Wendy Dennehy and Lisa Rampton Halverson: Politicians are not going to save us from corruption

(Senate Television via AP) In this image from video, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks on the Senate floor about the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. The Senate will vote on the Articles of Impeachment on Wednesday afternoon.

Today, while a majority of the U.S. Senate voted to acquit Donald J. Trump of both articles of impeachment presented by the House, Sen. Mitt Romney stood courageously in defense of ethical government voting to convict. He honored his solemn duty to put country over party. We congratulate and commend him on this act of leadership.

With this Senate impeachment trial and vote to acquit comes the realization that there are many of our politicians willing to let corrupt acts slide in deference to political gain. We have been witness as the Senate chose partisanship over leadership. We have watched them thwart efforts to allow witness testimony — despite continuing disclosures of pertinent information. We have listened as senators, one by one, recited that they knew the president did what he was charged with, yet they were unwilling to act. As leaders of Mormon Women for Ethical Government, we condemn these actions.

The justifications revealed these senators were willing to rationalize wrongdoings for partisan power. For example, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander offered, “There is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven…. [T]he Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

Romney countered this with: “The Constitution doesn’t say that if the president did something terribly wrong, let the people decide in the next election what should happen... [I]t says if the president does something terribly wrong, the Senate shall try him. And so the Constitution is plain.”

As advocates for ethical government, we feel obligated to call this senatorial obstruction and rationalization what it is: political corruption. It’s the opposite of ethical government and a betrayal of republican values. We believe one of the core principles of ethical government is that “every government official and institution has a duty to respect the rule of law, including accepted processes for how the law is to be established, executed, and interpreted.” Corruption, on the other hand, is “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”

Using the power of the office of the presidency to coerce a favorable re-election result is illegal and corrupt. Impeding the deliverance of nearly $400 million in military aid and withholding a White House visit as a means of strong-arming campaign assistance from a foreign country is unethical, unlawful, and corrupt. Blocking pertinent information and firsthand witnesses from offering testimony — preventing truth from being told — is dishonest and corrupt. Using government mechanisms of justice to punish those who expose illegal behavior is dangerous and invites corruption. Enough!

What lies ahead if the rule of law is not upheld and corruption in government is not rooted out? Corruption will invite the manipulation of policies, institutions, and rules in order to sustain power, status, or wealth. It will hollow out our system of checks and balances and threaten the foundations of democracy. Unfettered, this corruption will spread to every one of our institutions like a metastasizing cancer, rendering them impotent against the very threats they were built to counter. A government infiltrated by corruption and its self-serving ways will not work for the people. Its sole aim will be to enrich and embolden the participants at the peril of our democratic institutions.

We believe our fellow Americans are allies in this battle against corruption. They too want to stop this cancer before the voice of the people is overpowered and accountability to the rule of law disappears. We believe that Americans, by and large, also hold an inherent respect for the rule of law.

With this deep commitment, we call upon our fellow Americans to fight to empower our institutions — regardless of whether it serves our partisan interests — to turn the tide of encroaching corruption. We cannot allow dangerous ideas that give power to one man’s self-promotion — in the guise of common good — the tiniest of footholds. We must reject this propaganda and call on our leaders to, in turn, reject the absurdities being purported so we don’t fall prey to atrocities that follow.

Romney took significant political risks when he rose in courage and voted for both sworn witnesses and conviction in the impeachment trial. He honored the obligations and oath of his office — speaking with integrity and moral authority. This is what leadership looks like and we are grateful.

But with the Senate vote for acquittal, the American people recognize that politicians are not going to save us from corruption. Without more leaders like Romney, we are our only liberators. We need our fellow citizens to recognize affronts to the rule of law, to reject corruption, and to elect leaders with integrity and courage.

We need leaders to step away from the fray and pursue concerted efforts to offer up hope to a weary nation that corruption — especially political corruption — will be eradicated and ethical government will prevail. We must work together to protect our democracy.

Wendy Dennehy

Lisa Rampton Halverson

Wendy Dennehy and Lisa Rampton Halverson are senior directors for Mormon Women for Ethical Government.