“Corrupt politician arrested” is a headline that we rarely see in the press. That’s because our broken political system allows legalized bribery to happen every single day.
But every once in awhile, someone crosses the line into illegal activity and gets caught. Here are three of the most noteworthy corruption arrests of the last few years (that you probably haven’t even heard about), and an update about where they are now.
The Spectacular Fall of Aaron Schock
Representative Aaron Schock from Illinois was an up and coming star in the Republican Party. He was young, fit, and had a poppin’ social media presence, complete with an Instagram account showing off his glorious abs on beautiful beaches.
He had it all…
…until a writer for the Washington Post style section stopped by his DC office in early 2015 and found he had done some redecorating.
Yep, that was really his office. He reportedly spent $40,000 in taxpayer funds to overhaul his Congressional office to look like an English manor, inspired by the TV show: Downton Abbey.
But that’s not all. He also allegedly used taxpayer funds to pay for a litany of other “perks”, including:
- Private jets
- Doing the tango in Argentina
- Partying with popstar Ariana Grande
- P90x workout videos
- Vacationing in Greece at a fancy hotel
- Indoor skydiving
- Taking his staff to a Katy Perry concert
- And even hiring a professional photographer to capture his life on the go
All of these lavish expenditures garnered huge public attention, and it ultimately became a national story. In March 2015, at the height of the maelstrom, Aaron Schock resigned and soon faded from public view.
Where is he now?
It appears that a criminal investigation began around the same time as his resignation. Things stayed relatively quiet until November 2016, when a federal grand jury indicted him on 24 counts, including wire fraud and theft of government funds.
His case is now winding its way through the courts, with his legal team arguing that much of the evidence against him was obtained illegally. In October 2017, the federal judge overseeing the criminal case announced that the prosecution ‘misled him’ by providing inaccurate information to the court, according to Politico. The prosecution has been ordered to review all of its filings and to file a new report.
The trial is scheduled to begin in January 2018.
Leland Yee and “Shrimp Boy”
This one’s got it all: the Chinese mafia, an undercover sting, and even rocket launchers.
Leland Yee was a California State Senator who wasn’t quite ready to retire when his term was up in 2014. So, he set his sights a bit higher, hoping to secure the position of CA Secretary of State. In order to do that though, he needed to raise significant campaign funds.
And that’s where Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a career criminal with ties to the Chinese mafia, came in.
Their arrangement was simple: Yee would use his position to push for an official state Senate proclamation praising Shrimp Boy’s Chinese-American Freeman lodge and in exchange would receive a $6,800 campaign contribution.
Unfortunately for Yee, Shrimp Boy was the target of an undercover FBI investigation, and their relationship quickly caught the attention of investigators.
As Yee continued to seek out avenues to raise money for his campaign, he ended up becoming a target of investigation himself. FBI agents posed as prospective donors offering campaign contributions in exchange for favors. One such “donor”, under the guise of a New Jersey mob boss, agreed to make large a campaign contribution in exchange for machine guns and rocket launchers.
Shockingly, Yee did not shy away from the deal. In late 2013, he met with the undercover agent and agreed to introduce him to an international arms trafficker from the Phillipines, who would be able to ship the arms through Newark, NJ.
Where is he now?
In prison, serving a five year sentence.
Governor Bentley’s No Good, Very Bad Affair
“Don’t cheat on your spouse” is a good rule of thumb for a high-profile politician. Or anyone really.
Governor Bentley of Alabama apparently did not get that memo.
In 2014, Governor Bentley allegedly began an affair with his Chief Adviser Rebekah Mason, which, while slimy, is not a crime. What is a crime, though, is using public funds to carry out or cover up said affair. And that’s ultimately what brought down the Governor.
Things didn’t hit the proverbial fan publicly until March 22, 2016 – when Gov. Bentley fired Spencer Collier, Alabama’s top cop. The official reasoning for the firing? Misuse of money under Collier’s lead.
Collier offered another perspective, stating that he had “seen and investigated text messages and audio recordings ‘of a sexual nature’ between Gov. Robert Bentley and his chief advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.” The statement was notable because it was the first public confirmation of the affair. It also ignited a political firestorm. Within days, state lawmakers began distancing themselves from Bentley, and by July 2016 an official impeachment investigation was underway.
News of the ongoing scandal and investigation faded into the background during the height of the 2016 Presidential Election, but came roaring back to life this April. The Alabama Ethics Commission announced that it had found probable cause that the Governor had violated state ethics laws by “using public resources…for personal interests” and “using funds from his campaign to pay legal fees for former political adviser Rebekah Mason.”
Immediately following the Ethics Commission’s announcement, the state legislature moved to impeach the Governor. Meanwhile, the criminal investigation into the matter also seemed to be nearing its end. Within days, a panicked Bentley made a plea deal with the state attorney general’s office and quickly turned himself into authorities.
Where is he now?
Robert Bentley resigned as Governor, and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor corruption charges. The plea deal means he’ll likely avoid jail time, but requires him to pay more than $50,000 in fines and to serve 100 hours of community service in his capacity as a physician.
While these stories may leave a bad taste in your mouth, it’s important to remember that elected officials are not bad people. Most actually come to Congress to do good work on behalf of their constituents. The problem is that our broken political system rewards big money above all else.
In fact, a new member of Congress is expected to raise $18,000 a day – an outrageous sum by any measure. So it’s no surprise that some of our politicians make unethical decisions in order to fund their reelection campaigns and protect their own self interests.
If we want to end this toxic cycle, then we need to stand together – conservatives, progressives, and everyone in between – to stop corruption in government.