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Defending Corporate Bribery

Here is an ironic, and troubling, development: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has hired former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey -- the nation's top law enforcement official under Bush -- to help it water down the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for U.S. companies to bribe foreign governments as part of doing business abroad.

As the blog reports:

The Chamber may have decided to take on the FCPA now because President Obama’s Department of Justice has decided to do what Bush’s Department of Justice under Mukasey didn’t — thoroughly enforce the law. Under Obama, the department collected more than $1 billion in fines during fiscal year 2010, the most the government has collected in the law’s 38-year history, and more than ten times the $87 million collected in 2007 by the Bush Administration.

Given that rampant corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to economic growth in developing countries -- not to mention, being plain wrong -- it makes sense that the U.S. passed FCPA back in the 1970s to ensure that U.S. companies didn't contribute to this problem. But the law has never been popular with corporations, who say it puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

Well, tough. There are some moral principles that we should uphold regardless of how they affect the bottom line. Not using bribery as a standard means of doing business should be one of those principles. Why would a former U.S. attorney general sign on to defend corporate bribery?

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