The Confusion Surrounding Honest and Dishonest Graft

George Washington Plunkitt, state senator of New Jersey around 1905, believed that most people could not differentiate between dishonest graft and honest graft. Plunkitt argued that he was getting richer everyday owing to honest graft. He posited, “I have seen my opportunities and took them.” Some government officials were not voted back to power because the electorate thought that they had acquired their properties through robbing the city and thus, dishonest graft. Plunkitt asserted that the poor people were the most grateful people in the globe because they had more friends in their localities compared to rich neighborhoods. Further, he argued that people needed help and helping would not be considered dishonest graft but rather a means of aiding people achieve their successes. Plunkitt posited that, “One cannot study human nature in books.” Plunkitt believed that his wealth was acquired through honest graft.

Plunkitt demonstrated that he was an honest person as he undertook fair dealings especially through the opportunities that came his way. For instance, he bought some land in the neighborhood of a proposed new park and before long; he made his fortunes when news went public regarding the laying out of the new park. Plunkitt bought his land honestly at reduced prices and later, when the demand increased, he was able to make a profit on his investment, a factor that demonstrated his foresight. Plunkitt’s position was instrumental, as he would be tipped off on a given project and immediately purchased properties that he would later sell at a higher price. He posited that, “I purchase anything that pays but not only land.”  In line with honesty, Plunkitt showed that honest graft was highly misconstrued particularly when those in power gave their friends different contracts and jobs.

Plunkitt demonstrated his concern over leaders who engaged in dishonest graft when they had many avenues for honest graft at their disposal. He asserted, “There is so much honest graft for those in power.” Those in power were blackmailing on disorderly houses, worked with gamblers and lawbreakers besides robbing the city treasury. Plunkitt posited that, “I do not own a dishonest dollar.” Plunkitt’s statement that it was crucial for him to learn the weakness and strong points of the population in Fifteenth District demonstrated his ability to utilize the right approach to address their issues and thus, promoting honest graft. Irrespective of the numerous accusations of dishonest graft through unproven accusations, George Washington Plunkitt proved that it was possible for those in power to make money through honest graft and meet the needs of the people without engaging in dishonest graft.