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When I told the Dean at my law school, the estimable Dan Polsby, that I was going to Chicago to deliver a lecture on political corruption, he said, "I lived there a long time, and, as the saying goes, that sounds like bringing coals to Newcastle." This is certainly a common belief. The term "Chicago politician" has become national shorthand for a corrupt public official. New York, where I grew up, also figures in stories of political corruption in America, with Thomas Nast's cartoons of the Tammany Tiger and Boss Tweed (and, much later, Martin Scorcese's version of him in the movie Gangs of New York) serving as warnings to all Americans about the sordidness of big city government. Some of this is hype. After all, there is corruption to be found in every area of the country and at all levels of government. And determining the relative susceptibility to corruption of levels of government is an impossible empirical question, as it requires some baseline understanding of what the expected rate of corruption at each level ought to be.
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