Should the Federal Government be Involved in State Corruption Cases?

 

Some of you might be spending this week wallowing in the schadenfreude of the recent corruption scandals across the country, all of which happen to involve Democrats.

 

The one in my own backyard involves State Senator Leland Yee, one of California’s most aggressive supporters of gun control, who was busted by the FBI for — you guessed it — conspiring to smuggle automatic weapons and even shoulder-fired missiles through the United States via Muslim terrorists in the Philippines.

 

Another one in my former backyard, Philadelphia, involves Democratic state legislators caught taking bribes. The state Attorney General will not prosecute, however, because she has suggested that the targets were selected because they were African-American. The Philly District Attorney, who is African-American himself, has disputed the claim and wants the legislators brought up on charges.

 

Then there are the various Democratic mayors who have been convicted and charged recently for pay-to-play: demanding campaign contributions in exchange for city contracts. It is hard to keep track of all of them, but Detroit, of course, is one. I was surprised to see Charlotte join the list last week.

 

I have two unconnected thoughts:

 

1. These high-profile cases all involve Democrats. I haven’t seen an empirical study, but I bet Democrats get caught for corruption at a higher rate than Republicans. It isn’t, in my mind, because Democrats are less ethical, but because they dominate city governments and have no significant Republican opposition to keep them honest. Or is it because Democrats make a career of working in government, so they begin to believe that they are owed something by the public for their hard work?

 

2. On the other hand, I don’t think that it is the job of the federal government to oversee the ethics of state politicians, no matter how corrupt they are. Yee is a special case, since the gun-running is a violation of federal import-export and gun laws, though he is also accused of political corruption. Often, however, these legislators are charged for depriving the public of their “honest services.” This a notoriously vague law.

Putting that to one side, I don’t see the enumerated federal power in the Constitution to criminalize state politics.  Congress has the duty to make sure that the states have a republican form of government, and the Equal Protection Clause requires that the states give every person the same vote. I don’t see these provisions, however, as authorizing the federal government to constantly monitor state and local officials for their ethical conduct. I think that should be the job of the states and their own political processes. If the citizens of a state want to keep returning corrupt officials to office, they will get the government that they deserve.

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    The same voters that authorize the corruption are the same voters that are OK with DOJ going after corruption.

    Some large criminal enterprises need someone from the outside to step in. If the guys getting elected are corrupt enough, they will make sure no one else gets elected.

    I am all for this. I just wonder at the one sidedness of it all.

    • #1
  2. user_49770 Inactive
    user_49770
    @wilberforge

    In as much as this should belong to the States, the DOJ is well known for stepping in to make a point. Given the climate of the current DOJ, this may occur.

    However, one finds its a bit odd, these investigations reveal corrupt Democrats and most are Black. The MSM has also turned a deaf ear. Lift rug, sweep under.

    • #2
  3. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    John, as Bryan gets at in #1 above, where does one draw the line?  How much corruption is required before the DOJ needs to get involved?  

    Chicago and Illinois is a case in point.  If one were to decide to “clean up” politics in the Land of Lincoln, it would certainly be understandable if it were concluded that the clean up was not going to come from inside Illinois due to the rampant corruption already in place.  Should the DOJ then get involved?

    • #3
  4. user_340536 Member
    user_340536
    @ShaneMcGuire

    Oh, I think once a city starts leeching off the federal gov’t (see all cities) the federal gov’t gets to look into corruption. Corrupt city officials affect everything—how gov’t money is spent (some of which comes from DC), who gets prosecuted (and states can prosecute for violation of federal laws), who gets appointed to the bench, how elections are handled, how schools are run, etc.

    The pervasiveness of the federal dollar in all of the above-listed endeavors makes it the business of the federal gov’t.

    • #4
  5. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    As much as I dislike federal overreach, how many of these city politicians are involved in dispensing or apportioning federal funds?

    If any or all of them are I think the federal government has a legitimate interest in state or city level corruption.  There’s also an element of pressure that can be brought to bear against non-federal agencies by state and local officials.  How can you trust a mayor (in Charlotte) or a well connected machine politician (in San Francisco) not to find out about a local investigation and get it quashed?

    That’s not to say it couldn’t happen on a federal level as well, I just find it less likely for someone with that kind of clout to put pressure on an FBI investigation into corruption which may in itself justify the involvement of the DOJ.

    • #5
  6. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Is sounds as though Prof. Yoo agrees with Leland Yee’s lawyer:

    “What took three years?” DeMeester asked, referring to an FBI affidavit that indicated the investigation of Yee had started in 2011 and lasted until shortly before his arrest.
    “It raises questions about the allocation of scarce federal resources, and it raises questions about fairness to Leland Yee and to the public,” the defense lawyer said.

    On the other hand, maybe Michelle Malkin and others are right on the reason – and the timing – for this operation:  These arrests were done done now to make sure that whatever coverage the media gives them (so far, not much, though) is over and done when the arrests of Republicans can happen as the 2014 October Surprise.

    Probably won’t be many California Republicans on the list; it’s hardly worth buying them these days.

    • #6
  7. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    I suspect why federal investigations might actually be required at times is that state’s attorneys are often politically appointed, and may or may not choose to investigate and prosecute something based on the politics, not the potential crime.

    I guess in that sense it’s no small wonder how much corruption occurs at the municipal level.  Other than annual financial audits, what’s to prevent a local government from doing a lot of what it wants to do, other than the vote?  If they do something and keep it from the public, there’s no downside at the ballot box.  It almost encourages this kind of behavior when there’s less oversight.

    The countervailing weight of opposition parties can’t be overvalued here, on either side of the aisle.  If no one’s asking the questions (at city council meetings, public hearings, etc), then corruption will happen.

    • #7
  8. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    Let’s be completely honest in this. Does anyone trust that the Holder Justice Department will honestly investigate criminal behavior by Democrats and Blacks? I seriously question any hope that Holder will ever authorize such and investigation, much less prosecution. I believe that the people of the municipality or state in which the crime is committed by their own elected officials need to act to clean their own houses without the intervention of the federal government, which has no constitutional mandate to act, and needs no impetus to increase its power.

    • #8

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