NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There's honest graft, and there's dishonest graft. That's what I learned from the first political science book I ever read, and still my favorite.
In Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, an old ward heeler tells reporter William Riordan about graft. Taking a cut of a bridge's cement contract payment is dishonest graft, he says. Honest graft is knowing the need for a bridge, then buying up the necessary land on either side and selling it to the city at a markup. Dishonest graft is pure self-interest, whereas honest graft is getting rich for the greater good (and the good of the party). Plunkitt himself spent almost 40 years in the New York State legislature, and for decades was a major force in the Tammany Hall political machine in New York City.
Now, more than 100 years later, honest graft is back.
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