Power, Corruption

Via Josh Marshall, this story in the Boston Herald:

In an apparent violation of the law, a controversial aide to ex-Gov. Mitt Romney created phony law enforcement badges that he and other staffers used on the campaign trail to strong-arm reporters, avoid paying tolls and trick security guards into giving them immediate access to campaign venues, sources told the Herald.

The bogus badges were part of the bizarre security tactics allegedly employed by Jay Garrity, the director of operations for Romney who is under investigation for impersonating a law enforcement officer in two states. Garrity is on a leave of absence from the campaign while the probe is ongoing.

“They (the aides) knew the badges were fake and probably illegal,” said a presidential campaign source who asked for anonymity because the story could damage the individual’s career. “But they went along with it because Jay (Garrity) pushed it on them.”

Two additional sources confirmed that the badges – described as bright silver plates with a state seal attached – were first created and used by Garrity while Romney was still governor. Under state law, it is illegal to use a badge without authority, an offense that carries a fine of not more than $50.

A spokeswoman for Garrity referred all questions to the Romney campaign.

The campaign source said the badges were used extensively by Garrity and staffers on Romney’s advance team, which is responsible for coordinating events for his presidential campaign.

Sometimes, the source said, a staffer would use a badge for crowd control to restrict access to Romney. Other times, they were flashed to gain quick access to emergency exits and back hallways at campaign venues. In at least one instance, a staffer used a badge to go through a Massachusetts Turnpike toll booth without paying, the source said.

I want to leave aside snide remarks about the Romney campaign and the people he employs and focus on a different question… it isn’t all that rare for people with some degree of power to get caught engaging in acts that are, well, stupid.

Possible reasons I can see include some combination of:
1. Power corrupts
2. These people were corrupt to start with, and power gives them the opportunity to act on their corrupt impulses.
3. The fact that these people have power means their corruption is more likely to hit the public eye if they’re caught.
4. The fact that these people have power means their corruption is less likely to have consequences if they’re caught, so its a rational thing to be more corrupt.

Possibility 4 is particularly disturbing to me.

So, which is it? Are there other possibilities I’m missing?