The Corner

Law & the Courts

The DOJ Investigates Everything . . . Except Political Corruption

The DOJ has its hands in nearly everything these days. Except, that is, for political corruption.

Attorney General Lynch has found the time to sue North Carolina for its transgender bathroom law and, to launch an immediate investigation into Alton Sterling’s fatal encounter with Louisiana police. But she has not batted an eyelash upon receiving investigative requests into Florida’s corrupt state capital.

In fact, when a bipartisan group led by former Democratic senator Bob Graham asked Holder in 2013 to aid the State Attorney’s Northern District Office (an underfunded office with only 22 attorneys) in investigating corruption, the DOJ responded with a simple “thank you.”

If anything, Graham’s letter to Holder wasn’t a request — it was a demand. “The Northern District Office lacks a freestanding public corruption unit and the institutional expertise and resources that are available in larger offices to investigate and prosecute these complicated and highly important cases,” Graham and his colleagues wrote. “It is too much to expect it adequately to investigate the vast operations of Florida’s $70 billion state government.”

Former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida confirmed that at the time of the request, her office did not have the resources to investigate the possible corruption. “My office was getting smaller, not bigger,” Marsh said. “It was just a very tough situation.”

The DOJ’s failure has had real consequences, as studies published over the past three years show.

Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics published a study in 2014, concluding that Floridian politics as a whole fell under the category of “most corrupt”, and legislative corruption was found to be “very common.” The following year, Florida received a letter grade of “D-” in a state integrity investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity.

“It’s gotten more serious as the amount of money in politics has so dramatically increased,” Graham told the Miami Herald. “And that’s the essential circumstance that leads to corruption.”

With Florida’s corrupt politics enduring, Graham and his bipartisan group intend to meet with Lynch and propose their ideas once again.

It is obvious, however, that the DOJ does not want to prevent corruption in state capitals across the country. If it did, it would have responded to Graham’s request back in 2013. One can safely assume that Florida won’t be removed from the “most corrupt” list of states any time soon. Not when there are fringe social battles to fight.

Austin YackAustin Yack is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute and a University of California, Santa Barbara alumnus.

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