During the late 1930s Los Angeles' public sphere was radically transformed through the actions of a little known citizens' organization which created and deployed a sophisticated surveillance apparatus to pursue reform of the city government. That group—CIVIC—labored to convince the voting public that municipal officials had provided police protection to organized gambling and prostitution operations in exchange for campaign contributions. In their efforts to dismantle an economic and political status quo, CIVIC operated both surreptitiously and in plain sight, all the while seeking the participation of the people of Los Angeles in what was publicized as a citizens' crusade to purge the city of its corrupt political and criminal leadership.

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