Charlotte Hustle

As it happens, I finally got around to watching American Hustle this last weekend when Redbox picked it up. Since I remember Abscam pretty distinctly (a friend of mine who was working in the House at the time told me of watching a video of Rep. Ozzie Myers–subsequently expelled from office–taking a bribe in person in a House parking garage), I didn’t find it terribly implausible, but wondered if younger viewers thought the whole thing a bit fantastic.

Well, now they have a more contemporary mode, per this report from the Charlotte Observer:

Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon was arrested Wednesday on public corruption charges, with the FBI alleging he took tens of thousands of dollars in bribes – including $20,000 in cash delivered in a briefcase last month to the mayor’s office where he also solicited $1 million more.

In return for the money, trips, hotel rooms and access to a luxury SouthPark apartment, Cannon promised to help agents posing as potential commercial investors with zoning, parking and other city-related issues.

Cannon, a Democrat, was charged with theft and bribery after the FBI sting operation, said Anne Tompkins, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. He was released on an undisclosed bond, pending indictment.

If convicted on all charges, the 47-year-old mayor faces up to 50 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

You can read the whole thing yourself. You never know, but it sure sounds like the feds have Cannon pretty cold. As with Abscam, the amounts of money involved in the bribes were not vast; probably a whole lot less than Cannon could have pulled down if he had just left office and gotten one of those fine “lawyer/lobbyist” gigs.

I’m also a little queasy about this sort of “sting” operation, which obviously gets very close to entrapment–and about an additional data point supporting the claim that the authorities typically target African-American pols in anti-corruption efforts.

But still, it’s sort of like the lesson Bruce Braley learned today or Mitt Romney learned in 2012: nowadays, when you say or do something you shouldn’t, you cannot count on it remaining private. The difference is all Romney or Braley had to lose was a couple of points in an election. Cannon’s facing a stretch in the hoosegow.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.