Public corruption hits at the heart of what a government is supposed to do: serve its people. When public officials - whether elected, appointed, or under contract - use their public office for personal gain, they damage the public's trust in all forms of government.
These crimes are the result of deals sealed with whispered conversations, quick handshakes, and "under-the-table" money. Because of the secretive nature of bribes, such crimes are often difficult to detect and even more difficult to prove without the assistance of concerned citizens.
To help identify potential criminal activity, the FBI has set up a Public Corruption Hotline - 503-460-8585 - and an email account - PortlandTips@ic.fbi.gov.
Whether by phone or email, tipsters are asked to leave their name, telephone number, and a brief description of their concerns and observations. Agents will review voicemail and email daily, and they will contact individuals for follow-up as needed.
"There are times when honest citizens stumble across a scheme involving public officials. We need those citizens to feel that they can - and should - have a voice in making our government responsive to their concerns and responsible for holding their public officials to the highest standards," said Greg Fowler, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele in Portland said some other FBI field offices around the country have set up similar hotlines in the past, and the new one is Oregon-based and not part of a national effort.
"Each office's program feeds into its own agents, so the calls are not forwarded to a national phone bank or anything like that," she said.
What is public corruption?
While the vast majority of public officials remain committed to the communities they serve, an extremely small minority of individuals use their public positions for personal or private gain. Public corruption includes bribery, extortion, embezzlement, racketeering, kickbacks, and money laundering, as well as wire, mail, bank, and tax fraud. It is a violation of federal law for any federal or state government official to ask for or receive anything of value for or because of any official act. Under federal law, the person who offers or pays a bribe is also guilty.
The FBI, along with our local law enforcement partners, remains dedicated to ensuring this behavior is fully investigated and, if necessary, prosecuted under the law. Public Corruption remains a top criminal priority for the FBI in Oregon. For more information about the FBI's public corruption work, please visit our website at http://www.fbi.gov/portland.