Approach to


Interview data applied to causation type

Primary cause identified by interviewee (excerpts from 97 observations)

Percentage of

interviewees applied corrupt acts to cause


(e.g., peer




I went along to belong. He tried to justify his actions by calling them scumbag dealers. We were the scumbag dealers. E08

People grow up together in the area. This breeds a greater comfort for the trafficker to approach the cop. They’re cousins or friends who went to school, and that makes it okay. A19

There can be this feeling because they are so low paid, not respected by the community, and not thanked by the community. People verbally abuse them and are not happy to see them. E01

Less and less people with outside incomes are running for office (so they are influenced by the opportunities to make money as a public official). 013

They know it was wrong and rationalized it. “Everyone does it.” 007

I wish I hadn’t given in to peer pressure then. 008

The culture views the behavior as normal, which is creating a corrupting influence, and money is a huge factor. A14



(e.g., routine activities)

Everyone was involved in the thought they could get away with it. E01

People become corrupt through seeing people making lots of money, and people are idiots. “Why am I not getting this?” S03

Their egos to become public officials are great, and so it makes sense that they do not think they’re going to get caught. S15

People see an opportunity and see that when they get in. People run for office have a desire for more power, and then see an opportunity there. S17

Some people think they will not get caught, and that they are being too smart to get caught. Some people are incredibly smart and get careless. E13

If you can get away with that, why not do it? E04

People don’t start out bad, but when there are no checks on their judgment and no oversight, corruption can be tempting to receive a financial benefit that they had been entitled to. A08

One doesn’t think that they are going to get detected. In their view, detection is unlikely. Even when you are detected, the penalties are not much. A12


Structural (e.g., weak or authoritarian jurisdictions with unequal law enforcement)

Public officials in border areas also think, “I want to get my share.” A17

It was a free-for-all in the mayor’s office. It was like it was an open bank account with the police, Mayor, and schools. They just get away with it. “Everyone is on the take, so why shouldn’t I get mine too?” E01

He appeared to be mayor for life. E01

Corruption appears to be related to power relations. S03

When I went to the FBI and look [ed] at the backgrounds, the mayor would intercede on the guy’s behalf. E14

Lewis was holding up an endorsement and support until she got a piece of the pie. E13

A large minority are corrupted by the dysfunction of the system. It begins with the perks. You get a special license plate. They insist to be called “Senator.” E12

“Mayor and I are best friends.” E03

Everyone was doing it. To get ahead as attorney, you had to play the game. E07

If a sergeant tells you to drink on the job, as a rookie, you can’t say no. You think he’s the boss. E08



(e.g., prevent self-interested conduct; enhance recognition of harm, wrongfulness

Some people are attracted to public life because they are attracted to the power. A20

He used the office to line his own pockets at the expense of the people who needed the funds the most. E01

They hurried to recruit and hire police officers. They ended up hiring people who had many issues. E02

The Kilpatrick family had a history of taking beyond their salary, and they don’t think anything’s wrong with that. S04

The school principals took the bribes because no one thinks it’s wrong. S04

It comes back to the basic character of the individual―lie and cheat and steal at home, you are likely to lie and cheat and steal at work. S04

White collar defendants and public official defendants because they think they are not doing anything wrong. S17