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Monday, December 20, 2010

Political Corruption

Political corruption affects us all. We elect politicians and political parties expecting them to act in the public interest.

By electing them we give them access to public resources and the power to take decisions that impact on our lives.

Given this privileged position, immense damage can be inflicted by politicians or parties acting out of greed, or in the service of those who bankroll their ascent to power.

It is not surprising that people the world over are demanding
absolute probity of their political leaders: citizens in three out
of four countries polled by Transparency International and Gallup
International singled out political parties as the institution they
perceived as most corrupt.

http://www.transparency.org/global_priorities/corruption_politics

When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things bought and sold are legislators.
~ P. J. O'Rourke American Political Satirist, Author and Journalist


Political Corruption - Overview

Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain.

Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption.

Neither are illegal acts by private persons or corporations not
directly involved with the government.

An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption
only if the act is directly related to their official duties.

Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement.

While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, it is not restricted to these activities.

The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending
on the country or jurisdiction.

For instance, certain political funding practices that are legal in
one place may be illegal in another.

In some cases, government officials have broad or poorly 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.[1]

A state of unrestrained political corruption is known as a
kleptocracy, literally meaning "rule by thieves".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_corruption

“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products
of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi Pre-Eminent Political Leader of India


What is Political Corruption?

Political corruption can be defined both with reference to the main actors involved, namely persons at the highest levels of the political system, and the purpose of the corrupt behaviour, namely to sustain the hold on power.

Hence, political corruption can be for private and group enrichment, and for power preservation purposes. Often these two forms of political corruption are connected.

Some of the larger and more serious political corruption scandals include both processes - accumulation on the one hand and the misuse of extracted or public money for political purposes on the other.

The latter process is somewhat under-researched and
underestimated, since much of the focus in the literature
has been on accumulation.

Political corruption in the form of accumulation or extraction occurs when government officials use and abuse their hold on power to extract from the private sector, from government revenues, and from the economy at large.

These processes of accumulation have been called extraction,
embezzlement, rent-seeking, plunder and even kleptocracy
("rule by thieves"), depending on the extent and context.

Extraction takes place mainly in the form of soliciting bribes in
procurement and government projects, in privatisation processes
and in taxation.

Military procurement is known to be particularly affected by
extractive political corruption worldwide, because of the
involvement of top-level politicians, national interests and secrecy.

The other process, when extracted resources (and public money)
are used for power preservation and power extension purposes,
usually takes the form of favouritism and patronage politics.

It includes a favouritist and politically motivated distribution of financial and material inducements, benefits, advantages, and spoils.

Techniques include money and material favours to build political loyalty and political support. Power-holders can pay off rivals and opposition and secure a parliamentary majority.

By giving preferences to private companies they can get party and campaign funds, and by paying off the governmental institutions of checks and control they can stop investigations and audits and gain judicial impunity.

Furthermore, by buying loyal decisions from election commissions and by buying votes they can secure their re-election.

Political corruption takes place at the highest levels of the political system, and can thus be distinguished from administrative or bureaucratic corruption.

Bureaucratic corruption takes place at the implementation end of politics, for instance in government services like education and health.

Political corruption takes place at the formulation end of politics, where decisions on the distribution of the nation's wealth and the rules of the game are made.

Political corruption is usually also distinguished from business and private sector corruption.

This is only a matter of academic classification, however, since the bribes offered by private companies, domestic and international, are frequent and significant corruption drivers. Our focus here, however, is not on the supply side of corrupt transactions, but on the demand side.

Most definitions of corruption also emphasise the demand (state) side, for instance in stating that corruption is "abuse of public authority and power for private benefit".

http://www.u4.no/themes/political-corruption/introduction.cfm

"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have
come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
~ Ronald Reagan 40th U.S. President


Political Corruption - Definition

In broad terms, political corruption is the misuse of public office for private gain. All forms of government are susceptible in practice to political corruption.

Degrees of corruption vary greatly, from minor uses of influence and patronage to do and return favours, to institutionalised bribery and beyond.

The end-point of political corruption is kleptocracy, literally rule by thieves, where even the external pretence of honesty is abandoned.

Corruption arises in both political and bureaucratic offices and can
be petty or grand, organized or unorganized.

Though corruption often facilitates criminal activities such as drug
trafficking, money laundering, and prostitution, it is not restricted
to these activities.

For purposes of understanding the problem and devising remedies,
it is important to keep crime and corruption analytically distinct.

Conditions favorable for Corruption

Concentration of decision-making power: non-democratic regimes
Lack of government transparency in decision-making
Large amounts of public capital involved in a project
Self-interested closed cliques and "old-boy" networks
Weak rule of law
Poorly-paid government officials
An apathetic and uninterested, or gullible and easily led demos
that does not scrutinise the political process sufficiently

Negative Effects

Democracy

Corruption poses a serious development challenge. In the political realm, it undermines democracy and good governance by subverting formal processes.

Corruption in elections and in legislative bodies reduces
accountability and representation in policymaking; corruption
in the judiciary suspends the rule of law; and corruption in
public administration results in the unequal provision of services.

More generally, corruption erodes the institutional capacity of
government as procedures are disregarded, resources are
siphoned off, and officials are hired or promoted without
regard to performance.

At the same time, corruption undermines the legitimacy of government and such democratic values as trust and tolerance.

The Economy

Corruption also undermines economic development by generating considerable distortions and inefficiency.

In the private sector, corruption increases the cost of business through the price of illicit payments themselves, the management cost of negotiating with officials, and the risk of breached agreements or detection.

Although some claim corruption reduces costs by cutting red tape,
an emerging consensus holds that the availability of bribes induces
officials to contrive new rules and delays.

Where corruption inflates the cost of business, it also distorts the playing field, shielding firms with connections from competition and thereby sustaining inefficient firms.

Corruption also generates economic distortions in the public sector
by diverting public investment into capital projects where bribes and
kickbacks are more plentiful.

Officials may increase the technical complexity of public sector projects to conceal such dealings, thus further distorting investment.

Corruption also lowers compliance with construction, environmental, or other regulations; reduces the quality of government services and infrastructure; and increases budgetary pressures on government.

General National Welfare

Political corruption is widespread in many countries, and represents
a major obstacle to the well-being of the citizens of those countries.

Political corruption means that government policies tend to benefit the givers of the bribes, not the country.

Even in countries where national politics is relatively honest, political corruption is often found in regional politics.

Types of Abuse

Political corruption encompasses abuses by government officials
such as embezzlement and nepotism, as well as abuses linking
public and private actors such as bribery, extortion, influence
peddling, and fraud.

Bribery: Bribe-Takers and Bribe-Givers

Corruption needs two parties to be corrupt: the bribe giver and the bribe taker.

In some countries the culture of corruption extends to every aspect of public life, making it more or less impossible to stay in business without giving bribes.

The most common bribe-giving countries are not in general the
same as the most common bribe-taking countries.

The 12 least corrupt countries, according to the Transparency International perception survey, 2001, are (in alphabetical order):

Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland

According to the same survey, the 12 most corrupt countries are (in alphabetical order):

Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cameroon, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Tanzania, Uganda, Ukraine

However, the value of that survey is disputed, since it is based on the subjective perceptions of the polled individuals.

"Campaign Contributions" and Soft Money

It is easy to prove corruption, but difficult to prove its absence. For this reason, there are often rumours about many politicians.

Politicians are placed in apparently compromising positions because of their need to solicit financial contributions for their campaigns.

Often, they then appear to be acting in the interests of those parties that fund them, giving rise to talk of political corruption.

Supporters of politicians assert that it is entirely coincidental that many politicians appear to be acting in the interests of those who fund them.

Cynics wonder why these organizations fund politicians at all, if
they get nothing for their money?

It should be noted that firms, especially large ones, often fund all major parties.

An argument exists that politicians should receive public funding, possibly on the basis of the number of votes received, in order to reduce the risk of political corruption through campaign contributions.

http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Political_corruption

"The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference."
~ Bess Myerson First Jewish Winner Miss America Pageant 1945

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