Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans from 2002-10 and the face of the Big Easy’s post-Katrina recovery, has been found guilty on twenty counts of corruption. The astonishing list of charges is viewable at the Times-Picayune. Conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, and tax fraud round out the convictions for the most corrupt Mayor in the history of New Orleans (and that’s saying something). The New York Times has the gory details:
With multiple witnesses and an extensive paper trial, federal prosecutors described a sequence of transactions between the mayor and various business interests, all following a similar pattern. The owner of a company would be trying to get city work, and would at some point make contact with Mr. Nagin. Mr. Nagin would ask for a favor, often in the form of payments to the granite countertop business Mr. Nagin ran with his two sons.Sometimes the perk for Mr. Nagin would be less direct than cash — a trip to Jamaica or Hawaii or Chicago, free cell service for his family or shipments of valuable granite slabs. But around the same time that Mr. Nagin received money or something else of value, the businessman would be awarded contracts for city projects, or would find that certain municipal obstacles had gone away.In all, prosecutors said Mr. Nagin received more than half a million dollars in illicit benefits, while the contractors found themselves with millions of dollars’ worth of city work.
The MSM will put another face on this conviction, but there should be no mistaking what really happened here: New Orleans was the victim of an urban crime family masquerading as a political machine. The parallels with Detroit and its own shameless crook of an ex-Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, are striking. The fortunes made from collusion with crooks and fraudsters, all behind a thin veil of Democratic governance, must resonate with the people of Detroit.As in Detroit, this case should give us a lesson in the necessity of not confusing corruptocracies with political machines. The Nagin conviction shows that Detroit wasn’t the only one. Corrupt urban machines are a serious threat to our cities, far greater than fashionable “threats” like gentrification or a new Walmart.