, he would take a flight from Newark, New Jersey to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then drive for about two hours—a trip Samson found tiresome. Thankfully for him, the Newark Liberty International Airport is one of the facilities he oversees as Chairman of the Board of the Port Authority, so he thought it would be convenient if United Airlines offered a direct flight from Newark to Columbia. Thinking about this is fine, but he unfortunately he took action in 2011. Samson used his power as Chairman to remove a vote regarding United’s lease with Port Authority—a vote that United was looking forward to having. By doing this, Samson successfully threatened and pressured the airline into reinstating a twice per week, nonstop flight from Newark, New Jersey to Columbia, South Carolina. This is using political power for personal gain. It is wrong and, fortunately, it is illegal.

What Mr. Samson did is deplorable. We urge our public officials to understand that this behavior is outright unacceptable, and we sincerely hope they are not continuously appointing people like David Samson into positions of great power. Sadly, we know this is not the case. We ask citizens and legislators alike to continue organizing, mobilizing, and moving our country towards a direction of transparency and serving the common good and away from corruption. The American people deserve far better than the conduct of David Samson, and we will continue battling abuses of power wherever they may take place.

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