On Corruption

by Mark Funkhouser

“American cities have a long history of corruption and sometimes citizens take a perverse pride in a figure like Buddy Cianci, a flamboyant mayor now in federal prison but also credited with bringing the city of Providence, Rhode Island, back to life.”

So said Neal Conan, the host of National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” during a broadcast focused on cities and corruption. Personally, it’s a little hard for me to understand the “pride.” The Prince of Providence, Mike Stanton’s well-documented and readable chronicle of Cianci’s adventures paints an astounding portrait of public corruption, extending more or less unbroken from 1974 to 2002. Even if I could forgive outright theft, (his mother had more than $500,000 in a safe in her house that Cianci collected one bundle at a time), his rape of a young woman at gun point while he was a law student or his police chief’s suicide over guilt from succumbing to his pressure to hire unqualified officers, would push me past the limit.

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