In response to Mexico's telecom monopolist being worth $49 billion, a reader writes:
Ah, Telecom. Clean loot!
Isn't it amazing how skullduggery in anything having to do with communications or entertainment never seems to elicit the abhorrence that afflicts something in, oh, oil or the construction business or any industry with big heavy pieces of metal involved. I was thinking of that when you mentioned Oklahoma Senator Robert Kerr [a brilliant Democrat considered too crooked to be President in 1960]. I think he took his money from oil and construction, two industries that Lyndon Johnson had stayed away from as soon as he got into politics in the early 1940s. Instead, Johnson piled up a personal fortune by grabbing radio licenses, legally through his influence at the FCC. They were put in his wife's name, but one suspects the key distinction is that all the money came from shooting electrons across the airwaves, not pulling gunk out of the desert.
And Mark Warner, for a while poster boy for the new Democrats, played an updated version of the same game, all honest and legal, by energetically deploying his Harvard Law skills to grab the early cell-phone licenses that were allocated without any auction to recover monopoly rents for the government. The sources of his great personal wealth were barely mentioned during coverage of his brief campaign. In contrast, Jack Abramoff profited off the competition for Indian Casinos, another 'dirty' industry in most people's minds. It was never shown that Abramoff did anything illegal in helping his clients (he is going to jail for something else.) But there is something about casinos that dirties anyone who gets near them. Even Bruce Babbitt, so to speak the straightest arrow in American politics, got caught up in an investigation of the allocation of casino rights when he was Secretary of the Interior.
Stick with electrons. You can get away with anything.