Corruption is a fact of life and likely as old as the first civilization. There is something about power that tempts even the most honorable among us, and when you think of how many of us are less full of moral fiber, you understand why corruption flourishes. Government tends to be especially rife with corruption, given the power-money-opportunity trifecta of temptation, but some places seem to be veritable cesspools of dishonesty. For you budding officials, here are the six most corrupt cities in America.
Ah, Detroit: city of smokestacks and failure. Nobody thinks of rainbows or unicorns when thinking of Detroit, which is one reason why corruption thrives there. A recent example includes the mayor’s aide who was federally indicted on multiple counts of bribery and extortion involving city property sales. His brother, the deputy mayor, was also involved, as was a Detroit police officer. Of course, Detroit’s corruption claim to fame is not only the numerous public school employees charged for embezzling school funds, but also “Hip-Hop Mayor” Kilpatrick, now in prison after paying close to $9 million to keep officers quiet about his extramarital affair with a city employee. Stay classy, Detroit!
Speaking of urban blight, how about Newark, New Jersey? It’s so corrupt there’s a page on the city’s website where people can report it, assuming they aren’t afraid of cement shoes. In 2009, Newark’s deputy mayor suddenly “retired” the same week word came out of a massive federal corruption probe. Mayor Booker, who was elected on an anti-corruption platform, had eighty city officials under investigation at the time. Though not all in Newark, 44 people were eventually arrested on charges of corruption and international money-laundering, including the mayors of three nearby New Jersey cities. The story even includes body parts for sale. It doesn’t get any more Jersey than that.
While looking into New Jersey, the FBI checked Philly out, too. The city was the target of a grand jury investigation of corruption in the city government and police department, which caught at least two high-ranking police department members as well as city officials. A beer distributorship owned by a Philadelphia Licenses and Inspection official and disbarred attorney with ties to mobster Lou “Bent Finger” Monticello was part of the investigation. As if that wasn’t enough, 37 Philadelphia priests are currently being investigated for reports of child molestation.
If New Orleans wasn’t corrupt before Hurricane Katrina, the resulting chaos was enough to pique the interest of the lowest of scumbags in that vulnerable city. A 2007 report stated that public corruption cases had more than quintupled since Katrina hit, with 171 people federally indicted between 2003 and 2007, including a school board president. Now, that’s just shameful.
Vegas was built by the mob, so it’s not ssurprising that it is one of America’s most corrupt cities. Given the fact that the casinos are 37 of the top 50 city employers, the power structure in Las Vegas is both unique and extremely skewed toward the rich and powerful. The casinos support the city government and exploit eminent domain to gobble up land needed to build more and bigger casinos, with little regard to ordinary citizens. The unusually low police officer per capita rate isn’t helping, ether. Las Vegas always has been, and will continue to be, a place where greed rules.
Chicago is arguably the most corrupt city in the United States. It is a city with a long and in-your-face tradition of rampant corruption, which has changed little since the mobster days of the early 20th century. A whopping 385 Chicago officials have been convicted of crimes in the past ten years, including five governors, three of whom have served prison sentences. The mob is still very active in Chicago as well, being home to crime bosses responsible for several high-profile murders. At least they’re keeping their U.S. Attorney busy.