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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The California Journal of Politics and Policy (CJPP) is an online journal of original scholarship, cutting edge research, and informed commentary regarding all aspects of national, state, and local government, electoral politics, and public policy formation and implementation. Published by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California-Berkeley, the Journal provides timely insights and historical and comparative perspective on issues ranging from legislative and electoral concerns to tax and social welfare policy, the courts, campaign finance, and the changing role and character of political media.

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Failed State: Political Corruption and the Collapse of Democracy in Bell, California

This article seeks to explain recent patterns of corruption in the city of Bell, California. After reviewing the literature on municipal corruption and reform and political participation in immigrant communities, the article examines the Bell case study. It argues that the city’s primary democratic institutions, voter participation, watchdog media, and community organization engagement collapsed prior to the scandal. In addition, elements of the council-manager form of government contributed to community disengagement from city politics. In this “failed state,” local officials exploited governmental power for personal gain. Implications for political reform and local state-building in high immigration cities are discussed.