Unprecedented amounts of money are flooding into politics, and polls show a vast majority of Americans believe corruption is becoming more pervasive than ever. But those trends do not mean law enforcement is stepping up its efforts to root out corruption — in fact, government data suggest the opposite is happening.
According to a new report from Syracuse University researchers, federal corruption prosecutions have hit a two-decade low. In all, such prosecutions have dropped by more than 38 percent since 1995.
Much of that decline has happened under President Barack Obama: In just the last five years, the number of federal corruption prosecutions have dropped by more than 30 percent. A few years after scandals over congressional earmarks and then stimulus spending, prosecutions for “theft or bribery in programs receiving federal funds” saw the largest decrease — plummeting by 80 percent since 2010.
Over the last few months, Syracuse researchers have issued reports documenting similar declines in law enforcement trends across myriad jurisdictions during the Obama era. Those reports include:
- Justice Department data showing a 20 percent decline in corporate prosecutions since Obama was elected. That same data showed the decline in Justice Department prosecutions occurred even as there was a 15 percent increase in the number of cases referred to prosecutors for action. The Justice Department has also given an increasing number of so-called “deferred prosecution agreements” to corporations.
- IRS data showing a significant decline in IRS audits of large corporations in the last five years.
- Federal data showing that prosecution of white-collar crime has hit a 20-year low. That was driven by a 29 percent decrease in such prosecutions in just the last five years.
- Federal data showing a 51 percent decline in federal weapons convictions over the last 20 years — including a 15 percent decline in such convictions in the last five years.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, both of Obama’s fellow Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have pledged that if elected, they will step up law enforcement scrutiny of the financial sector.