Public Corruption

Public corruption is the violation of a public official’s duty of faith toward his or her community. Most public corruption occurs when an official is offered something of value in exchange for a favorable decision. Public corruption can be committed on the federal, state, or local level by anyone elected, appointed, hired, or otherwise in the employ of a constituency of citizens. A judge’s ruling, a legislator’s vote, a bureaucrat’s contract for work – each of these is susceptible to public corruption.

Types of Public Corruption

The FBI, one of the major investigators of public corruption, states that the majority of its public corruption cases fall into one of five categories: legislative, judicial, regulatory, contractual, and law enforcement. Legislative corruption and judicial corruption refer to deals that influence legislators and judges, respectively. Regulatory corruption deals with government investigators, such as those that are looking into the corporate scandals of the past few years. Contractual corruption is illegal forms of persuasion connected to the distribution of government contracts. Law enforcement corruption refers to any improper attempt to sway officers of the law.

Examples of Public Corruption Cases

In a late 1980s sweep of a Miami courthouse, the FBI and local law enforcement found rampant bribery. Termed Operation Court Broom, the investigation used sting tactics to net five judges and former judges, as well as six lawyers and one businessman. FBI agents put false trials on the dockets and staged meetings in which judges were bribed to suspend evidence, release information, reduce bail, and appoint lawyers to cases. The resolution of the operation took over a decade, but the guilty parties were forced to repay bribe money and to serve jail sentences.
In a simple case of contractual corruption, the former Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was found to have been bribed by a Canadian businessman to push a contract for a food product through the department. Each man may receive as much as sixty-five years in prison and pay millions in fines.

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