Journalist Otis Sanford was a reporter for the Commercial Appeal for ten years, starting in 1977. He covered a lot of political corruption stories during that time, and now he’s back and a little pissed off that politicians like former state senator Roscoe Dixon keep trying to play the race card when they get caught up in things like FBI sting Tennessee Waltz.

Now back at the Commercial Appeal, Otis writes:

The argument usually goes this way: “White politicians have been doing this stuff for years and getting away with it. But now that black folks are in power, they are being targeted because of racism. Why don’t they go after the white politicians too?”

But Otis notes that back in the day, there was trial after trial and conviction after conviction, and almost always is was a white male on the receiving end of the prison sentences:

Long before “Tennessee Waltz,” there was “TENNPAR.” And before “Operation Main Street Sweeper,” there was “Operation SHELBCO.”

TENNPAR was the seldom used code name for the federal investigation of the state’s pardons and paroles scandal of the late 1970s that reached all the way to the office of then-Gov. Ray Blanton.

Blanton’s brother, Gene Blanton, and several others also were ensnared in federal investigations of bid-rigging on state road contracts.

At about the same time, the feds in Memphis and Jackson, Tenn., were investigating corruption by rural county sheriffs throughout West Tennessee. Those probes eventually led to indictments and convictions against nine sheriffs, all white.

Former U.S. attorney Hickman Ewing Jr., the chief prosecutor on many of those cases, recalls one sheriff who took a nine-month break from collecting payoffs to let the investigations cool down. When he thought the prosecutions had subsided, his hiatus ended and “he was back collecting his money again,” Ewing said.

Memphis and Shelby County politics also had its share of shadiness. SHELBCO was the FBI code name for a massive investigation in the late ’70s and early ’80s of corruption in county government. The cases focused primarily on elected and appointed officials accepting payoffs and kickbacks from developers and others doing business with the county.

As many as 10 people were prosecuted in the SHELBCO cases, including former county commissioner Lee Hyden, former top county administrator Bill Hays and former public works director-turned informant Jim Butler.

Read the whole thing, especially the money quote that follows this:

Greed is greed and politics, in all colors, is full of it.

Nice job, Otis. And a breath of fresh air — honesty in journalism. I like you, Otis

Sanford.