Sextortion Victims Are Not Guilty of Bribery

On this blog, I have repeatedly called for the anticorruption community to put greater emphasis on fighting sexual corruption around the world. I have argued that a police officer demanding sex in order to perform (or not perform) an official function is a form of bribery; in a few cases, officials have been charged with and convicted of bribery or official misconduct for sexual corruption.

Characterizing this sort of sexual coercion as bribery, however, raises a potential problem: In typical monetary corruption cases, it is possible to prosecute the bribe giver as well as the bribe receiver. Does that mean that the private citizen (almost always a woman) from whom sexual favors are extorted by a public official could be deemed to have “paid” an unlawful bribe? Unfortunately, the idea of charging victims of sexual corruption with bribery is not too far-fetched. In one New York case, two police officers demanded sex from a female motorist if she wanted to avoid arrest (for drugs found in her car); at the officers’ trial, the jury was instructed that the woman was an accomplice as a matter of law to bribe receiving. The appellate court wrote that the test for whether the woman can be considered an accomplice is whether she “theoretically could have been convicted of any crime based on at least some of the same facts that must be proven in order to convict the defendant.” And because the woman in this case acquiesced to the officers’ demands, she met the definition of an accomplice to bribe receiving. (She was not charged, but according to the court she could have been.)

Thus one potential concern with heeding the call to treat so-called “sextortion” as a corruption offense (that is, soliciting a bribe) is that it could lead to greater use of anti-bribery laws to charge the women from whom sex is extorted. (For example, suppose an American businesswoman had sexual relations with a foreign procurement officer as a quid pro quo for receiving a government contract; the businesswoman in this case could conceivably be charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.) It will be crucial to ensure that this never happens. This can be accomplished through a generous interpretation of coercion as a defense to bribery, informed by the existing American jurisprudence on sexual harassment in the employment setting.

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The Case for Including Sextortion Measures in TI’s CPI

In a recent post, I called for the creation of an international index of sexual corruption. While I believe that such an index will have an effect standing alone, I also believe that such an index, once created, should be included as one of the sources used to construct composite indexes such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). As most GAB readers are likely aware, the CPI is does not reflect TI’s own independent assessment of corruption perception, but rather aggregates corruption perception measures from a range of other sources. These other sources, however, all measure perceptions of monetary corruption, such as bribery and embezzlement. But, as TI itself acknowledges, sexual corruption may not correlate well with other forms of corruption, meaning that an index like the CPI may give us an incomplete and misleading picture.

The exclusion of sexual corruption is not TI’s fault; there are currently no global comparative measures of perceptions of sexual corruption for TI to incorporate. Indeed, this gap is precisely why I advocate the creation of an international sexual corruption perceptions index. Of course, even if such an index is created, it would be a separate question whether the results ought to be included in the CPI. I believe it should be.

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Measurement Brings Action: The Need for a Global Sexual Corruption Index

Sexual corruption is a scourge, to varying degrees, in almost every country–from immigration officials demanding sex for green cards, to U.N. soldiers using their power to force themselves on refugees or the local population they are supposed to be protecting, to police officers who demand sex in exchange for not arresting someone. The International Association of Women Judges has been trying to bring attention to this “sextortion” problem, with some limited success: Transparency International (TI) describes sextortion as a form of corruption, and last September’s International Anti-Corruption Conference devoted a high-profile session to discussing this issue.

Yet despite this increasing recognition that this sort of sexual corruption is indeed corruption–the abuse of public power for private gain–the major international indexes used to measure corruption, such as TI’s corruption perception index (CPI) (and the underlying studies used to generate the CPI), focus overwhelmingly on material corruption–principally monetary bribery and embezzlement–not the abuse of public power to extort sexual favors from victims. This is a problem: As we have seen over and over again (both in the corruption context, and in other contexts such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)), for better or worse, national-level country ratings drive action. Right now, a country that wishes to improve its global standing on corruption currently has little incentive to tackle sexual corruption. And there is no separate, easy-to-understand metric that calls attention to how well (or poorly) countries are doing, relative to one another, in addressing that problem.

It is time for that to change. It is time to create a Global Sexual Corruption Index. Continue reading

Corruption By Another Name: The Conviction of a Rapist Cop

Former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted earlier this month of sexually assaulting over a dozen women while on duty. Holtzclaw’s attacks were despicable. Several of his victims reported that he threatened to arrest them if they did not comply with his sexual demands. In some instances, he made clear that his victims had to provide him with sexual gratification to avoid arrest—an explicit quid pro quo exchange. In other cases, including the case that triggered the investigation into his conduct, Holtzclaw did not explicitly solicit a sexual bribe, but there was still an implicit quid pro quo – if the woman let him get away with the assault he indicated that he wouldn’t make trouble for her.

Holtzclaw is a rapist, but he is not only a rapist – he is also a dirty cop. The fact that he was a police officer is not incidental to his crimes: he was able to sexually assault women and get away with it for so long precisely because of his publicly entrusted power. That abuse of public power for private gain is the definition of corruption. As pointed out in a previous post, the currency of corruption can as easily be sex as money. When a police officer, soldier, immigration official, or judge demands sex in exchange for an official action, that is a type of quid pro quo sexual corruption (sometimes called “sextortion” ). When an official “steals” sex from a woman who is less able to resist the attack or to report it due to his publicly entrusted power, that is another type of sexual corruption. In addition to sexual assault, then, Holtzclaw should have also been charged with bribery and official misconduct.

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Forget FIFA: China Battles Corruption by Banning Golf

President Xi Jinping has made fighting many different kinds of corruption a priority of his administration, and so far 180,000 party officials have been caught and punished in the government’s wide-ranging anticorruption campaign. As part of this campaign, the Chinese government recently banned golf memberships for Communist Party members — all 88 million of them. The complete ban is part of an anticorruption strategy that involves cracking down on many of the lavish banquets and other types of conspicuous consumption by public officials that have caused widespread public anger in recent years, anger both at corruption, and at the country’s deepening economic inequality. The golf ban comes after months of tightening restrictions on how officials can play golf, following a scandal involving a suspicion that a top member of the commerce ministry allowed a company to improperly pay his golf expenses, as well as reports that some officials were playing golf during working hours.

The golf ban is not an isolated anomaly: A significant part of the Chinese campaign has involved tightening restrictions on various forms of conspicuous consumption by public officials. For example, officials are now prohibited from staying in five star hotels with public money (a move that led 56 hotels to ask to be downgraded to four stars so that they can continue to accept government clients), while lavish banquets, once a mainstay, have been limited to “four courses and one soup.” Golf is the latest luxury activity to fall under government regulation. But while these crackdowns could help the government look like they are taking corruption even more seriously, banning golf and other types of conspicuous consumption may actually serve to worsen the problem.

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The Corruption Is Too Damn High: Reforming Albany by Creating Additional Parties

New York state politics appears to be rife with systematic corruption, a truth underscored by the fact that two of New York’s most powerful politicians—Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former State Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos–will soon be headed to trial for corruption. What can be done about this? Federal government involvement may do some good, as the federal prosecutions of Silver and Skelos demonstrate; U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is conducting many other investigations that have sent a chill of fear through Albany’s corrupt actors. Yet the threat of prosecution alone might not be enough, which as led many people, including contributors to this blog, to suggest a range of other reforms designed to reduce the motive or opportunity for New York state politicians to exploit their power for private gain. Such proposals include reducing or eliminating the ability of legislators to receive outside income, pinpointing the problem that Albany is far removed from the cultural and business heart of New York, and introducing term limits for state legislators.

Yet there is another reform possibility that has not been discussed much and might be more practical than it initially seems: activists devoted to fighting corruption could create an additional political party in effectively one-party districts. There are many political activists in New York who care deeply about good governance. For example, State Senator Liz Krueger started a “No Bad Apples” PAC to “recruit, train and support progressive, reform-minded candidates for the New York State Senate.” Enthusiasm and resources that now go to efforts like that within one of the two major parties could instead be channeled to the creation of “No Bad Apples”-type parties in one-party districts. It would make sense for progressive activists to create spin-off parties to contest safe Democratic seats and conservative activists to create spin-off parties to contest safe Republican ones.

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Get Out Of Jail Free: The Corruption of Police Benevolence Cards

Get out of jail free cards are only supposed to exist in Monopoly. But they also exist in New York, in literal card form – at least for minor traffic infractions. These are the Police Benevolence Association (PBA) Cards. The New York Police Department claims that the cards carry no special privileges and should not influence an officer’s decision whether or not to issue a traffic ticket. The police unions, however, tell a different story. Al O’Leary, a spokesman for the PBA, said that the union expects officers to refrain from writing tickets for those with PBA cards as long as they are not a danger to others. (Of course, this in turn raises the question of why the police are writing traffic tickets for anyone who is not a danger to others.)

Perhaps the most frequent recipients of the cards are family members of police officers. O’Leary justified that by saying officers deserve a perk for their families because “[t]he risks our officers take every day make them different from other people.” Special privileges for family members would be corrupt enough. But union leaders admit that they also hand out cards as “tokens of appreciation” to politicians, judges, lawyers, and reporters. Indeed, the New York Police Benevolence Association’s includes an article headlined: “Call it a PR tool or a get-out-of-jail-free card: Each year, local PBAs hand out stacks to the well-connected.” In Nassau County, special cards are given to large donors to the police foundations. While the cards are particular notorious in New York, they exist in many police departments around the country.

This is corruption, plain and simple. And this corruption is shockingly blatant. Yet to the extent that the cards have generated significant controversy, it has been about the fact that the cards are now easy to buy on eBay, rather than the fact that they exist in the first place. One city councilman called for an investigation because selling the cards was “an insult to the people who do work for the NYPD.” Another, who admitted to holding a card himself, said: “Selling the courtesy to the highest bidder is wrong and probably should be illegal.”

These critics miss the point. The issue is not whether people other than the select favored of police officers gets out of tickets. Councilman Dan Garodnick got it right when he said: “Our traffic laws should not be enforced with winks and nods. I don’t know which is worse, the existence of a get-out-of-jail-free card or the fact that the cards are being hawked on the internet.” Continue reading

Beyond Atlanta: Fixing Corruption in High Stakes Standardized Testing

Although corruption in educational systems is viewed as a pervasive problem in developing countries, wealthy countries have had their fair share of educational corruption as well. In the United States, for example, the harsh prison sentences in the recent cheating scandal in the Atlanta school system cheating received extensive news coverage this past spring. While it’s true that what happened in Atlanta was particularly wide-spread, involving 44 separate schools (and dozens of principals and hundreds of teachers), this is hardly the first time a significant teacher or administration-driven cheating scandal has come to light. In the last few years, teachers and principals have been caught cheating all over the United States: twenty teachers in Houston were removed from the classroom for cheating on elementary school tests while in Philadelphia, there was a multi-year investigation that involved 138 educators in 27 schools. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing claims that in the last five years, there have been reports of standardized exam cheating in 37 states and the District of Columbia. They have catalogued over fifty different ways that educators helped their students cheat. And although anticorruption efforts in education frequently revolve around the exchange of money or sometimes sex for grades, the sort of cheating involved in these scandals is also a form of educational corruption. Alteration of student tests, even when the students themselves may not benefit from it, is a perversion of the system and a way for teachers and principals to put themselves in line for undeserved awards, given that many educational systems in the U.S. now operate under a high-stakes testing regime in which student performance has a significant impact on teacher and principal evaluations.

Indeed, it is clear that we are not dealing with a few corrupt “bad apples,” but rather with a widespread pattern of teacher and principal corruption. A significant contributor to this problem is the high-stakes testing system described above, which gives teachers and principals to manipulate test results for their own material benefit. Fortunately, there are a few fairly simple steps that would eliminate most of the opportunities for this sort of corruption:

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Fighting Officer Involved Domestic Violence: Preventing Police Corruption from Hindering Investigation

Corruption within police forces is a well-known foe that rears its head in a dozen different ways. Police corruption is often discussed in terms of monetary abuses, from kickbacks to shakedowns to opportunistic theft. Yet these crimes are far from the only form of police misconduct. For example,there have been numerous incidents in which police officers demand sex from prostitutes in exchange for allowing them to continue working–a form of corruption that falls under the general category of “sextortion,” which I wrote about in an earlier post. Less discussed is the corruption that makes it hard to fight sky-high rates of officer involved domestic violence (OIDV).

OIDV is a serious problem, in the United States and (presumably) elsewhere. In the U.S., two studies, one with 728 police officers and one with 425 officers, found that 40% of officers self-reported that in the previous six months they had “lost control and behaved violently towards their spouse.” The comparable rate in the general population is roughly one-fourth as high. The reasons for these high OIDV rates are complex and not fully understood. Some advocates believe that aspects of police training give officers who are violent at home the knowledge and capability to target and intensify their abuse. Others make the case that the amount of violence police are exposed to as part of their job spills over to the home. But irrespective of the causes of OIDV, corruption within the police department makes fighting OIDV significantly more difficult. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Earthquakes: Different Types of Corruption in Nepal and Sichuan

In the wake of the horrifying human toll taken by the earthquake in Nepal, attention has once again turned to the role of corruption in increasing the original death toll and in hampering the effectiveness of aid. Rick recently posted about it on the blog. Bribery of building inspectors enabled a great deal of new construction in Kathmandu that violated the building code, and it was these buildings that were the most likely to trap people when the earthquake hit. There is a feeling of deja vu about the allegations. After the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province in China, corruption in the building of schools led to thousands of additional deaths when schools across the region came down on pupils. But not all corruption is created equal, and the corruption in building in Kathmandu may have been less harmful than that in Sichuan province.

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