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About that "they all [politicians] do it [corruption]" meme


Data Says: Not so much

There I go ruining a great and much favored media narrative with pesky facts.  Well, actually, Sanford C. Gordon (NYU) assembled the facts in a study, and Peter Tucci of the Daily Caller reported on it, but I'll help spread it around.

The Democrats' corruption problem


By Peter Tucci, the Daily Caller

This has been a bad couple of weeks for Democrats. The economy is sagging, support for President Barack Obama is declining, and Anthony Weiner and John Edwards are doing their best to draw attention to one of the Democratic Party's main weaknesses -- its corruption problem.

According to a 2009 study published in the esteemed American Political Science Review, Democrats are several times* more likely than Republicans to find themselves in federal court on public corruption charges. The study's author, New York University professor Sanford C. Gordon, doesn't really explore why this is, but I have some theories.


Several times?  By my math, on average, the delta is 4.35:1; that is, for every 100 Republicans indicted on public corruption charges, 435 Democrat are so charged.  That is what they call statistically significant.

As to Mr. Tucci's attributions, you should click on through to read those.

Hat Tip: Hot Air

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Comments (28)

I would suspect that the ra... (Below threshold)
Sep14:

I would suspect that the ratio of dead voters going democrat is even higher.

Moreover, the statistics ar... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Moreover, the statistics are almost certainly skewed in Democrats favor, since the federal courts are filled with corrupt partisans with a strong will for prosecuting Republicans while doing a three-monkeys when it comes to Dems. The true extent of Democrat criminality is probably much higher.

I don't have high hopes of ... (Below threshold)
john:

I don't have high hopes of anyone actually doing this, but before you start your Democrat bashing, you ought to go read the study that the Daily Caller is misrepresenting to make their headline.

The study is linked to in the DC article, but here it is to help you along: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1166343

The title of the study is "Assessing Partisan Bias in Federal Public Corruption Prosecutions". You see, it's about partisan bias in prosecution, not commission of corruption. The premise of the study is that prosecutors are willing to charge political opponents with corruption even with weak cases, whereas they are less willing to charge political allies with corruption even with strong cases.

If this is the case, the author theorizes that the sentences for political opponents of prosecutors will be lower than sentences for political allies.

So what the study found is that Republicans are more likely to prosecute opponents and protect friends, whereas Democrats are less likely to prosecute opponents and protect friends.

The study did NOT conclude that Democrats are more corrupt. It concluded that Republicans are more biased in their prosecutions, and they rely more on political affiliation than actual facts in deciding who to prosecute. Not exactly something for you to be proud of.

This is what happe... (Below threshold)
irongrampa:


This is what happens when the radical elements (read progressives) attain a majority in a party.

Strive for advancement of the agenda. Issues of corruption are irrelevant--as long as the agenda is furthered.

At any rate , the dems chose an apt symbol for their party.

My guess would be that it h... (Below threshold)
f1guyus:

My guess would be that it has a lot to do with the Dems being concentrated in the big cities. With all due respect the middle class left fo the suburbs a long time ago. Leaving behing the upper class city folks. and those others.

Moreover, the statistics... (Below threshold)
john:

Moreover, the statistics are almost certainly skewed in Democrats favor, since the federal courts are filled with corrupt partisans with a strong will for prosecuting Republicans while doing a three-monkeys when it comes to Dems.

Congratulations. You just stated the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the study concluded. Well done.

This is the well of the Sen... (Below threshold)
Sep14:

This is the well of the Senate john. You don't have to defend them here.

By the way, have some more Koolish Aid while your at it.

'isn't'...... (Below threshold)
Sep14:

'isn't'...

Color me "not surprised".</... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Color me "not surprised".

For perusal, the study conc... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

For perusal, the study conclusion...

The 2007 U.S. Attorney ring scandal raised the possibility that federal corruption laws could be deployed for partisan ends. In this paper, I have sought to move beyond anecdotes to construct a systematic test of partisan bias in corruption prosecutions. My simple theoretical model anticipates diff erences in the distribution of observed sentences between defendants from the two major parties in the presence of partisan bias. Based on estimates of those differences, I fi nd strong evidence of aggregate partisan bias across the Justice Departments of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Apportioning the bias between the administrations is slightly more challenging. While evidence of bias is detected under both administrations, these estimates are susceptible to confounding because we cannot directly observe the actual magnitude of the bene fit to an individual of engaging in corruption apart from the (potentially incomplete) evidence on which the prosecutor relies. However, under a plausible set of assumptions, evidence pointing to the disproportionate prosecution of Democrats under both Bush and Clinton speaks to the direction of this confounding eff ect, implying that the eff ect of partisanship is most likely stronger than implied by my analysis of Bush-era prosecutions, and weaker than implied by the analysis of Clinton-era prosecutions.

I conclude by noting that these results may be interpreted as both good news and bad news for Democrats and Republicans alike. For Democrats, the evidence suggests that the Bush Department
of Justice may indeed have discriminated against them. For Republicans, the fact that Democrats were disproportionately targeted under both Clinton and Bush is evidence that Democrats at the state and local level may have access to more substantial opportunities for corruption than Republicans.

This is perhaps not surprising given the concentration of Democratic public officials in urban areas.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that the presence of opportunities for corruption for some members of a party is not synonymous with the tendency of the typical official from that party to comply with or violate the law. Indeed, both the model and data are fully consistent with compliance by the vast majority of officials and private citizens from both parties.
Emphasis mine... :)

Look, folks - I love basing a corrupt pol as much as the next online opinionator. But let's give credit where credit's due, okay? The VAST MAJORITY of folks at the state and local levels AREN'T corrupt.

Which makes me think there's something pretty nasty in the DC water. I think we ought to shut it down for a year or two, and bleach the whole place to kill whatever pathogen is causing the avaricious insanity that infects our Congresscritters.

john,The only numb... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

john,

The only numbers that we have are the (and those from the article, not the abstract of the paper) relative rates of prosecution under Clinton and Bush fils Administrations:

For example, Gordon finds that Democrats were 2.57 times more likely than Republicans to face federal public corruption charges during the Clinton administration but 6.13 times more likely than Republicans to face federal public corruption charges during the George W. Bush administration. Those numbers are based on representative samples of federal public corruption defendants during both administrations.

Now that I think about it a little more deeply, I should have said the mean instead of the average as I strongly suspect there were more public corruption prosecutions under the Bush fils administration than there were under the Clinton administration.

If anyone will pay for a copy of the study I'll be glad to do my own analysis of the numbers presented.

So now reading and understa... (Below threshold)
john:

So now reading and understanding are Kool-Aid?

You don't need to pay for t... (Below threshold)
john:

You don't need to pay for the study. There's a link to download it.

Yes, John professor Gordon ... (Below threshold)
Hawk:

Yes, John professor Gordon does make that claim. But even he concedes that democrats are more likely to be targeted for corruption charges. Regardless of whether they are prosecuted by Republicans or democrats. His attempt to explain this disparity is rather weak.

He wrote:
"For Republicans, the fact that Democrats were disproportionately targeted under both Clinton and Bush is evidence that Democrats at the state and local level may have access to more substantial opportunities for corruption than Republicans. This is perhaps not surprising given the concentration of Democratic public officials in urban areas."

The part of this study that... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

The part of this study that I find most amusing is this:

The 2007 U.S. Attorney firing scandal raised the specter of political bias in the prosecution of officials under federal corruption laws.

So Clinton's firing of ALL (93) U.S. Attorneys get a yawn, while the Bush firing of (8) "raises a specter" and a question of "possible bias."

That's freaking rich. That should tell you a little about bias right there.

John,

I apologize if I misinterpreted the study, I took what I was reading at face value. I must say that I am not well versed in statistics and analysis and I'm not prepared to argue the point. The author seems to argue that the high number of Democrat prosecutions must be due to partisan bias, or indicative of fair-minded Democrat prosecutors' willingness to prosecute.

I call BS. What it tells me (based on intuition) is that the evidence must have been so overwhelming as to make those cases which were prosecuted impossible to ignore.

Crap. I missed the closing ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Crap. I missed the closing blockquote. Sorry about that.

Interesting.One tw... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

Interesting.

One two year sample under Bush fils, one two year sample under Clinton.

Clinton
Indictments 222
Dem 49
GOP 28

Bush
Indictments 223
Dem 84
GOP 23

Note that the number and percentage of GOP's prosecuted is relatively constant. The nearly 2:1 delta in DEM rate is interesting...

Fine. Let's assume that pr... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Fine. Let's assume that prosecution of corruption is politically biased and that any given administration will only prosecute a portion of the actual corruption of their own party.

That being said, we can conclude that if the Clinto admin prosecuted 2.57 times as many democrats as repubilcans we can assume that the real rate is somewhere north of that and south of the 6.13 times as many that the Bush admin prosecuted.

Either way you are left with the fact that even with prosecution biased in their favor the dems are far more frequently corrupt.

I'm fair and balanced and c... (Below threshold)
Sep14:

I'm fair and balanced and come to the same conclusion as jim m.

What this is ignoring is ho... (Below threshold)

What this is ignoring is how strong a spotlight gets shined upon the differing parties.

Wiener: he has most of the media trying to ignore it, then defending him (reflexively) until the weight of the evidence gets to be too lopsided to ignore and Wiener ADMITS to the facts.

Take any recent Republican scandal for contrast: Foley, soon as the allegations were made, the vast majority of the media were giving it massive accusatory play immediately.

Barney Frank is still in Congress despite multiple ethical issues and a couple legal ones. That Republican congressman from New York who sent a shirtless picture and online proposition was gone in 24 hours.

Thesis: Democrats know the media is likely to cover for them while investigating their opponents. Republicans KNOW the media won't try and bury it. And Media Coverage leads to public awareness which controls how much latitude there is in the system for a officials to follow whatever bias they may have

John "whereas Demo... (Below threshold)
retired military:

John

"whereas Democrats are less likely to prosecute opponents and protect friends."

Yep that is why Weiner, Kennedy, Rangel, Frank, are all still in congress. Also why Clinton stayed in office.

IMHO you are all missing th... (Below threshold)
kevino:

IMHO you are all missing the important cause of all this corruption: Democrats believe in State control. When the political process becomes more important, more resources are spent greasing the wheels to influence the system. The system is corrupt by design, and Democrats are at the center of it. Republicans are most frequently on the outside looking in, or they are trying to change or reform the system.

Up here in dark blue New England there is another cause: there are no consequences. If Republicans are even suspected of being corrupt, the LSM is all over it. Republicans know that they can never get away with it, and so they don't try (or at least try less). Democrats get a pass from the LSM. They know that they can buy sex from under-aged girls with cocaine in full view of the press, and it will never see the light of day. After years of seeing fellow Democrats stealing City Hall, they figure, "Why not?"

Dan Melson @ #20 ~ You are ... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Dan Melson @ #20 ~ You are talking about a different issue here. Notice how many corrupt Democrats kept getting reelected: Kennedy, Conyers, Frank, Studds, Rangel, for starters. So it doesn't have so much to do with prosecution or conviction as it does with the nature of the voting base. Republican voters are more likely to punish an errant officeholder, while Democrats get reelected despite all sorts of crimes exposed.

It seems to me there is a f... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

It seems to me there is a fundamental underlying issue.

The opportunity for graft and corruption increases as the size of Government increases. Big Government is inseparable from Big Graft and Big Corruption.

Politicians who come up through the local and state versions of Big Government (aka Machine Politics) have imbibed quid pro quo from their entry into politics. Every politician they have known has been a part of that system, everyone in politics they know engage in practices which are elsewhere are known as graft and corruption. In the Machine, that's just how things are done.

When the political culture changes, and in a lot of the polities dominated by machine politics are changing, the old way of doing business is no longer tolerated.

Look at the county by county maps from election 2004 and 2008. The Blue Counties are few and densely populated. Look for that trend to continue in 2012.

If politicians and bureaucr... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

If politicians and bureaucrats are generally honest, well-meaning, law-abiding folk, then why is the government that they create and run so endemically, incurably corrupt?

My own view is that there's a lot of illegal corruption that isn't caught, and even more activity that isn't illegal but is most definitely corrupt. "Honest politician" = "crook that hasn't been caught yet."

"If politicians and bureauc... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

"If politicians and bureaucrats are generally honest, well-meaning, law-abiding folk, then why is the government that they create and run so endemically, incurably corrupt?"

How much gasoline can you put in a gallon of water before it's undrinkable?

wolfwalker @ 25,"A... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

wolfwalker @ 25,

"An Honest Politician" in the machine is one who once bought, stays bought (e.g. Willie Brown).

What is left out of all the... (Below threshold)
Rance:

What is left out of all these statistical arguements, and from what I can tell the report itself, is the total number of Democrats and Republicans that hold elective office.

What percent of the elected officials from each party were indicted for corruption? That would seem to be the test of whether or not one party holds the moral high ground.




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