Corruption in Washington: Naked Emperors

Carolyn Schultz

Tuesday, Scot Faulkner ’75 presented on the corruption of America’s political leaders in his address “Naked Emperors – How Republicans and Democrats Have Lost Their Minds and Their Way.” The lecture was based on his 2008 book “Naked Emperors: The Failure of the Republican Revolution,” an account of Faulkner’s experiences as the country’s first chief administrative officer of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Faulkner served as the national director of personnel for the Reagan-Bush campaign of 1980 and held executive positions at the Federal Aviation Administration, the General Services Administration and the Peace Corps during the Reagan administration. He served as the House of Representatives’ chief administrative officer beginning in 1995. He has been involved in politics for 38 years.
Faulkner’s address began with his reaction to his experiences in Washington. “Trying to find scandal in Washington is like hunting for cows,” he summarized. He added that every era in politics is tainted by the scandals uncovered at the beginnings of terms. For example, before President Obama was sworn in last month, Rod Blagojevich tainted his first term.
Faulkner calls the political leaders in Washington “naked emperors” after the classic story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Anderson. This emperor was so obsessed with himself that his tailor tricked him into wearing a “fabric” only important people could see, and all of his court told the emperor he looked great. It took a child’s telling him that he was naked for the emperor to realize his mistake. The “emperors” in Washington, Faulkner states, are the same self-absorbed bureaucrats. However, the truth-telling child “would be wrestled to the ground and deported,” said Faulkner.
“Congress is like a big freshman dorm,” he said. “Congressmen are away from home for the first time, they have no adult supervision … it’s all about sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. They go nuts and screw around all term, and then come 10th week, they pull all-nighters and ask for extensions.”
As the CAO, Faulkner worked to eliminate the corruption in congress. He passed reforms to eliminate unrecorded spending. He worked with what he termed Congress “institutionalists,” people who really care about the ethics of their jobs, to form a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, with the goal of exposing the fraud and holding people publicly accountable. Faulkner was unable to get very far, as he was informed that the corruption was not supposed to be “that public.” His reforms were ended in 1996.
During his time at Lawrence, Faulkner was involved with politics and in enacting change. He was the head of the College Republicans and helped to organize the first Earth Day celebration. He majored in Government and volunteered for Nixon’s re-election campaign in 1972. Faulkner went on to study at the London School of Economics and Georgetown University and received his master’s degree from American University.
Faulkner concluded, “Washington, unfortunately, is a lost cause.” In order to evoke the change needed, Americans need to work outside the D.C. beltline. “By upholding the ideals of public integrity, transparency and ethics, we can move past partisanship,” said Faulkner. Working to evoke change at the local and state level – from the bottom up – is the solution, he said.