Disconcerting. It’s a damn good thing we elected an Attorney General willing to do something about political corruption rather than run the state’s largest plaintiff law firm – he’s going to have a whole lot of work to do.
Previously, the AG’s office was generally happy to do diddly squat about crooked pols. He was too busy suing drug companies while the Walter Reeds and Dede Slaughters of the world ripped the public off like there was no tomorrow.
That left the job to the U.S. Attorneys and the FBI – and after Jim Letten, who certainly had his faults, was forced out as the U.S. Attorney in New Orleans there wasn’t a whole lot of effort made to continue cleaning the slimeballs out of Louisiana politics. So naturally the slimeballs multiplied.
The new FBI chief in New Orleans, though, is vowing to do something about it.
New Orleans FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jeffrey Sallet has only been on the job in the Crescent City for six months, but he’s already seen enough to call political corruption “robust.”
“This office has more special agents and employees working corruption per employee in the division, than any other division in the country. Corruption here is profound,” Sallet said.
Before coming to Louisiana, the 19-year FBI veteran was section chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section of the Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI.
The New Orleans District of the FBI has played a key role in recent high-profile federal convictions, including former Washington-St. Tammany District Attorney Walter Reed, and retired St. Charles District Attorney Harry Morel.
And Sallet said such investigations are not over.
“This office is working very hard to insure that we hold corrupt public officials accountable. You will be seeing a lot more investigations, a lot more high profile investigations, and there will be zero tolerance for corruption in government,” Sallet said.
Sallet’s background reads more like a movie from taking on mob bosses in New York to playing a key role in the 9/11 investigation. While Sallet emphasizes that all investigations are team efforts, he headed up the search and capture of those responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings.
A forensic accountant himself, Sallet said fighting corruption in Louisiana is much like fighting organized crime.
“We’re going to make consensual recordings, we’re going to do Title III’s, we’re going to use undercover operations, and we are going to use historical information because you can’t hide from your past,” Sallet said.
It will be interesting, if Sallet is serious, to see whether he can take anybody down in Orleans Parish – or whether he’ll be restricted to the suburbs. Local government corruption is rampant in both places, but if there’s a more corrupt mayoral administration in Louisiana than Mitch Landrieu’s we’d be surprised. Just look at the greasy behind-the-scenes maneuvering on those monuments and you have all you need to know.