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March 28, 2007

Activist judging

By Brian Beutler

From The Opinionator comes a study on the Eliot Nesses in the U.S. Attorney corps.

Key tidbit: “Data indicate that the offices of the U.S. Attorneys across the nation investigate seven (7) times as many Democratic officials as they investigate Republican officials, a number that exceeds even the racial profiling of African Americans in traffic stops,”

And you thought there was a problem here!

Cross posted at Brian Beutler

March 28, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Interesting.

Several times in the article it makes the comparison to racial profiling (which it is not) and the study doesn't say that any of those Democrats were targeted without cause.

What it does is imply some impropriety without actually saying so. To make this leap of faith, one must not look any deeper than the numbers handed to him and make the assumption that all other factors are equal.

I would welcome some statistical sampling of these Democrats to see if they were, indeed, needlessly investigated. I'm not saying that they were not. I'm simply pointing out that this study is not conclusive.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 28, 2007 1:21:06 PM

I would welcome some statistical sampling of these Democrats to see if they were, indeed, needlessly investigated. I'm not saying that they were not. I'm simply pointing out that this study is not conclusive.

So it seems we need to investigate the investigators.

Posted by: WB Reeves | Mar 28, 2007 1:34:14 PM

I would welcome some statistical sampling of these Democrats to see if they were, indeed, needlessly investigated. I'm not saying that they were not. I'm simply pointing out that this study is not conclusive.

A good idea - however, it doesn't account for false negatives (i.e. those who were involved in wrongdoing but never investigated, in both parties.)

Regarding the study's findings, however - I expressed no shock at learning this whatsoever. The administration has used one of their offices for purposes of political gain. It's Wednesday.

Posted by: Jon O. | Mar 28, 2007 1:46:55 PM

With a more rational administration at the helm, one might be willing to come up with a compelling explanation for why this isn't really as bad as it looks-- after all, corruption cases frequently take place in big cities with party machines. Most cities are dominated by democrats. Thus, it might make sense that more local corruption cases focus on Democrats than on Republicans.

However, with the Bush administration, you have to keep in mind that things are ALWAYS worse than you think they are, even when you take that fact into account.

We don't have to take a "leap of faith," Fredrick. Past performance in the white house is indicative of future results in this case.

Posted by: Tyro | Mar 28, 2007 1:47:36 PM

That's why God invented Inspectors General.

Posted by: norbizness | Mar 28, 2007 1:55:14 PM

"What it does is imply some impropriety without actually saying so. To make this leap of faith, one must not look any deeper than the numbers handed to him and make the assumption that all other factors are equal."

Well, there's only a 1/10,000 probability that chance explains the results, so I think we can rule that out. What are the other possible explanations?
1. Local Democrats are seven times more likely than local Republicans to be corrupt; and
2. Republican DA's are seven times more likely to investigate local Democrats than to investigate local Republicans.
My money's on 2.

Posted by: dogfacegeorge | Mar 28, 2007 2:11:38 PM

Any comparative stats during a Democrat administration? And if it also indicated that Democrats were more often investigated?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 28, 2007 2:25:45 PM

I have to agree with Fred about comparative statistics from previous administrations -- and add that the numbers should be normalized to the number of officials of each party in each USA's region.

Posted by: BillCross | Mar 28, 2007 2:33:36 PM

Norbizness says:
That's why God invented Inspectors General.

And that's why the Bush administration put L. Jean Lewis in the Inspector General office of the Department of Defense.

Posted by: milo | Mar 28, 2007 3:48:37 PM

This is not a good study. Instead of the obvious check against previous administrations, they do a simple chi-square test, as if Democratic and Republican politicians were randomly distributed, which they obviously aren't. As the commenter noted, Democrats are disproportionately concentrated in cities, which offer more scope for theft than rural areas where everyone knows everyone's business.

Posted by: Jane Galt | Mar 28, 2007 5:48:43 PM

i don't know where you've lived Jane, but the easily most corrupt place I've been is a small town of about 500 and the second most corrupt was about 3000. once places get bigger than about 10,000 corruption is much harder because given the sins of the past, most places don't assume no one would be corrupt; also, it's not very likely it's their first cousin checking on them as in a small town. Further, small towns with a few very rich people in my experience bend over backward for the rich people's family.

Posted by: BillCross | Mar 28, 2007 7:42:15 PM

The question is not whether there's more graft; it's whether there's more graft that's likely to trigger a federal investigation. The Feds are probably more likely to investigate a million dollar crime than a misallocation of a $5,000 contract for installing blackboards in the local schools.

Posted by: Jane Galt | Mar 28, 2007 11:59:07 PM

Jane is correct. There are many reasons why this "study" is a crock.

Braian should be ashamed to use this hatchet-job on Ezra's site. I encourage all to go to the link above "study" and then go to the home page. Then see if you really think this hatchet-job organization is a good source.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 29, 2007 9:42:30 AM

On the one hand, it's easy to say "Well, we know why they fired the ones they fired, why should we be surprised to see this behavior from the ones they kept".

On the other, Fred and Jane do have some good points; the 7x number isn't quite as conclusive as it looks. Demographics may have something to do with it.

On the gripping hand, I really doubt that those sorts of considerations are enough to explain that big a difference. There may be twice as many Democrats in urban positions (although I think it's probably more like 60-40 if that), but there certainly aren't seven times as many. 7x is a big enough difference that people claiming to have a legitimate reason for it had better produce something more than talk to back it up.

It's difficult to say how many are false or malicious prosecutions, and how many corrupt people are not prosecuted, because in both cases you need an independent evaluation of whether or not the target is corrupt, to compare against the results of the investigation. Who can you trust to be more accurate and impartial than the courts?

Posted by: Chris | Mar 29, 2007 2:29:08 PM

On the other, Fred and Jane do have some good points; the 7x number isn't quite as conclusive as it looks. Demographics may have something to do with it.

In addition to Jane's points, let's note that the authors of the "study" subdivide between local officials and Federal/statewdie office holders.

Amongst the state-wide or Federal office holders (Congressmen, Senators, Governors) the split is 50/50. All of the discrepancy occurs at the state/local level.

And the study relies on newspaper accounts and the professors guesses as to who was being investigated - if 10 members of a city council were subpoenaed, they all get marked as under investigation.

In contrast, Dick Cheney was not considered by these profs to have been under investigation in the Plame case, even though he was asked to chat with Fitzgerald. Go figure. (Neither Libby nor Rove were included either, but they are not elected officials).

Look, this was junk poli-sci - no baseline based on earlier Administrations, omitted data, and a great hook - "Worse than racial profiling!". Props to the profs, boo to the people who ought to know better but promote this anyway; I would have thought Ezra and Matt would leave this stuff to the DKos types.

Posted by: Tom Maguire | Mar 31, 2007 4:04:27 PM

That's the problem. It wasn't Ezra, it was Brian. Go to the website and ask yourself if Ezra would have posted this from this wack-job organization.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 31, 2007 7:25:41 PM

That's the problem. It wasn't Ezra, it was Brian.

Darn. I am just a primitive caveman blogger and all this cross-posting confuses me. But now that I look more closely, I see that about the only person *not* posting at the Ezra Klein blog is Ezra Klein. My apologies.

Just for a laugh, here is a hint about the partisan motivations of professors Shields and Cragan, the authors of this "study".

And as a bonus cheap shot, the paper was published at E Pluribus Media, an outlet founded by some D Kos regulars.

Posted by: Tom Maguire | Apr 1, 2007 8:14:45 AM

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Posted by: judy | Sep 27, 2007 3:07:23 AM

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