Chicago isn’t the only city where public corruption cases are making headlines. The Cleveland Plain Dealer says that a Cleveland city councilman was charged with taking a $500 bribe from a businessman seeking to have municipal electric service restored to his business. For months, a wide-ranging investigation of corruption has been unfolding in Cuyahoga County government, where at least two public officials are being investigated for possibly accepting gifts in exchange for county jobs and contracts. The FBI is devoting more agents to public-corruption investigations than it has in years. In Cleveland, the FBI added a second public-corruption squad to handle a workload that has grown.
The agency has 2,500 bribery-related investigations nationwide, a 50 percent increase from five years ago. Some advocates are pushing for even more resources to be given to the FBI so that even more can be done. “It has become so pervasive in our society,” said Catherine Turcer of Ohio Citizen Action, a public watchdog group. “It almost begs a question: Is it so much worse or are so many more people getting caught? The more we hear about it, the less we trust government.” In 2003, 868 people were convicted of federal public corruption charges. Three years later, 1,030 were convicted, a 19 percent jump. “The pendulum is swinging back,” said Frank Figliuzzi, Cleveland FBI agent in charge. “We’re asking ourselves, ‘Are we getting better at rooting this out or are people more corrupt?’ I think the answer is both.” U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy wants to spend $100 million over the next four years to hire more agents to fight public corruption.