Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Who's the Most Corrupt of All?

Take this quiz, win big prizes, and find out who leads the pack!

I've been taking a course this summer in commercial fraud examination techniques. The instructor, who's with the Secret Service's white collar crime unit, says federal fraud investigators pant at the chance to work in Chicago because there's so much corruption here. In fact, in one of their newsletters, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners says, "Come to Chicago, where we have the hottest jazz, the coolest architecture, and the most indictable politicians in the nation!"

We're justly proud of our corrupt politicians here. Our nickname is Clout City, and the connections among the Mob, elected city and county officials, bribable businessmen, vote fixing, real estate zoning--I could write a book here on the Blog, but I won't--are legendary.

To celebrate the Outfit Collective's second anniversary, we're offering a little contest. Do you think your town or your city or county is as corrupt or more so than Chicago? Write a short essay, no more than 200 words, to say why, and you will win--not Karl Cassell's voice on your home answering machine--but even better--a basket of books by your favorite crime bloggers, the Outfit Collective!! Chicagoans: you can enter, too, of course. Historical corruption counts, too.

Contest will end on August 15, and winners will be chosen based on completely subjective criteria, although hanging chads will of course be a factor.

Sara Paretsky


Doug Levin said...

How do we enter the contest? I've got a pretty good story of small town corruption, though I'll have to work a little hard to make it hardboiled. Thanks.

Sara Paretsky said...

It doesn't have to be hardboiled, just a good tale--and you enter by writing it up right here on the blog.

R.J. Mangahas said...

Seeing as Chicago seems to be so corrupt, would you consider a bribe to help sway your decision? Just thought I'd ask. ;)

Wilfred Bereswill said...

This is easy. I live in St. Louis. Chicago is more corrupt. They've given you the Cubs. We have the Cardinals. Yes, as we speak, the Cubbies are ahead in the standings. It's not September yet.

Doug Riddle said...

Come visit Detroit, a city founded on by the old boys club.

Patricia Harrington said...

Once upon a time there was Tacoma. Washington, known in early days as Seattle's ugly and smelly step-sister city. 30 miles to the south. Tacoma's views of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Mountains were breathtaking; so were our smelly pulp mills. Their stacks spewed smoke trails and a stench that made traveling performers grown when they saw "Tack-0-Ma" on their venue lists.

We have gone from mill town to museum town, boasting at least six, distinctive museums in this town of 200,000. I remember growing up, the whispers and knowing nods, that our city was reputedly the "summer getaway vacation" spot for Mafia mobsters. They came here to "cool off. Legend had it, that they came to hide out from the law or other gangsters, gunning for them.

Don't think that made our town "the most corrupt" in any way. But the tale made interesting talk and the teller look over his or her shoulder, to see who might hear and inform the wrong person.

Tacoma had an interesting ethnic and racial mix of Italians, Yugoslavians, Greeks, Blacks, Native Americans and Scandinavians. Our town had diversity before it was politically correct, and we had our share of power play and corruption.

Now, we're pretty pristine in all ways . . . so this anecdote doesn't quality for your contest. But did enjoy writing it.


Pat Harrington, Author, Bridget O'Hern, amateur sleuth series. Coming Aunt Amelia Winthrope in Murder Visits Antigua

Doug Riddle said...

Detroit's Mayor is going to jail today.....Do you know where your Mayor is?

Libby said...

An article in today's Salon is right on target: "How Conservative Greed and Corruption Destroyed American Politics"

You can find it here.

Nice essay, Pat!

Libby said...

Following is an entry for TAMPA FLORIDA, written by John Taylor.

Thanks John!!

"Tampa in the late 1800s was tough. Then phosphate mines opened outside of Tampa in 1883 and the move of the Key West cigar factory to Tampa in 1885 brought the need for workers, largely filled by immigrants, many from Alessandria Della Rocca and Santo Stefano Quisquina, two small Sicilian towns.
In 1909 the North Tampa Land Company, based in Chicago, bought 32,000 acres north of Tampa, began clear cutting the native pines and ran a full page ad with the lead "Live Like a Prince in Florida" after scoffing up much of the property ceded as land grants to Civil War veterans from the Chicago area gone bust when the fickle Florida weather ruined their small orange groves.
For years money churned, especially when the illegal bolita numbers games were dangled in front of workers toiling in the mines, cigar factories and lumber camps.
Then Kefauver cleaned it all up.
Until the drugs returned.
This past week, John A. "Junior" Gotti was arrested in Tampa on a federal racketeering case involving the Gambino family. Their crimes included murder, bribery, robbery, kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, loan sharking, jury tampering, witness tampering, burglary and money laundering, among others, officials said."

John M. Taylor

Anonymous said...

I'm from Baltimore--our mayor is currently being investigated because she may have (a) thrown some government contracts to her sister's employer and (b) gotten some more government contracts to a landscaping-type company headed by a guy she was dating at the time. And one of our state senators encouraged passing of legislation that would benefit a grocery store...that he happened to be a consultant for, which somehow slipped his mind.

All allegedly, of course. Neither have been charged with any crime.


Stephen D. Rogers said...

I'm so sure I'd win that I would be foolish to post my story. "They" troll the internet, you know.

Janet Reid said...

Vernon, CA. It’s an industrial part of L.A., to the east and south of downtown. It has been run by the same family for 65 years – population of about 90 permanent residents.

They recently held an election for Mayor and Sherriff, the first one in more than 25 years and only after someone took them to court and forced them to do so.

But, before the election, the “city council” changed some of the residency requirements so that the people who brought and supported the suit couldn’t vote.

bookwitch said...

I so want to join in here, but Stockport, Cheshire, UK is simply boring and inept. Not any more crooked than anywhere else.

Though I remember my Northern Irish evening class tutor whose mother at home in Belfast was so very worried about her darling son's safety in the dangerous vicinity of Moss Side, Manchester. Apparently they shoot people there, whereas she only had to deal with murdered people in the park when walking the dog.

Doug Levin said...

Okay, here is my 196-word small town corruption story. The name of the town has been changed to prevent my getting my knees broken...

Hatchetville, Connecticut

Ten years ago, I left this sleepy New England burg and didn’t look back. Sure, New England looks good on a picture postcard, but there are operators everywhere: protection racketeers, loan sharks, dope pushers, and -- oh yeah -- government officials shaking down honest citizens.

So ten years I’m gone, moved a half dozen times through a couple states, and out of nowhere, the burg catches up to me. It’s a simple notice: send us $340 for back taxes on a car you owned in our town. The problem: they want money for the two years after I left. I didn’t live there. I’ve got plenty of proof: a copy of a lease, correspondence, a goddamn out-of-state voter’s card. The response from the shakedown artist in town hall, politely: “I don’t give a shit.”

Well, what if I don’t pay? Liens and a bad credit report. If I’m ever stopped in the state, I might have my driver’s license taken and spend a night in jail. A state official says the town collects thousands every year this way. Some pay, some don’t. “Who you going to complain to? You’re not a local voter anymore, are you?”

Doug Levin
“Wilson’s Man” in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 2008
“Fire Lines” in Measures of Poison (Dennis McMillan: 2002)
“Charles Willeford,” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 226, American Hard-Boiled Writers

Violette Severin said...

Yikes! I'm too scared to enter. They not only monitor the internet, but my cube as well. Maybe I should be talking to a fraud investigator? Just kiddin' y'all.

R. Brawer said...

When it comes to corruption, Chicago politicians are children compared to New Jersey. United States prosecutor, Christopher Christie, has prosecuted and put in jail scores of corrupt New Jersey officials from the previous Mayor of Newark to the mayor of my small town of 25,000 people.
Sharpe James of Newark was just found guilty of selling city land to his mistress cheaply so she could flip it and make a huge profit.
The mayor of my town, Ocean, NJ, was convicted of taking bribes from a developer to circumvent zoning laws.
Mayors and officials in other towns throughout the state were convicted of bribery in land deals and issuing no bid contracts.
There is so much corruption in New Jersey that two Gannett newspaper reporters, Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure, have written a book titled, “The Soprano State” and subtitled “New Jersey Culture of Corruption.” This has nothing to do with the mob. It is about corrupt elected and appointed state officials.
As far as I am concerned, New Jersey’s most corrupt elected official not prosecuted is Governor Corzine. He freely admitted he has had a long affair with the head of the state’s largest employees’ union and then he led the contract talks and gave the union a sweetheart deal where the state employees pay a tiny donation toward their health insurance but then get a big raise, double the inflation rate, to more than offset that donation. Of course Governor Corzine didn’t take a bribe (he’s a multimillionaire) and the contract had to be approved by the legislature, but many in the legislature receive massive campaign contributions from the employees’ union so they were not going to negate the contract.
Richard Brawer

Peter Knight said...

Well ... I'm posting from Argentina - this far South of your Border "corruption" is a regular way of life and participating wouldn't be a fair contest. I'd be delighted to lose though - should one post specific examples of rotten or would this general air of decay do?

Libby said...

Hi, Peter. Specific examples are always appreciated!

Bethany K. Warner said...

Oshkosh, Wisc. – First day on the city/county government beat in this 60,000-person town and what am I covering? The return of the former DA to stand trial on state corruption charges. The Feds already got him a few years earlier. I knew about the case from three years of sitting next to the city government reporter but while he was helping to expose the corruption, I was writing about third-graders and reading programs and bus schedules.

But there we all were in the courtroom -- me and the TV cameras and the state department of justice guys and the ex-DA in cuffs and leg irons. Leg irons seemed sort of excessive for a guy who took bribes from clients to lower the charges in DUI cases. Allegations swirled that he tampered with evidence and rigged a few other criminal cases, but it was never confirmed.

He got $48,000 in bribe money and subsequent state time tacked on to the end of his federal sentence. Small town got an overactive fear of elected officials.

Oshkosh is no Chicago. But it’s worse when you don’t expect the corruption.

the Bag Lady said...

Dang, the worst corruption to occur in these parts was when the young bucks got all liquored-up and thought it would be funny to put chickens in their buddy's house while he was still at his wedding dance.... sure corrupted his carpet...
'Course, if the hamlet was big enough to have a mayor, it might be a different story.