Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 71, Issue 1, pp 47–65 | Cite as

The U.S. Government’s framing of corruption: a content analysis of public integrity section reports, 1978–2013

  • Ryan G. CeresolaEmail author


Political corruption is a complicated issue, with pundits, scholars, and armchair theorists speculating on what makes politics so seemingly corrupt. The US agency tasked with investigating and correcting this corruption is the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Public Integrity Section (PIN). However, to date, there is no analysis of how corruption is interpreted and framed by this important government agency. Using a constructionist framework, a content analysis of thirty-five years of annual PIN reports to Congress is undertaken, demonstrating: 1) the PIN never explicitly defines what corruption is; 2) the PIN pays particular attention to the most dramatic cases of corruption (as opposed to the more mundane, typical cases) and emphasizes private businesses and individual malfeasance as exemplars of corruption. Finally, 3) the PIN has recently stopped briefly detailing each case they worked on in a year, and instead only present major highlights. In conclusion, the PIN frames corruption in a way that limits the ability for meaningful social change to occur at an institutional level.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyHartwick CollegeOneontaUSA

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