Corruption in the commonwealth: The FBI's fight against the "open secret"

04/20/2016 10:42 AM

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Kentucky began a public push one year ago seeking assistance from individuals in an effort to root out public corruption in the state.

Special Agent in Charge Howard Marshall of the FBI’s Louisville Division says some of the recent cases making headlines can be tied to those efforts of a year ago.

“We’ve redoubled all of our efforts there and all of it has led to what you’re seeing unfold … starting a couple weeks ago and what we have coming up,” Marshall said.

For the FBI, public corruption is a major issue to combat in Kentucky. Special agents took a two-pronged view of the practice, saying they’re able to investigate via their independence from state government and the need to deliver a functioning, trustworthy political structure.

“It’s an open secret that it appears at least on the surface that it’s tolerated and in some parts of the state it’s ingrained,” Marshall said of the different approach to tackling corruption.

One of the cases that have recently drawn statewide attention is the case against former Personnel Cabinet Secretary Tim Longmeyer, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges in federal court on Tuesday.

Marshall said the case started with a tip that led the FBI to uncovering “irrefutable evidence of the corruption.”

“Unfortunately, I think there were a lot of people in the state that kind of, I don’t want to say they shrugged their shoulders because they don’t care — they care deeply — they shrugged their shoulders because they were not shocked,” the special agent said.

“They may have been shocked that Mr. Longmeyer was participating in that type of activity, but they were not shocked that it was going on.”

The issue of corruption is one Marshall said could impact the business culture in Kentucky, with some companies choosing not to locate in the Bluegrass for fear of pay-to-play politics.

“I don’t think the casual observer understands the magnitude of the problem or the detrimental impact it has,” he said.

Speaking on the magnitude, Marshall highlighted a survey conducted by Harvard University which shows Kentucky ranked among the top states for legal and illegal corruption by respondents. On another level, Marshall said, “the history of the state speaks for itself,” referencing past investigations like BOPTROT and those against former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer and former Rep. W. Keith Hall, among other cases.


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