The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Appalachia: Where Official Corruption Is No Joke

New Police Raids Shock Community Already Reeling From Indictments of 14 Community Leaders In March

A Question of Public Integrity…

Or lack of it.

Once again, official corruption in the little town of Appalachia, Virginia bubbles up like raw sewerage, to offend the sensibilities of locals and non-locals alike. Having spent a few happy years out in Southwest Virginia in college, I hate to see this kind of thing happen to the good citizens of that beautiful region.

But, clearly the plot thickens as the story of politics in Appalachia unfolds in all its unpleasant detail.

The Roanoke Times reported yesterday on what is becoming a widening investigation of an ugly mixture of voter fraud, kickbacks to public officials, corrupt law local law enforcement, harassment of political enemies and now…big-time illegal gambling. This news report suggests that authorities believe that both “past and present public officials” are involved in this pitiful case of public corruption. This case is obviously in the very early stages of what promises to be a long and depressing investigation and prosecution of “community leaders” who have abused the public trust for selfish personal gratification and financial enrichment.

Today, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports more details of this sordid affair, including the raid of several buildings in downtown Appalachia and the seizure of $220,000 in hard cash and another $225,000 in investment accounts. The prosecutor in charge of the case is quoted as saying that that these operations were making a “lot of money.” One such illegal enterprise was reported as having invested $190,000 in gambling supplies in just one year. With that kind of business "investment, the mind boggles at what kind of gross this operation is producing.

This report also reveals for the first time that the election fraud indictments that came down in March are probably related to the new investigation of big-time illegal gambling activities.

Even though the 38 search warrants produced some impressive findings, there were no new arrests at the time. Maybe we should say… no arrests yet on these new criminal activities.

Just how big is this case of public corruption? No one really knows at this time. But it is getting bigger by the day and appears to be just the latest in a series of shocking revelations involving the highest public officials in this small Southwest Virginia community.

Readers of the Iconoclast may recall that in March of this year, fourteen people including Appalachia Mayor Ben Cooper, and thirteen other so called “pillars of the community” were indicted on charges involving election fraud.

Now, little by little, we are gaining some insight into the motives of why these pillars of the community leadership would betray the public trust. Surprise, surprise… it is the very tempting opportunity of quick and easy money! Who would have guessed?

While the vast majority of people who become involved in politics are honorable people and appropriately motivated to faithfully fulfill their oaths of office and to serve the public interests, politics also has a way of attracting opportunists who for whatever reasons wind up abusing the public trust. This happens too often it seems.

Sometimes, otherwise good people are overwhelmed by the temptations of power and opportunity and go bad through weakness of character. Other times, make no mistake, individuals of fundamentally bad character, seek out politics as a tool to advance their own selfish interests.

It is too early to predict how the Appalachia story will unfold. But my bet is that the house odds don't look so good this time. That is... not unless we are talking about the odds that somebody is going to the big house!

Also see related articles:

Pork Rind Scandal No Longer A Laughing Matter
Pork Rinds: A threat to democracy?


  • At 5/09/2006 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You think these guys are going to work this hard and take these risks for nothing? It is always about the money!

  • At 5/10/2006 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I read this story today, geez! Are you sure the Mayor of Appalacia isn't Tony Soprano?

  • At 5/11/2006 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The news reports suggest that these gambling activities were known by a fair number of people for some time. It is just that no one in authority was looking at it closely. They are now.


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