A Timeline of Corruption and Attempts to Combat Corruption in New York State

Pre-revolutionary times through the 1700’s

1779  a New York governor, judge and two Indian affairs officials spent a weekend at an Albany tavern. They treated themselves to lamb, rum, sweet cakes, shaves and haircuts, and billed the state for $1,000  https://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/Political-corruption-in-Albany-a-very-old-story-6073854.php 

1787 “A New York rule in 1787 was that any individual who would “directly or indirectly, attempt to influence any free elector of the state” would have to pay 500 pounds and be ‘utterly disables, disqualified and incapacitate, to hold exercise or enjoy any office, or place of trust or profit, whatsoever within this state.’” (Teachout 109)

          Eighteenth Century NY Corruption


Tammany Hall Era





















Boss Tweed



















George Washington Plunkitt (1842-1924) was a Tammany Hall Boss.  He gave talks on what he called "honest graft."  Have a listen:  

1888 Nellie Bly “purchases” New York State legislature for $1,000 (plus $250 fee) to have a particular bill killed.


20th Century New York State Politics

1901 Jotham P. Allds of Norwich, a Republican elected Senate majority leader in 1910. A bribe Allds took in 1901 as chairman of an Assembly committee was leaked by a legislator to the New York Evening Post. Allds originally asked for $5,000, but settled on $1,000 cash, handed over in an envelope. Allds resigned in disgrace, and a wide-ranging legislative corruption investigation was promised but never materialized. https://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/Political-corruption-in-Albany-a-very-old-story-6073854.php

1986: Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein was charged with assigning Senate staff to work on political campaigns in 1986 elections. The Manhattan Democrat was cleared after the Court of Appeals ruled the Legislature did not prohibit the practice, common at the time. He stepped down in 1995 after 34 years. He became a lobbyist. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)

1991 Assembly Speaker Mel Miller was accused of cheating clients out of proceeds in the sale of eight cooperative apartments and convicted by a federal jury in 1991. The conviction was overturned on appeal. He became a lobbyist. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)

21st Century Corruption

2000:  Sen. Guy Velella, a Bronx Republican, pleaded guilty to taking bribes from contractors from 1995 to 2000 and helping them win public works contracts. He resigned from his seat and spent six months in jail. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)

2006 State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a Democratic assemblyman from Queens for 22 years and later New York City comptroller, pleaded guilty in state court to fraud in 2006 for using state workers to chauffeur his wife. He was fined $5,000 and barred from holding public office. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to corruption charges in a pay-to-play scandal involving the state's massive pension system.    (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)

2009  Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio pleaded guilty to defrauding his Queens constituents of honest services and collecting $1 million in consulting fees by leveraging his legislative job. He was sentenced in February to six years in prison.  (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)

2010  Then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed suit in April against Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, accusing the Bronx Democrat of siphoning $14 million for himself and his family from his government-funded health care clinic in the Bronx. A day later, federal agents raided the clinic as part of a criminal investigation. Espada was later found guilty on federal embezzlement charges. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)

2011 - 2013: Former State Rep. William Boyland Jr. is arrested and later acquitted of bribery charges stemming from allegations he took a no-show job in exchange for doing political favors for a corrupt hospital official in New York City.  Less than two weeks after his acquittal, Boyland was arrested on bribery charges again, with prosecutors claiming to have secretly recorded the assemblyman soliciting $250,000 in bribes to pay his legal fees for the first trial, according to the New York Times. Then, in 2013, the Brooklyn Democrat was again arrested on mail fraud charges after he allegedly filed for travel reimbursements for his trips to Albany despite never leaving New York City. He was acquitted on those charges a few months later, then pleaded guilty in the second bribery case. He maintained his seat in the Assembly until his conviction in March of 2014.2012 (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)

2013 State Sen. Shirley Huntley was arrested after she was named in a 20-count indictment charging the Queens Democrat and others with fraudulently using $30,000 in state education grants to benefit associates in a nonprofit she founded. She pleaded guilty to one charge of mail fraud in 2013, and was sentenced to one year and a day in prison.

2013: State Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat, and New York City Councilman Dan Halloran were both arrested in April on conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion charges after the pair allegedly plotted to get Smith onto the New York City mayoral ballot by paying off GOP county chairmen. Smith was found guilty of federal corruption charges in February of 2015. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)


2014 State Rep. Eric Stevenson, a Bronx Democrat, was arrested on federal corruption charges in April for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for help he gave to businessmen trying to open an adult day care center. He was convicted of bribery and extortion in January of 2014. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)


2013  State Senator John L. Sampson was indicted by a federal grand jury for embezzlement, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation stemming from alleged theft of $400,000 from the sale of foreclosed homes, to which he pleaded not guilty. On the same day, Sampson was stripped of his committee assignments and ranking positions and removed from the Senate Democratic Conference. Despite the indictment, Sampson won re-election in 2014.  On July 24, 2015, Sampson was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements to federal agents, which are felonies, and was automatically expelled from the Senate. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_L._Sampson


2013 The Moreland Commission 
Gov. Andrew Cuomo established the Moreland Commission to tackle corruption in Albany in 2013, then controversially disbanded the body just a year later. Cuomo came under heat for allegedly interfering with the supposedly independent body when it focused on groups with ties to the governor. U.S. Attorneys began looking into the handling of the body after it was disbanded. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)

A Crisis of Leadership:


2015 State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat and one of the most powerful men in Albany, was arrested on federal corruption charges. Federal investigators accused Silver of soliciting millions in kickbacks and bribes and masking it as legitimate income from work as a private attorney. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is arrested on federal conspiracy charges. Skelos, the highest-ranking Republican in state government, is accused of taking payments with his son Adam in exchange for legislative action or help with government contracts. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)

"I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world,"

~Mark Twain, 1875

A Timeline of Corruption and Attempts to Combat Corruption in the United States


1758 “George Washington’s campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses spends 39 Pounds (roughly $8,000 today) on alcohol to “treat” voters on Election Day.  This is not considered unusual. http://www.newrivernotes.com/topical_books_1892_virginia_washingtontohouseofburgess.htm


1776 Maryland rule on bribery: “If any person shall give any bribe, present or reward, or any promise…to obtain or procure a vote….or to be appointed to…any office of profit or trust….[he] shall be forever disqualified to hold any office of trust or profit in this state.” (Teachout 108-109).

1778 American emissary to France, Silas Deane, accepts golden snuff box from the King in contravention of the law  that "no person in the service of the United States should accept from any king, prince, or minister any present or gratuity whatsoever….”(Teachout 23)  (later on Arthur Lee and Benjamin Franklin also accepted golden snuff boxes).

1787Constitutional Convention & Federalist Papers
Franklin speaking at the Constitutional Convention: The Constitution was “likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.” (Teachout, p. 15)

Constitution provision Article I, Section 9 (the "Emolument Clause"): “No person holding any office of profit or trust under them [the United States], shall without the consent of the Congress accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatsoever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”  

 “If men were angels no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”  

1877 Georgia’s State Constitution declares lobbying a crime.

1880’s Anti-Trust Statues

1883 Ending the spoils system:  President Chester A. Arthur signs the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act into law on January 16, 1883 prohibiting the solicitation of civil servants for political contributions. (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)    

1888 “Parties and candidates raised great amounts of “soap,” or cash, just for the purpose of buying votes.  The Indiana election of 1888 was said to have been bought for $2.5 million in today’s dollars, vote by vote.”  (Teachout 178)

1892 Louisville, KY adopts the “Australian ballot,” whereby the state prints the ballots with the candidates names on it and the voter checks off the candidate of his choice in secret... By 1892, 39 states started using preprinted ballots. (Teachout 180)

1889 Federal investigation into voter intimidation described employers driving employees to the polls, working men staying away from the polls, and mill managers standing at the polls watching their employees as they voted.  … The political parties each printed their own ballots and would refuse to pay the bribe, or even physically intimidate voters, if they failed to walk into the polling place with the correctly colored ballot. (Teachout 178)

The methods of voting used throughout the country made bribery and intimidation easy.  The voice vote, used in many regions, made it very clear who had voter for whom. (Teachout 178)

1896 Big Money:  Mark Hanna, President William McKinley's campaign manager, hits up corporations for donations sized "according to [their] stake in the general prosperity of the country." (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)



1901President Teddy Roosevelt "brought an almost religious, prosecutorial zeal to the office and made fighting corruption a centerpiece of his eight years in office.  Roosevelt’s approach formed the basis of twentieth-century anti-corruption law.”  (Teachout 182)




    





























​​Early 1900's  Roosevelt uses obscure laws to prosecute government officials.  “Prosecutors indicted hundreds of people, and dozens were convicted.  A new era of criminal enforcement had begun, one of intermittent, and often politically charged, targeted prosecutions. (Teachout 187)


1904 An Early Dark Money Scandal:  New York Life Insurance secretly gives $48,000 ($1.25 million today) to the Republicans.  (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)

1906 Teddy Roosevelt pushes through the Tillman Act barring corporations from contributing to political campaigns. 

Attempt at Election reform: After being accused of fundraising improprieties, President Theodore Roosevelt calls for a ban on all corporate contributions "for any political purpose." The Tillman Act—named after white supremacist Sen. "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman—bans direct corporate gifts to candidates. (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)  

1910 Federal Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), limiting political party and candidate spending in U.S. Senate races and primaries.  It also requires full disclosure of all federal campaign expenditures. (Teachout 188)

1913 Roosevelt’s anti-corruption vision leads to the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – the direct election of U.S. Senators by popular vote. (Teachout 189    

1921-23 The "Teapot Dome Scandal" 
Was a bribery scandal involving the administration of President Warren G. Harding. Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall had leased Navy petroleum reserves at Teapot Dome in Wyoming and two other locations in California to private oil companies at low rates without competitive bidding. Fall was convicted of accepting bribes from the oil companies and became the first Cabinet member to go to prison; however, no one was ever convicted of paying the bribes.




















Before the Watergate scandal, Teapot Dome was regarded as the "greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics" The scandal damaged the public reputation of the Harding administration, which was already severely diminished by its controversial handling of the Great Railroad Strike of 1922 and the President's veto of the Bonus Bill in 1922. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teapot_Dome_scandal

1934 Hobbs Act (amended in 1942) The Hobbs Act was enacted to protect against organized crime.  The Hobbs Act defined extortion as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.”  Prosecutors argued – eventually successfully – that obtaining property of another “under color of official right” included obtaining bribes or kickbacks by state or local public officials.  With this new interpretation, federal officials could go after public officials in the states for being involved in any bribery scheme so long as there was any connection to interstate commerce, which was not hard to find.  The use of the Hobbs Act became widespread in the 1970’s. (Teachout 200)

1940’s Shushan v. United States (“mail fraud Statute’) .  
In Shushan v. United States, the Louisiana “public” suffered harm through the corrupting influence of kickbacks to some of its public officials in the early part of the1940s. Abraham Shushan and several others were charged with mail fraud in connection with a scheme to inflate the price of municipal bonds purchased by the Orleans Levee District.51 Shushan, a member of the Levee Board, was tasked with convincing the Governor of Louisiana to approve the purchase of the bonds; a co-defendant was a member of the Finance Committee that approved the purchase; and two other co-defendants sold the overpriced bonds. Shushan and his co-defendants challenged the mail fraud convictions on several grounds, claiming, among other things, that there was no “scheme to defraud” because they were not solely responsible for awarding the contracts, but instead were merely part of a larger process.  The court was not convinced, however, and stated that “[no] trustee has more sacred duties than a public official and any scheme to obtain an advantage by corrupting . . . [must] be considered a scheme to defraud” within the meaning of the mail fraud statute. http://www.templelawreview.org/lawreview/assets/uploads/2012/02/83.4_Nichilo.pdf


“Over the next forty years, the theory accepted by the court of appeals in Shushan v. United States was adopted by every federal court of appeals, making mail fraud the statute of choice for prosecuting bribery of state officials.” (Teachout 198)

1943 America’s First PAC: After Congress bans political giving by unions, the Congress of Industrial Organizations forms the first ever PAC, skirting the restrictions by collecting campaign money outside of standard dues. (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)    

1940s-50s  Supreme Court grapples with balancing First Amendment rights to Free Speech with campaign finance regulations.

1952  Senator Richard Nixon (R-Calif.) delivers his "Checkers" speech, defending more than $18,000 in secret donations. He also admits that Checkers, his girls’ cocker spaniel, was a political gift. (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)

1962A Proposal for Public Funding: President John F. Kennedy’s Commission on Campaign Costs proposes public matching funds for presidential candidates. Congress passes on it.(Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)    

1972 Watergate: 
The Watergate scandal began early in the morning of June 17, 1972, when several burglars were arrested in the office of the Democratic National Committee, located in the Watergate complex of buildings in Washington, D.C. This was no ordinary robbery: The prowlers were connected to President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign (the plot to disrupt the Democratic National Convention was known as “Operation Gemstone”), and they had been caught wiretapping phones and stealing documents. Nixon took aggressive steps to cover up the crime afterwards, and in August 1974, after his role in the conspiracy was revealed, Nixon resigned. The Watergate scandal changed American politics forever, leading many Americans to question their leaders and think more critically about the presidency.






















Nixon’s Secret Cash Stash: President Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign rakes in $20 million in secret donations; some fund the Watergate break-in. The money, including $700,000 in cash, is collected before a new disclosure law takes effect. Nixon tells his chief of staff to inform donors that ”Anybody who wants to be an ambassador must at least give $250,000.”(Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)


1974 In response to Watergate, Congress updates the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Its limits on political fundraising become the bedrock of modern campaign finance law. It also creates the Federal Election Commission.(Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)    

1976 Money is Speech: Buckley v Valeo
The 1976 Supreme Court ruling in Buckley v. Valeo strikes down key fundraising limits, finding that political money is speech. (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)

















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1988 The Rise of Soft Money: 
The Democratic and Republican parties combined raise $45 million in soft money, which is unregulated, undisclosed, and unlimited campaign cash.(Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)

1991  The Keating Five:  A Senate investigation finds that Sens. John McCain, John Glenn, and three others advocated on behalf of Charles Keating's failing S&L after receiving a combined $1.3 million in campaign money. A chastened McCain says, "I’m sure that my political obituary will always have something about the Keating Five in it."(Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)


1992 Soft Money Explodes: Both parties raise $86 million in unregulated "soft money," a 91 percent increase since 1988.(Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)    

1998  Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) issues the final report on the Democrats' '96 fundraising operation. Exclusive perks for big-money donors are revealed, including coffee klatches with Clinton, sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom, and rides on Air Force One.(Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)    

2002 McCain-Feingold Passes: President George W. Bush signs the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, banning soft money in federal elections and the use of corporate or union funds to make ads about candidates in the weeks before an election.(Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)    

2005: GOP House majority leader Tom DeLay is indicted for sneaking around a ban on corporate donations by funneling them through the Republican National Committee back to Texas Republicans. He was later convicted of money laundering; he is out on appeal. (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)

2006 Lobbyist Jack Abramoff admits trading golf junkets, meals at his DC restaurant, and campaign contributions for political favors. President George W. Bush and Republican leaders rush to dump donations linked to him. (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption) 

 2007  The Supreme Court eases limits on corporate and union-backed issue ads (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)    

2010 Citizens United Ruling  allows corporations, unions, and individuals to spend unlimited sums for or against candidates. Two months later, an appeals court strikes down limits on contributions to independent-expenditure groups. The super-PAC is born! (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)

 
 





























For more information: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2008/08-205 

2012  A record-breaking $7 billion was spent by candidates, parties and outside groups on the 2012 elections. Of the total spending by outside committees, $1.2 billion was spent by traditional PACs and $950 million was spent by super PACs...Twenty-eight percent of all disclosed political contributions came from just 31,385 people -- donors representing 1 percent of the 1 percent, according to The Sunlight Foundation. (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)    
2013  The IRS and Treasury Department propose guidelines for clarifying the definition of political activities for social welfare nonprofits, a move that could restrict the spending of dark money groups.  (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption) 

2014  McCutcheon v. FEC 
In McCutcheon v. FEC the Supreme Court further opened the doors to big money ruling that overall limits on individual campaign contributions were unconstitutional under the First Amendment. (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)

Primary Sources:


​Ross, Aaron, Andy Kroll, and Aswain Suebsaeng.  "250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption: From George Washington to Citizens United, a timeline of America’s history of political money games" in Mother Jones, August 2012. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/08/campaign-finance-timeline-dark-money/​


Teachout, Zephyr. Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014. 

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"Corruption strikes at the foundation of all law....The bribe giver is worse than the thief, for the thief robs the individual, while the corrupt official plunders an entire city or State.” 

- President Roosevelt

Address to Congress, 1903 

The Museum of Political Corruption

Washington DC was an: 

"Out-of-the-way, one horse town, whose population consists of office-holders, lobby buzzards, landlords, loafers, blacklegs, hackmen and Cyprian – all subsisting on public plunder…The paramount, overshadowing occupation of the residents, is office-holding and lobbying, and the prize of life is a grab at the contents of UNCLE SAM’s till.  The public plunder interest swallows up all others, and makes the city a great festering, unbealable sore on the body politic.  No healthy public opinion can reach down here to purify the moral atmosphere of Washington. 

To own our future, we must first own our past. 


We are working on a series of timelines for corruption and corruption reform in New York State and throughout the U.S. 


This exhibition is currently under construction. 

"A number of Republicans, including most of their leaders, are bad enough, but over half the Democrats...are vicious, stupid-looking scoundrels with apparently not a redeeming trait.

-NY Assemblyman Teddy Roosevelt 

and The Center for Ethical Governance

1882Teddy Roosevelt as a NY Assemblyman  witnesses several accept bags of cash from Tammany Hall operatives to kill bills in committee that would adversely affect their business partners.  
https://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/Political-corruption-in-Albany-a-very-old-story-6073854.php


Federalist Paper No. 51


 








Madison in Federalist 10: “no man is allowed to be a judge in his own case, because his interest would certainly bias his judgement, and not improbably corrupt his integrity.” 


“in Madison’s notebook from the summer of 1787, the word corruption is scrawled in longhand fifty-four times.” (Teachout 57)

1795 “New Jersey passed a statute directed at judges, with a punishment of up to five years of hard labor, an $800 fine, and permanent disqualification, for non-election related crimes of bribery and extortion.” (Teachout 110) 


1790’s  The Yazoo Land Scandal:
A massive real-estate fraud perpetrated in the mid-1790s by Georgia governor George Mathews and the Georgia General Assembly. Georgia politicians sold large tracts of territory in the Yazoo lands to political insiders at very low prices in 1794. 


 

















1797   United States v Worral: A bribery/Kickback case where the defendant argued that he could not be convicted because there was no relevant statute. (bribery laws were unclear at this time)

1799  Georgia passed a law "imposing a penalty of up to $100 for anyone caught bribing a voter.” (Teachout 109) 

1800’s   U.S. laws are “a patchwork of statutory and common laws covering a small set of potentially corrupting activities.  Extortion was more likely to be criminalized than bribery, perhaps because the power dynamic of an official extorting a citizen was more dangerous than a citizen bribing an official. (Teachout 108)

1801 “North Carolina passed a statute that prohibited giving voters meat or drink or anything else of value on election day.” (Teachout 109)

1823 Tennessee statute made it a crime “for any person offering himself as a candidate for any office of honor, profit, or trust, to treat the electors, for the purpose of obtaining their votes, with spirituous liquors.” (Teachout 109)

1825 Delaware law imposed penalties of $50 to $200 for the use of influence in getting a free elector to cast his vote for a particular candidate running for office. (Teachout 109)

1820’s    Expansion of Corruption Laws to Legislative Activity. “After the 1820’s, most states that passed new anti-bribery laws included bribery of legislative officers as a crime.  These included Illinois, Michigan, Colorado” (Teachout 114) 

1829   The spoils system: President Jackson advocates rewarding loyalists with political office. Sen. William Marcy later notes approvingly, "To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy." (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)

1850s Tammany Hall Politics in NYC [SEE history of NY corruption]

1851 Kentucky statute: “if any member of the general assembly, or if an executive or ministerial officer, shall take or agree to take, any bribe to do or omit to do any act in his official capacity,” he shall forfeit his vote for ten years and be fined.” (Teachout 115)

1853 First general federal U.S. bribery law passed.  

1859  Minnesota statue: “No person shall give, deliver, receive or accept, or offer to give, deliver, receive, or accept, either directly or indirectly, any sum of money or other valuable thing, or from any person or persons, to procure or aid, or for having procured or aided, the passage or defeat of any measure or Legislative enactment acted upon or passed by the Legislature of either House thereof.” (Teachout 115)

1860 A reporter’s observation of Washington DC:  https://www.nytimes.com/1860/03/29/news/the-newspaper-press-of-washington-and%20new-your.html

























1867 The first federal campaign finance reform law: Congress makes it illegal to pressure workers at naval yards for political contributions—the nation's first campaign finance reform law.   (Mother Jones: 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption)    

1870-1900:  Gilded Age

“Political money had an unclear legal status. Bribery law ostensibly criminalized giving anything of value with intent to influence a lawmaker, but politicians were financed by oil, banking, and railroad barons who fully intended to influence governmental action.” (Teachout 175)


1872 Credit Mobilier Railroad Scandal



















“Union Pacific Railroad and Credit Mobilier were discovered in what, according to the Sun newspaper, was ‘the most damaging exhibition of official and private villainy ever laid bare to the eyes of the world.’ Congress had given the companies nearly $150 million – over $2 billion in today’s dollars – ostensibly to pay for railroad services across the country.  However, the appropriations were partly a sophisticated Yazoo scam, where the companies gave lawmakers stock to distribute among their colleagues, assuring that they would continue to subsidize the railroads and not investigate fraudulent accounting for expenses...The Credit Mobilier scandal is now remembered as a symbol of corruption in the Gilded Age.” (Teachout 126)

LEARN MORE at: https://www.britannica.com/event/Credit-Mobilier-Scandal


1872 Mail Fraud Provision enacted, designed to combat abuse of the post office.  It criminalized using the mail to advance “any scheme or artifice to defraud.”

1875 Whisky Ring Prosecutions

In the United States, the Whiskey Ring was a scandal involving diversion of tax revenues in a conspiracy among government agents, politicians, whiskey distillers, and distributors. The Whiskey Ring began in St. Louis but was also organized in Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Peoria. The scheme involved an extensive network of bribes involving distillers, rectifiers, gaugers, storekeepers, and internal revenue agents. 


Trials began at Jefferson City, Missouri in October 1875. Ultimately, 110 convictions were made and over $3 million in taxes were recovered.


LEARN MORE AT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskey_Ring