Nearly four years after 46 arrests in New Jersey’s largest federal corruption sting, the cases against the final defendants are nearing an end. Most of the suspects pleaded guilty or were convicted, but political analysts say it may be a short-lived cautionary tale.
Despite all the publicity, Montclair State political science and law professor Brigid Harrison said she does not expect the corruption scandal will have an extended deterrent effect.
“In the short term, we did see a bit of reticence and there was kind of a reform of those public officials,” Harrison said Monday. “But I think that arrogance kind of leads people back down that path. To date, I don’t really see any evidence that shows this made public officials walk the straight and narrow.”
The judicial system must make fighting political corruption a priority, Harrison said, in order to intimidate officials who may consider crossing the line.
Because there are more than 500 local governments in New Jersey, that some officials believe they can get away with illegal activity because nobody is watching, said John Weingart with the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers.
“The problem maybe stems in part from having so many local governments in New Jersey, so many jurisdictions and entities with them, that it makes it easier for people in those agencies or in those positions to feel that they can get away with something,” he said.
When all’s said and done, the massive corruption case coming to an end won’t prevent politicians from taking bribes, according to Harrison.
“There is a shock wave that runs through government officials and people become extremely careful,” she said. “Then the same kind of ego driven behavior that leads people to people to believe that they can engage in this kind of behavior without being caught again rears its head.”