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Revealing Corruption In Politics: 8 Underhanded Ways How It Happens

Know how corruption in politics harms you and your vote. Moreover, know the different political corruption schemes that subvert democratic processes and enrich politicians and their supporters.

According to Transparency International, corruption in the U.S. is at its worst in almost a decade. Specifically, the primary reasons include a declining trust in democratic institutions and poor oversight of pandemic-related financial aid. Also, it was noted that public confidence in U.S. elections have been undercut by disinformation and record-setting amounts of untraceable money in elections. For instance, in 2020 the money spent on elections was twice as much compared with 2016. Corruption in U.S. politics is nothing new. Another example of corruption is that since 1961 there have been 11 governors of Illinois and four of them served prison time to include the latest, Rod Blagojevich.

What Harm Does Corruption in Politics Cause?

Political corruption is a broad term that can include both corruption while in office or during political campaigns. The bottom line is that all corruption is for the purpose of illegitimate private gain. Specifically, the resulting gain of political corruption includes private enrichment, more power, or winning an election. Additionally, professional enablers such as bankers, lawyers, accountants and real estate agents, and opaque financial systems greatly increase the likelihood of corruption in politics . It is a fact, that political corruption causes great harm to a country. this includes:

  • Less Government Funds Available. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) analyzed over 180 countries and found that more corrupt countries collected fewer taxes. Besides tax loopholes designed in exchange for kickbacks, the average taxpayer will evade paying taxes if they believe their government is corrupt.
  • Government Waste. The IMF estimates that the most corrupt emerging market economies waste twice as much money as least corrupt ones.
  • Impedes Prosperity and Human Rights. Corruption erodes trust, weakens democracy, hampers economic development and further exacerbates inequality, poverty, social division and the environmental crisis.

See Transparency International’s What Is Corruption? and IMF’s Tackling Corruption in Government for more details on harm caused by political corruption.

Political Corruption Arrested - Corruption in Politics
Political Corruption Arrested

The 8 Ways Corruption Can Occur in Politics.

Aristotle defined political corruption as the practice of leaders who rule with a view to their private advantage rather than the pursuit of the public interest. Indeed since the beginning of civilization, political corruption has been with us. It is amazing that throughout the ages, human ingenuity has found many illegitimate ways to fuel political corruption. Hence it continues today, where individual politicians find ways to gain at the expense of the public interest. To detail, below are eight ways political candidates and parties use corruption to gain public office.

1. Pay for Votes.

Here politicians directly or indirectly bribe voters or election officials. Besides money this could include gifts, food, alcohol, short-term employment.

2. Pay to Play.

This is common where politicians sell government appointments, contracts, licenses, access to office holders, or influence government policy in exchange for campaign funds.

3. Re-purpose Government Resources For Campaign Use.

Incumbent politicians use government resources to support a political campaign. Here politicians channel or promise public funds to companies, organizations, or individuals.

4. Status Quo – Only the Rich Can Run For Office.

Due to a corrupt political environment, candidates are required to contribute significant amounts to a party’s election funds. Politics becomes a rich man’s game. Office holders and would-be candidates seek to enrich themselves by any means necessary to get elected.

5. Extort Contributions From Government Employees.

Incumbent political party or candidate requires office holders, both public and elected, to contribute to election campaigns.  

6. Extort Contributions From the Private Sector.

In this case, politicians force private sector companies to pay “protection money“. Private sector coercion can include threats of tax raids and customs inspections.

7. Blatantly Violate Election Laws.

Here politicians accept donations from prohibited sources or spend more than the legal ceiling permits. This also includes violations of disclosure requirements, such as inaccurate accounting or reporting, or lack of transparent funding.

8. Constrain the Opposing Party.

Especially in authoritative regimes, it is common practice for the incumbent regime to limit opposing parties to funds, freedom of movement, and media access.

For more details on the forms of political corruption see Emmanuel Remi Aiyede’s extensive research on Combating Political Corruption.

For more information from Unvarnished Facts on accountability, click here.

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