What Is a Corrupt Politician?

Jacob Queen

In the strictest sense, a corrupt politician is someone with political power who uses that power immorally or illegally in order to attain some kind of personal benefit. The benefit could include anything from money to additional power. According to many definitions, political corruption has to involve some kind of financial element at the core of the behavior, and this is primarily what separates it from the general term "abuse of power," which is often more broadly defined. In terms of actual behavior, some of the things that would be typical of a corrupt politician include accepting bribes from private donors, offering jobs in powerful positions in exchange for favors, and manipulating legislation inappropriately in order to benefit the politician's own private business interests. There are many problems associated with corruption in politics, mostly related to the fact that a corrupt politician will often act strictly according to his own interest, ignoring the interests of his constituents and the society as a whole.

Corrupt politicians are typically willing to accept bribes.
Corrupt politicians are typically willing to accept bribes.

Corruption in high office is a classic human problem that goes all the way back to ancient times. In modern political systems, there are often many protections to reduce the amount of political corruption with laws and restrictions set up specifically as safeguards. For example, term limits are sometimes recommended so that politicians don't become overly concerned with maintaining power for a lengthy period, and some countries have laws about private donations to political campaigns to avoid overt bribery.

Corrupt politicians may only speak out for certain groups who support their campaign.
Corrupt politicians may only speak out for certain groups who support their campaign.

One of the classic activities often associated with a typical corrupt politician is the willingness to accept bribes. For example, a private company might secretly transfer money into the bank account of a politician as a reward for voting against a legislative measure. Sometimes this kind of bribery is handled in a very subtle ways so that the transfer of money isn't as obvious or direct. For example, a politician may receive an especially good deal on a mortgage from a bank after agreeing to vote against a banking regulation bill.

Other common activities a corrupt politician might engage in include cronyism and legislative manipulation for private gain. Cronyism is when politicians give people powerful appointments for some kind of favor, often including those who offer bribes and other secret favors. An example of legislating for private gain would be if a politician were to change the law so that he could make more money in his private business by getting rid of regulations that protect the public.

Political protests may result from instances of corruption.
Political protests may result from instances of corruption.

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Discussion Comments


Unfortunately it seems like we care more about our representatives actions in the bedroom than in the assembly room. The last five or six political scandals I can think of have all involved cheating husbands. As sad as this may be marital infidelity has nothing to do with a person's job performance. Think about if you cheated on your wife would you get run out of your job?

We should look past these minor and ultimately meaningless indiscretions and focus on what really matters from our politicians, just and fair and consistent governance. This is the metric for success, not a firm commitment to monogamy.


What is the difference between being corrupt and simply being unethical? It seems to me that there is all kinds of behavior that we would not want out of our politicians that is also not punishable by any laws. We end up disappointed rather than vindicated.

What course of action is there for people who are profoundly disappointed with the actions of their representatives but can't take any legal action against them. Is this just the burden of living in a democracy?


If you need an example of a corrupt politician a great place to start looking is in the Illinois Governor's chair. The last three Governors are all currently in prison after facing indictments regarding various kinds of corruption.

Corruption happens everywhere but there is something about Illinois that seems to encourage it. Just look at their track record.

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