This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

"Larceny in My Heart": The Abscam Political Scandal, 1978-1983




Hills, Jessica

Type of Degree





After the Watergate scandal, the FBI underwent major internal changes. As a result of some of those changes, the organization shifted its focus towards white-collar crime. As Operation Abscam progressed, it seemed as though it would be the perfect example of the FBI’s new direction. Initially begun to recover stolen art, Operation Abscam transformed into a sting operation to catch lesser public officials who accepted bribes, mostly in Atlantic City. In the last year of the investigation, Operation Abscam targeted members of the United States Congress. On February 2, 1980, the FBI arrested all Abscam targets, including seven Congressmen. The same day, the media broke the story and the operation became a nationwide scandal. Initially, the public supported the actions of the FBI, but, as details emerged about the conduct of the FBI during the sting, it became clear that the sting did not restore public faith in the FBI.