Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Public Corruption - Who Investigates It

Public corruption is defined as crimes involving abuses of public trust by government officials at any level: federal, state, or local.

All states have laws that permit or require their state's attorney general and local prosecutors to investigate allegations of public corruption. However, not all states have recusal requirements, requirements that compel a local prosecutor to recuse himself or herself from a public corruption case simply because he or she has extensive social or political contact with the persons who may or have become subject of the investigation. Indeed, local prosecutors may not even be required to notify the state's attorney general that a public corruption allegation has been made. That is typically because local prosecutors are locally elected and are autonomous. State bar association ethical standards for prosecutors may compel disclosure of certain allegations.

At the federal level, public corruption investigations are the responsibility of the United States Attorney for the particular district in which the violation occurred. However, Section 9-85.000 PROTECTION OF GOVERNMENT INTEGRITY of the United States Attorney's Manual recognizes that US Attorneys do interact politically and socially in their districts. Consequently, the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) requires that nearly all public integrity or pubic corruption allegations made to US attorneys be brought to the attention of the USDOJ's Public Integrity Section.

To better understand the how's and why's of the USDOJ's Public Integrity Section, read pages 1-10 of Report to Congress on the Activities and Operations of the Public Integrity Section for 2002. That Report to Congress is an annual report required of the USDOJ by the Ethics in Goverment Act of 1978.

To get some idea of how citizens initiate complaints to and request investigations by the USDOJ's Public Integrity Section, see the Public Citizen letter of June 17, 2003. Notice that the letter of complaint included far more than just general allegations and emotional arguments. The letter identified the laws Public Citizen believed were being violated, it identified specific persons allegedly involved in the violations, and it provided enough factual and verifiable information to establish probable cause that the cited law may have been violated.

The Public Citizen complaint letter could easily serve as a model for citizens requesting local prosecutors or a state attorney general to investigate allegations of public corruption. While a local prosecutor or attorney general may be disinclined to pursue a credible investigation, let alone a prosecution, because of social or political connections locally, he or she knows that failure to dutifully investigate the complaint could easily cause the complainant to take the information to progressively higher prosecutorial authorities including the USDOJ Public Integrity Section.

Allegations of public corruption should never be made without enough supporting information to cause a reasonable person to conclude that the allegation(s)have a factual basis. That is not to say that the complainant must always be able to hand over an airtight case. It means that there must be credible evidence beyond mere suspicion of wrongdoing. Again, read the Public Citizen complaint letter. Note the lack of emotional argument and the emphasis on the law and the elements of proof that exist to support the allegations. A well-prepared complaint letter with substance is much more difficult to dismiss than one based on emotion but short on facts.


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