Editorial: When politicians go awry
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 14, 2014 | 1511 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this April 25, 2013, file photo, former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer is followed by media as he arrives for his arraignment at the federal courthouse in Lexington, Ky. Former Kentucky basketball star Farmer was sentenced Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, to more than two years in prison for abusing his power as the state's agriculture commissioner. Photo: Timothy D. Easley, File/The Associated Press
In this April 25, 2013, file photo, former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer is followed by media as he arrives for his arraignment at the federal courthouse in Lexington, Ky. Former Kentucky basketball star Farmer was sentenced Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, to more than two years in prison for abusing his power as the state's agriculture commissioner. Photo: Timothy D. Easley, File/The Associated Press
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Here in Alabama, where the memory of 2010’s bingo-related vote-buying scheme in the state Legislature still burns, it’s convenient to believe we’re ground zero for such political shenanigans.

That’s patently false, of course.

All sorts of Southern states have suffered through their own trials and tribulations of corruption and abuse of power. For sheer publicity’s sake, Louisiana’s Huey Long and Edwin Edwards top most any list of Southern bad guys in office. But look around and there are others, so many others in every region, if not every state. Errant, egotistical, power-seeking politicians can roam among us, wherever we are.

Remember Richie Farmer?

If you’re not a fan of college basketball, you likely don’t. Farmer was a mustached former country boy on the University of Kentucky’s 1991-92 basketball team. That team wasn’t very good because of the effects from NCAA sanctions, but Farmer epitomized the plucky team’s play: gutsy, all-out, do anything to win. College-level talent, Farmer’s and the team’s, wasn’t abundant.

Farmer and his teammates, however, became heroes in their Southern state.

Decades later, the diminutive Farmer entered politics. Buoyed by his lingering stardom and his Kentucky Wildcat pedigree, he was elected as the state’s agriculture commissioner — an important post for a state as rural as Kentucky. He spent eight years in that office before running unsuccessfully as a Republican for lieutenant governor.

But here’s where Farmer the favorite son couldn’t resist the tempting lure of political fame. Prosecutors say he abused his power as agriculture commissioner — hiring friends and paying them for jobs they didn’t do and requiring state employees to do odd jobs and errands. One of those odd jobs was building a basketball court at his home.

Today, Farmer — a former Mr. Basketball in Kentucky — is preparing to enter prison in March to serve a 27-month sentence for those crimes.

Consider this a fitting reminder as 2014’s political season gets underway. The people we elect, even those we think we know, need the utmost scrutiny.
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