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A New NAGTRI Anticorruption and Ethics Center is Formed

On Aug. 15, the first day of the NAGTRI Anticorruption Academy in Colorado Springs, Rhode Island Attorney General and NAGTRI Training Committee Co-Chair Peter Kilmartin announced the formation of the Center for Ethics and Public Integrity (CEPI). The CEPI mission is to provide training, research, and technical assistance to prosecutors involved in the fight against corruption and to provide training and other resources on the ethical practice of law by government attorneys.

To fulfill its mission, CEPI will provide anticorruption and ethics training through courses ranging from one to five days.

Anticorruption training will include the week-long Anticorruption Academy and courses that offer technical tips to investigate frauds; explore issues that often arise in corruption trials; and provide guidance about using cooperating witnesses and confidential informants to successfully build and try cases.

Ethics training will include courses addressing discovery and Brady issues in complex criminal cases; issues and solutions for civil attorneys who advise other government entities; and ethical questions that may arise when a prosecutor participates in a criminal investigation.

A list of all of the anticipated anticorruption and ethics courses is available on the CEPI website.

CEPI will also be a resource for prosecutors and others seeking information about corruption prevention and anticorruption enforcement, particularly at the state level. To that end, we are pleased to share some of the results of a survey about anticorruption enforcement that we sent to the offices of over 40 state attorneys general and territorial prosecutors:

  • Ten offices had stand-alone public corruption or public integrity units; 29 did not.
  • Seven offices had five or more prosecutors handling corruption cases as their primary focus; 19 offices had 1 to 4 such prosecutors; 13 offices had no full-time corruption prosecutors.
  • Twenty-four offices have participated in joint corruption investigations with federal prosecutors and/or local prosecutors; 15 have not.
  • Most offices (32) had investigators on staff who were available to work on corruption cases.
  • In most offices (31), prosecutors played an active role in corruption investigations.
  • In most offices (35), civilian complaints were a source for corruption cases. Other sources included: spin-offs from other, non-corruption investigations (33); inspectors general (29); and following up on media reports (26).

Investigative tools used in corruption cases included the following:

  • Search warrants (36)
  • Cyber data (36)
  • Experts (32)
  • Informants (30)
  • Data analysis software (16)
  • Wiretaps/ bugs (14)

In a typical year:

  • Twelve offices handled 15 or more corruption cases
  • Two offices handled 10-15 corruption cases
  • Seven offices handled 5-10 corruption cases
  • Sixteen offices handled 1-4 corruption cases
  • Three offices handle no corruption cases

Another resource we offer is the CEPI Newsletter—formerly the Corruption Newsletter—a monthly electronic compendium reporting on current trends in investigations, prosecutions, and appeals; anticorruption legislation; op-eds and media coverage; and international issues. To subscribe to the CEPI Newsletter for free, email achau@naag.org. To submit information you’d like us to include in the newsletter, please send an email to aely@naag.org.

CEPI is also working on a comprehensive manual on the investigation and prosecution of corruption, tailored to the needs of state and local prosecutors, with an expected publication date in 2017. After that, CEPI will publish a comprehensive manual on the investigation and prosecution of money laundering, also tailored to the needs of state and local prosecutors.

CEPI is intended to fulfill a particularly timely need. Allegations of corruption at the federal, state, local, and international level are frequently aired in the courts and in the media, and the public is taking a keen interest in these issues. In the wake of the federal prosecutions of Dean Skelos, the former state Republican Senate Majority Leader, and Sheldon Silver, the former state Democrat Assembly Speaker in New York, for example, nearly 90 percent of voters were somewhat or very concerned about corruption in New York state government.1 The 2016 Summer Olympics have been tainted by multiple corruption investigations that have ensnared the highest officials in Brazil and caused the economy to go into free fall.2

CEPI’s timeliness is underscored by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in McDonnell v. United States, which narrowly construed the authority of federal prosecutors to bring quid pro quo bribery cases. In rejecting a broad interpretation of what constitutes an “official act” under federal bribery statutes, Chief Justice John Roberts cited “significant federalism concerns” when the federal government becomes involved in “setting standards of good government for local and state officials.”3 The Court left to the states the “prerogative to regulate the permissible scope of interactions between state officials and their constituents.”4 McDonnell thus suggests that prosecutors’ authority to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials under state law is broader than under federal law. Accordingly, robust state ethics statutes and aggressive and effective state and local prosecutors are more important than ever in the fight against corruption.

We encourage you to contact us with any questions about CEPI or suggestions about anticorruption or ethics topics you would like us to address in training. In addition to the national courses outlined above, mobile trainings will also be available for attorneys general offices.

Endnotes

1 Michael Gormley, Sheldon Silver, Dean Skelos Trials Spark Concern about Corruption, Poll Finds, Newsday, Dec. 1, 2015, http://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/sheldon-silver-dean-skelos-trials-spark-concern-about-corruption-poll-finds-1.11227357 .

2 Dieter Kurtenbach, Move the Olympics Out of Brazil Now, Fox Sports, July 6, 2016, http://www.foxsports.com/olympics/story/rio-2016-summer-olympics-problems-danger-move-out-of-brazil-opinion-070616 .

3 McDonnell v. United States, No. 15-474, slip op. at 24 (June 27, 2016) (citing McNally v. United States, 483 U.S. 350, 360 (1987)).

4 Id.

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