Political Corruption in a Democracy

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Updated: Dec 02, 2022
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Power is given to the politicians to ensure freedoms and to make the country thrive constantly, but when we give them this power, we expect them to not abuse it for their own benefit. Unfortunately, some politicians will use their power for personal benefit and as a united nation, we must be informed of how they could maltreat their power. An election has just passed by where we either give power to a new official or the incumbent keeps their power for how well they did the previous term, and these elections are vital to corrupt politicians because your vote helps them get anything in their favor quicker and easier. Political corruption will always be an undying predicament for nations worldwide with politicians having their minds based on the roots of totalitarian governments evolving to the acceptance of money over the governed.

What is Political Corruption?

Before entering the abyss of political corruption, we must understand its foundation, the basic principles political corruption and its forms. There are two main forms of political corruption both dealing with money and power. The first type of political corruption deals with a high-level politician using their hold in office to gain a profit from government revenues and the economy as a whole, e.g. illegally using taxpayer money for your own personal benefit. The second form is extracting the public resources and money to keep power in office and the country. Political corruption mainly deals with high public officials and government offices, this is different from bureaucratic corruption which deals with far lower-level officials. We can also distinguish political corruption from business corruption which deals with private corporations and not the government but if a government official takes bribes from a business, that’s considered political corruption and stuff like police brutality and repression of political opponents would not be considered political corruption as it does not deal with a politician trying to use something for their benefit (US Legal, Inc.). So how has the current political system implemented corruption, how has it let our politicians see money as a benefit when it can actually destroy the livelihood of millions across the nation?

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Rooted in Totalitarian

Political corruption has its roots in totalitarian governments, and in a broader spectrum, any type of dictatorship. Dictators keep control in government by spreading fear amongst its people, such as, Nazi Germany’s Holocaust or the USSR’s famines and purges. They gather and extract fear among the people maintain their power in government (Niiler). The second form of political corruption is extracting resources from the public and government to maintain control (US Legal, Inc.), we can see that in totalitarian governments and in a democracy. We can say now that it wouldn’t be as severe but we can tell that after exterminating totalitarianism in most parts of the world, it seeps back into a democracy. Political leaders worldwide saw dictatorship as an epidemic and caused the lives of millions yearly but they know that if they can gain more control secretly, they have more say in government to make their lives better or a certain group instead of all citizens.


Bribery is a fairly simple topic to grasp and comprehend. The act of directly or indirectly giving or promising anything of value to government officials for say in government is illegal and this would be considered bribery in its most basic form. For an official to accept a bribe, s/he could be punished with a fine of no more the 3x what was offered, 15 years imprisonment, removal from office or all of the above (US Legal, Inc.). Bribery is one of the most common forms of corruption (Alston) and appears in numerous cases, such as, Abscam in the late 1970s in the US and the Kenjivideos from early 2018 in Peru.

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The 1970’s: Abscam and Watergate

Famous US corruption case, all over the news in the 1980’s and a movie adaptation, Abscam dealt with the FBI and dozens of politicians to catch them in the act of corruption. Mel Weinberg, conman was given the task to aid the FBI to lure in corrupt officials (Greene). The FBI created a phony oil company and Arabic sheik in the late 1970s. The FBI initially invested money in art which led criminals to them and the criminals led them to officials (Greene). The “company” wanted their “sheik” to have US asylum from the politicians and to start a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The mayor of Camden, NJ, led them to congressmen to make private legislation to get the “sheik” asylum, 50k upfront and 50k later. At the end of the investigation, over a dozen public officials, including 1 senator and 6 congressmen were convicted for taking the bribes (FBI). Senator Larry Pressler, after being on news for denying the bribe form the phony company, the media called him “heroic” but he differed and said this about us, “I do not consider myself a hero … what have we come to if turning down a bribe is ‘heroic’?” (Internet Archive Way Back Machine). Abscam being well known in the 70s, it will never outlive the Watergate Scandal. President Nixon, trying to run for reelection during the controversial Vietnam War, had burglars steal documents and tap phones in the Watergate complex, home of the Democratic National Committee, to win the upcoming election. The phone taps didn’t work on the first try so five men came back to the complex to bring in a new microphone but the security guard noticed something fishy in the building so he called the police and they caught the five men red-handed (History). At the beginning, it didn’t seem that President Nixon was directly correlated with the men and he made a speech that he was not involved with the scandal at all, and the voter believed him. He won the 1972 Presidential Election in a landslide where only Massachusetts and D.C. weren’t for his reelection (History). Nixon and his men planned to instruct the CIA to delay the FBI’s investigation; this act was worse than breaking into Watergate and stealing documents because this was an abuse of power (History). The trial begun and Nixon’s men weren’t going his way. The White House counsel, John Dean, testified the president’s crimes and others testified his involvement in taping all of the Oval Office’s conversations; if the attorneys got their hands on the tapes, they would have proof that Nixon is guilty. Nixon tried to keep his hands on them, with his lawyers saying he had the right to keep them due to “executive privilege” but the Supreme Court ordered to hand them over and the House of Representatives impeached him for “obstruction of justice, abuse of power, criminal cover-up and several violations of the Constitution.” (History). He released the tapes on August 5, 1974, and resigned on August 8th 1974 leaving the White House the following day after months of corruption in the air. The new president, Gerald Ford, pardoned him and his crimes 6 weeks after he entered office. Abscam and Watergate are well known throughout our country but there are some current events in our country and in others where the media doesn’t reach us, whether it’s because we aren’t their demographic or the agenda of local media would rather focus on other events.

Current Events of Political Corruption

Abscam and Watergate, being infamous in the US, took place almost 40-50 years ago, but there are plenty of current events that don’t cycle around like these two in our modern day.. In South American country, Peru, former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) allegedly took bribes from Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht. The scandal is believed to be involved with over $800 million (in $US). Two days before Kuczynski impeachment trial, a series of videos were leaked, infamously called the Kenjivideos, where PPK peer, Kenji Fujimori was caught trying to bribe other congressmen to vote no in PPK impeachment trial. As suspected from any scandal, PPK resigned before impeachment and stated in his resignation that he was innocent and only resigned for his family to live peacefully and he would not obstruct the country’s future (Charner). The PPK scandal was one out of the many recent events but there is one more familiar with US citizens where Russia made an interference with the 2016 US Election to create a President-Elect Donald Trump turnout. The election has been highly investigated by the CIA, FBI, and NSA and all three agree with high confidence that Russia may have interfered with the election. If research and studies prove that President Trump conspired with Russians for his favor, this could be considered an act of corruption as he extracting resources to get power in government and this could raise questions if he could be impeached, if he is found guilty with the Constitution stating for impeachment “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes or Misdemeanors.” (Masters).

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Political Corruption in a Democracy. (2019, Dec 22). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/political-corruption-in-a-democracy/