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Unlike most people I listen to nowadays, I have no idea whether Utah public officials accept money for favors, also known as taking bribes. I prefer to wait until someone's actually convicted before I pass judgment.

Keep in mind this is not a morally superior position. It's simply a stand I take because I KNOW I can be bribed. I have been my entire life. And I like it.

Most people don't understand the legal definition of bribery. They know it involves money and behavior, but that's about it. I asked a few friends.

Note: Asking any of my friends a question almost always guarantees a wrong answer, but they were handy and you weren't.

Me: "What is bribery?"

Friend No. 1: "Paying someone to do something."

Me: "Actually, that's called 'employment.'"

No. 2: "Somebody taking money from you to do something bad."

ME: "That's taxation."

No. 3: "Is it like trading money for sex?"

Me: "That's a 'home mortgage.'"

No, the real definition of bribery is giving someone with a particular responsibility money to betray that responsibility.

This definition explains why I can say I have been bribed before, and will continue to be bribed until the day I die.

Years ago, I got into trouble for doing something a bunch of other kids were doing, too. I won't go into detail other than it involved the roof of the school instead of a bathroom.

I was the only one who got caught. When I whined about it, the principal told me that instead of following everyone else, I had a responsibility to just be myself.

Unfortunately, I had already been bought off. My father was paying me 50 cents a week to betray this very responsibility.

He didn't call it a "bribe," of course. The word he used was "allowance." If I was something other than myself for the entire week, I received an allowance. If I gave into weakness and was myself, I didn't.

I never liked the term "allowance." It put me on a par with a welfare cheat or a beggar. I preferred to think of the payoff in the more respectful term of bribery, or, better yet, extortion.

I told myself that the old man wasn't giving me an allowance. He was paying me for protection. As long as he paid, nothing really bad would happen to his stuff or his other kids.

It was cheap, really. For half a buck I made sure the house didn't catch fire, none of the trees in the yard got chopped down and air stayed in the car's tires.

But if I didn't get paid or my father was late, I couldn't guarantee that any of those things wouldn't happen. Unless of course he chased me onto the roof of a nearby building, which sometimes happened.

The system still works today. For a substantially larger amount — which my wife refers to as "idiot money" — I can be persuaded to be something other than what I really am for upwards of four days at a time. I'll even go to a certain amount of church.

I realize this makes me ethically challenged but I'm OK with that. It's worth the money. I'd be more ashamed of this blatant cash-for-a-fix if people such as Utah lawmakers could get it figured out.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

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