What started out as stunning rumors over the weekend, for those interested in New Orleans city politics, ended up as a guilty plea on Monday, as the man widely touted as the probable next mayor of the city, Councilman Oliver Thomas, pleaded guilty to a single count of accepting a bribe. The plea, the outcome of a federal investigation, surprised virtually everyone (excepting, one assumes, the guy who bribed him), since the articulate and attractive Thomas was both a vocal supporter of tough law enforcement in the city and a major figure in local politics, with a hitherto "clean" reputation. But the best quote on the subject came from the head of the local FBI office:
Federal prosecutors and investigators emphasized that Louisiana does not have a monopoly on public corruption.
"I'm not going to condone machine politics, but in Boston we elected a mayor from prison," said James Bernazzani, the special agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans field office.
"It's not unique to Louisiana. It's just brazen down here. Machine politics in the north will skim the cream. Here in Louisiana, they skim the cream, they steal the milk, hijack the bottles and look for the cow."