What Congress Could Learn From An Obscure 30-Year-Old Eddie Murphy Movie

In 1992, Eddie Murphy’s “The Distinguished Gentleman” offered a scathing parody of corporate influence and personal enrichment in the ha...



In 1992, Eddie Murphy’s “The Distinguished Gentleman” offered a scathing parody of corporate influence and personal enrichment in the halls of Congress. As the film’s 30th anniversary approaches, Congress and corporate America have an opportunity to learn from the film and reform some of the practices that continue to erode public trust in government.

In the film, Murphy stars as a con artist named Thomas Jefferson Johnson who overhears his local congressman’s tales of corruption and, upon the lawmaker’s death, seizes the opportunity to exploit name recognition and the voter apathy to succeed him. What follows is a hilarious show of hog-barrel politics and legal corruption before the rookie politician changes course to defend his constituents’ interests in the face of corporate and political pressure.

At the time, a review Noted, “The comic premise – that successful crooks end up in government – ​​… lags behind the cynicism of the average viewer. This assessment turned out to be correct. For the past three decades, Congress has been plagued by consistently low rates approval rate, with a study finding that Americans’ perceptions of unethical behavior shape their views of the effectiveness of their elected leaders. While many of the abuses parodied in “The Distinguished Gentleman » – like luncheons funded by lobbyists — have since been banned, there remain many practices that foster cynicism about ethics in government and money in politics.

“When Murphy’s Thomas Jefferson Johnson entered politics, his ambitions did not go beyond insider trading and corporate benefits. If this representation is hardly representative, it remains difficult to shake.

When Murphy’s Thomas Jefferson Johnson entered politics, his ambitions did not go beyond insider trading and employee benefits. If this representation is hardly representative, it remains difficult to shake. Almost 30 years later, we have a unique opportunity for Congress and corporate America to play a role in building trust in our political system. Since 2012, the STOCK law prohibited members of Congress from using nonpublic information learned in the course of their official duties for personal gain and required regular reporting on their stock transactions. However, the proliferation of stocks trade by members of both parties following private briefings during the coronavirus pandemic have led many to question the effectiveness of these rules.

The constant net of potential conflicts of interest created by members investing in companies whose industries they oversee and offenses STOCK Act reporting requirements continue to generate negative press and undermine public trust. These transactions have led many Americans to wonder how some members of Congress are overachieving the Marlet and whether they make decisions in the best interests of their constituents or out of concern for their own stock portfolios.

Fortunately, there are bills recently presented to Congress that would limit or prohibit members of Congress and their spouses from trading individual stocks. Unlike other ethical reforms currently under discussion, these measures have growth bipartisan support in the House and Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) also reported a opening to ban lawmakers from trading individual stocks after expressing initial skepticism. Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also said he would consider support these policies. In the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) has said he supports legislation aimed at curbing trade in Congressional stocks and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is apparently “ready to examine it”. It is also reported plans for a congressional hearing as early as next week to discuss possible legislative changes. In a Congress that was marked by Republican reluctance to reasonable reforms of ethics and democracy, these events suggest a rare opportunity to enact meaningful, bipartisan change.

Another potential opportunity for reform lies in limiting the influence of corporate money on public policy through corporate political action committees. In the film, Murphy’s character is told that he will “need some new friends” with ties to corporate PACs to secure his re-election. Studies confirm that mall companies use affiliated PACs “to boost the campaigns of candidates aligned with their financial objectives”. During the 2020 election cycle, PACs representing business interests contributed more than $175 million to federal candidates and party committees, eclipsing contributions from unions and issue groups. Our current legal regime creates an uneven playing field that gives corporate interests an advantage over average Americans.

Some elected officials are trying to change that. For example, the senses. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) recently introduced legislation prohibiting for-profit corporations from establishing and operating PACs. As of this writing, the bill does not yet have any Republican co-sponsors. While banning corporate PACs may have less momentum on Capitol Hill, this is an area where corporate America can show leadership and commitment to change.

Following the Capitol insurrection, many businesses promised to end or reconsider their political donations to members of Congress, especially those who voted to void the 2020 presidential election. It wasn’t long before some of these companies resumed their corporate donations to the aptly named “Sedition Caucusmirroring the same cynicism captured in public opinion polls and popular movies like “The Distinguished Gentleman.” However, many in the business community also pushed for reform that left a lasting impact on our political system.

In the year following the uprising, more than half of the approximately 250 companies who said they would assess their political donations did not donate to politicians who voted against certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election. Experts say there has been a significant drop in corporate donations to opponents of congressional elections, including bans on companies to like Dow Chemical, Lyft, Microsoft and Airbnb. Giant companies like Hewlett-Packard and others took their stance one step further and shut down their corporate PACs altogether. Our democracy would be well served if more companies followed these examples of corporate citizenship.

Thirty years ago, Eddie Murphy captured public sentiment about corporate influence on Washington politics with “The Distinguished Gentleman.” While the film’s portrayal of Congress was exaggerated even in its day, Congress continues to face justified skepticism on ethical issues. Leadership in Congress and the business community can go a long way toward implementing laws and practices that will make our democracy work better. American voters and consumers should demand nothing less.



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Newsrust - US Top News: What Congress Could Learn From An Obscure 30-Year-Old Eddie Murphy Movie
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