Former U.S. Attorney: Public Corruption Rampant

Public corruption is an issue as old as public office itself, and yet it remains more prevalent than ever. From high-ranking elected officials to rank-and-file officers and bureaucrats, the problem of government officials violating the public trust persists. In fact, the FBI recently called on Houstonians to help report and root out public corruption. Houston attorney Michael J. Wynne, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, tells KTRH he's seen firsthand just how bad the issue of corruption can be. "It is endemic," he says. "I worked on the Mexican border for a long time, and I would bet that a third of our customs officials are compromised by the drug cartel."

Wynne, who spent years investigating public corruption, believes it usually starts with something small and innocent. "A public official, often a judge or district attorney, will accept some type of small favor or token in return for what would appear to be a minor decision," he says. "But once they do that once, they're subject to blackmail, either covert or direct."

Once an official is compromised, it affects the way they carry out their job. "They are inevitably going to be distracted and preoccupied, and that is going to impact their creativity, their decision-making, and their loyalty to the public," says Wynne.

That isn't to say that all politicians or government officials are corrupt. Wynne says many are good and honest, which is why it's so important for the FBI to "root out" the bad ones. However he also cautions federal investigators to ensure all of their work is on the up-and-up in order to avoid the appearance of conflicts-of-interest or bias like in the 2016 Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. "It is a sacred duty on behalf of those of us who have had the honor of prosecuting these cases to get it absolutely right," says Wynne. "Because the reputational damage cannot be undone, if you don't have all the evidence marshalled in an objective fashion."

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