U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Developing Empirically-Driven Public Corruption Prevention Strategies

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $412,108)

Convictions for public corruption offenses have increased significantly, especially at the state and local levels. Since 1995, federal convictions of state officials are up +95%, and convictions of local officials are up +67%. In addition, more than half of these cases involve participation of private citizens in the official misconduct. Correspondingly, public opinions polls show a dramatic decline in trust and confidence in government and in those individuals running it. Corruption is one of the most serious of all crimes due to its impact on government legitimacy, in addition to the impacts of the offenses themselves. Public corruption offenses include bribery, extortion, embezzlement, procurement and contracting fraud involving public funds, as well as illegal gratuities, nepotism, conflict of interest, illegal campaign contributions, official misconduct and influence peddling. In every case, a public office is misused for private gain. This research is designed to answer several important questions: Why are the significant number of public corruption cases still occurring over many years, and why are they increasing? Are there circumstances common to these cases that can be ameliorated? Are these crimes of opportunity, predatory greed, or other motivations? What are the penalties imposed for these convictions? What might be done in the future to reduce and respond to instances of public corruption, especially given their deleterious impact on public trust in government? A mixed methods research design will be employed to answer these questions, including analysis of a large sample convictions for state and local corruption offenses, interviews with a sample of offenders convicted of public corruption offenses, interviews with federal investigators and prosecutors of these offenses, and interviews with local stakeholders. This study also will compare high-volume and low-volume jurisdictions to assess reasons for the large discrepancies in the incidence of public corruption offenses. The 1 0 highest-volume jurisdictions for public corruption convictions account for a third of all convictions nationwide. Therefore, there is both persistence and growth over time in the incidence of public corruption, and a careful analysis of legal cases combined with interviews with three crucial constituencies in both high- and low-volume jurisdictions will provide a basis to develop a typology of public corruption incidents, as well as insights and specific recommendations for their detection and prevention in the future. This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 14, 2015