Document Type


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Cogent Social Sciences




1: 1670510

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Funded in part by the VCU Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.

Date of Submission

March 2020


Public corruption undermines the rule of law that is crucial to the maintenance of governmental legitimacy and peaceful co-existence. As political divisiveness has grown, politicians have called public corruption investigations “witch hunts” and part of partisan politics, rather than a search for justice. Contemporary attacks on law enforcement charge that they are acting with political motivation which further undermines the legitimacy of these investigations. It is important for research to delve into how the investigative processes maintain their fact-finding missions in support of the rule of law. This study addresses how public corruption investigations occur and how the investigations themselves are conducted. First, federal prosecution data are used to understand the frequency of investigations over the last thirty years. Second, interviews with 40 former investigators and prosecutors examines the process, protocols, tools and resources needed for successful corruption investigations. Investigations require interagency cooperation (especially at different levels of government) and particular attention to the use of investigative tools that ensure the legitimacy of the law in the eyes of the accused, the courts and the general public. In addition, a decline in public corruption cases is seen in recent years with the US prosecution effort diverted to immigration cases.


© 2019 The Author(s). This open access article is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 license.

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