Political Corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain.
Forms of corruption vary, but can include bribery, lobbying, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement. Corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, though it is not restricted to these activities. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is also considered political corruption.
Over time, corruption has been defined differently. For example, in a simple context, while performing work for a government or as a representative, it is unethical to accept a gift. Any free gift could be construed as a scheme to lure the recipient towards some biases. In most cases, the gift is seen as an intention to seek certain favors such as work promotion, tipping in order to win a contract, job or exemption from certain tasks in the case of junior worker handing in the gift to a senior employee who can be key in winning the favor.
Some forms of corruption – now called “institutional corruption” – are distinguished from bribery and other kinds of obvious personal gain. A similar problem of corruption arises in any institution that depends on financial support from people who have interests that may conflict with the primary purpose of the institution.
An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties, is done under color of law or involves trading in influence. The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending on the country or jurisdiction. For instance, some political funding practices that are legal in one place may be illegal in another. In some cases, government officials have broad or ill-defined powers, which make it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal actions. Worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to involve over 1 trillion US dollars annually. A state of unrestrained political corruption is known as a kleptocracy, literally meaning “rule by thieves”.
Defining the Concept of Political Corruption
Corruption is a difficult concept to define. A proper definition of corruption requires a multi-dimensional approach. Machiavelli popularized the oldest dimension of corruption as the decline of virtue among political officials and the citizenry. The psychologist Horst-Eberhard Richter’s modernized version defines corruption as the undermining of political values. Corruption as the decline of virtue has been criticized as too broad and far too subjective to be universalized. The second dimension of corruption is corruption as deviant behavior. Sociologist Christian Höffling and Economist J.J. Sentuira both characterized corruption as social illness; the latter defined corruption as the misuse of public power for one’s profit. The third dimension is the quid pro quo. Corruption always is an exchange between two or more persons/parties where the persons/parties possess economic goods, and the other person/parties possess a transferred power to be used, according to fixed rules and norms, toward a common good. Fourth, there are also different levels of societal perception of corruption. Heidenheimer divides corruption into three categories. The first category is called white corruption; this level of corruption is mostly viewed with tolerance and may even be lawful and legitimate; typically based on family ties and patron-client systems. The type of corruption often occurring in constitutional states or state transitioning to a more democratic society is called grey corruption is considered reprehensible according to a society’s moral norms, but the persons involved are still mostly lacking any sense of doing something wrong. The third category, black corruption is so severe that it violates a society’s norms and laws. The final dimension is called “shadow politics;” this is part of the informal political process that goes beyond legitimate informal political agreements to behavior that is purposefully concealed.