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Allowing Crime to Pay Again and Again: Opinion

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Have you heard the latest consequences for the criminal mastermind behind Washington's biggest lobbying corruption scandal of the past decade?

Jack Abramoff is on the media and lecture circuit, earning money and influencing the hearts and minds of government workers and college students.

Those of us, who work in the field of business ethics for a living, find ourselves challenged by the idea that ex-criminals are making a new living by talking about their old ways of making a living.

Jack Abramoff

Although America is the land of opportunity and forgiveness is a strong tenet of our Judeo-Christian founding, it's troubling that you can commit crimes and then find fame and fortune talking about those crimes in a so-called "second chapter" of your life.

Since his December appearance at Harvard Law School, Abramoff has been on a media tour that includes the coveted, 60 Minutes. While he claims his fees largely go toward the $44 million restitution to the Indian tribes and others he pleaded guilty to defrauding, clearly he is benefiting from his ex-con celebrity.

Is our society's insatiable, Roman Empire-esque interest in being entertained by the most extreme displays of the worst of human behavior going to be our ruin?

Until we come to grips with making the consequences of unethical and criminal behavior as heinous and as devastating as the perpetrator's act(s), how can we expect to deter good people from going bad and bad people from getting worse?

We have become obsessed with turning bad behavior into reality TV for daily entertainment. It seems the best way to make it on TV, in the movies, in athletics, business, and politics, is to capitalize on being a freak, a fanatic, or some other failure of morality, decency, and law-abiding citizenship. It is irrefutable that the psychologically frail seek, and often receive, attention, if not fame and fortune, by following the misguided actions of man's worst nature.

Not only do we make-up excuses for run-of-the-mill criminals, we minimize the acts and stigma of U.S. Presidents, CEOs, and other leaders for their lying, stealing, cheating, and breaking laws because their -- fill in the blank with the rationalization of the moment e.g. they're nice, they're weak, they're only human, their job performance is good, etc.

We should learn from the fall of ancient societies. Establishing consequences as deterrents for wrongdoing shouldn't consist of fame and fortune. How many disgraced politicians, disgusting entertainers, and despicable athletes fill lecture halls and stadiums with autograph seeking, photo op fans paying premium priced admissions?

Bad guys shouldn't be paid for re-counting their bad acts to eager audiences.
This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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