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Study: Los Angeles Is Second Only to Chicago in Public Corruption

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Los Angeles is second only to Chicago in the number of officials convicted of public corruption.A recent study by University of Illinois professor Dick Simpson looked at convictions won against elected officials, appointees, government employees and a few private individuals in federal courts since 1976.

Illinois' Northern District took the top honors with 1828 convictions. California’s central district, headquartered in Los Angeles, was a "distant second" with 1275 public corruption convictions. That district includes Riverside, Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and San Bernardino counties. New York’s southern district, encompassing Manhattan, the Bronx and a few nearby northern counties took third with 1202 convictions.

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez spoke to some experts and mulled over the statistics in a column:

California historian Kevin Starr says there's a long history of corruption here, dating to the noir era and even earlier. And he says the roots of organized crime in the region are deep. But I think a better explanation for our current rot is that if you're a scheming public official in Los Angeles, stealing everything that isn't nailed to the wall is a breeze. Too many people aren't paying attention and can't be bothered to vote, which allows sleazy opportunists to easily build fiefdoms. And journalists can't bag every skunk, no matter how much we'd like to.
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He also pointed out that we might be closer to Chicago since our stats don't even take into account the biggest recent scandal in the city of Bell. It was the District Attorney's office that went after Bell. He said in Illinois, only the feds go after public corruption.

But hey, our stats don't look so bad if you consider corruption cases per capita: Louisiana is the most corrupt state in this category. There are a whopping 2 convictions per 10,000 residents. DC has a really high conviction rate, but the author notes that this reflects the fact that many corruption cases are tried there that don't occur there. After that come New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, California and Texas.Our sister site Chicagoist has the full study published on its site and a few more details about why Chicago is so notoriously corrupt.