Political Importance and its Relation to the Federal Prosecution of Public Corruption

Originally published in Constitutional Political Economy

In the US, federal prosecutors are appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and have significant discretion over which cases they choose to take to court. Federal prosecutors handling an overwhelming majority of corruption cases invites the possibility of political influence in the monitoring of corruption. Additionally, political disparities across states may result in differences in corrupt behavior. Using individual case level data, I examine the effect political factors have on federal corruption cases, with an emphasis on states that are an important focus in the next presidential election. I find that corruption convictions tend to be higher in politically important states. This effect seems more significant when Democratic administrations are in power. In addition, it seems that these effects are relevant only for corruption crimes labeled as “federal”.

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