Nation: Shaking the Money Tree

Old-fashioned vote selling in Louisiana

In the Crossing, a square mile of tall, somber pines and rutted dirt roads in western Louisiana, the small clapboard houses are shuttered, watchdogs howl mournfully and people eye strangers suspiciously. "Folks are talking crazy," says a youth. "They're talking about killing people." Declares John Johnson Jr., a black community worker: "There's fear hanging everywhere."

People are frightened in this obscure, impoverished corner of the world because an ancient political tradition has finally aroused the attention of the law. Charges of bribery became so rampant in the...

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