Nick: You know, there's lots worse things than movies. There's politicians and wars and forest fires, and famine and plague... Uh, sickness, pain, warts, politicians...
Jack Slater: You already mentioned them.
Nick: I know I did. They're twice as bad as anything else.Some politicians want to make the world a better place. They run for office and stay up late trying to help their constituents. This is not their trope. This politician sees the world through Jade-Colored Glasses. He thinks it's a World Half Empty, with Black and Gray Morality. He's gotten family members appointed to positions and his friends get the government contracts he doesn't keep for himself. A constituent who comes to him for help had better be ready to hand over a juicy "campaign donation". Some corrupt politicians just abuse and twist the system for their own ends. Nepotism may or may not be illegal, and steering contracts to your friends may just be the result of a small pool of available contractors, and of course a member of the committee for Big Oil is going to be acquainted with Big Oil. On the other hand, some are fully criminal and allied with The Mafia or some other criminal organization. They use their insider status to steer police investigations away from their crimes and exploit loopholes, engineer loopholes, or simply get rid of the law on their behalf. A Corrupt Politician can be as minor as the mayor of a small town, a Corrupt Hick who runs everything for his own benefit. Or he could be President Evil, a full blown super villain in charge of an entire nation. Taken to the extreme, he's an Evil Overlord. When you walk into a Chez Restaurant, you can expect to find the Corrupt Politician eating dinner with the Corrupt Hick, the Corrupt Corporate Executive, the Police Commissioner and The Don. He's probably on good terms with some evil aristocrats, princes, and queens, as well. Unlike the rest of them, the Corrupt Politician had to go through an election. Or at least the appearance of an election. The Corrupt Politician will assure them all that the Corrupt Bureaucrat, who he appointed, will do what they want. Might hide his corrupt activities from the public, in which case he is both a Villain with Good Publicity and possibly a Devil In Plainsight. If such a foe is presented as an enemy of the heroes in a storyline, a hero may have trusted him in the past and even voted for him in one or more elections, much to his regret later. Related to the Corrupt Politician is the Sleazy Politician, who isn't necessarily criminal, but still oozes distastefully low morals. For reference, see the Amoral Attorney.
Go ahead, tell the world. It won't make a difference.
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Anime & Manga
- A large proportion of the higher level villains in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, particularly the second season (the villains of the first were mainly Corrupt Corporate Executives, with political connections). These included the Big Bad and a couple of one shot antagonists.
- Mr. Heartland, the mayor of Heartland City in Yu Gi Oh Zexal and The Dragon to Dr. Faker. He would also become a lacky of the Seven Barian Emperors and becomes a Barian himself in season II.
- Pokémon: Ash and his friends encountered the Mayor of Trovitopolis, who was dealing with a mysterious creature wandering around in his sewer. Rather than find a humane solution to it, he was willing to kill it for political gain, and decides to close the manholes up. When told Ash and his friends have gone down there, he is willing to free them... in a week, after the election. Then it turns out the creature was a Bulbasaur he abandoned as a child, and rather than make peace with it, he sends his goons to kill it.
- Every single politician Batman meets in Gotham with the exception of District Attorney Harvey Dent and Police Commissioner Gordon. Justified because Gotham is a Wretched Hive: Marion Grange was not corrupt and tried to help Gotham, but she was underfunded and was assassinated before her term ended.
- In the Crapsack World of Sin City, being honest is contraindicated. Any politician who commits an act of honesty is committing an act of suicide.
- Superman's Lex Luthor dishonest? Nonsense! He won a fair election that wasn't rigged in any way.
- Wanted: In a world run by super villains, some of the politicians have to be on the take.
- Watchmen gives us President Nixon on his fourth term, and reporters dead. We can trust the Comedian when he tells us that's a coincidence.
- Astérix in Switzerland has the Roman governor of Condatum who took ridiculously large amounts of tax money in his province for his own purposes while only giving a meager four or five gold pieces to Rome. The plot itself starts when an inspector from Rome came to his province to investigate this and he was poisoned by said governor, which ended up bringing Asterix and co. into the picture.
- The Transformers (IDW) comics featured a diverse corrupt Senate. With the Decepticons rising, Proteus issues some pretty harsh plans, hoping to stop the lower classes from rebelling by having them lobotomized, and killing anyone in his way (and even before the uprising, disfiguring and reprogramming any enemy of the corruption). Ratbat seeks to profit from the whole uprising. Decimus isn't as corrupt, simply set in the ways of the rich profiting over the poor. Shockwave may be the only non-corrupt senator, as he tries to stop the deaths and killings. Ironically, we learn that Senator Momus was in league with the Decepticons because... He hung out with poor people, and invited them to parties.
- In one three-part Spider-Man story, there was Senator Bradley Miles. Somewhat penny-ante as far as this Trope went (the greater evils here were Doctor Octopus and a Mega Corp. named Biotechnix, which Miles was accepting bribes from) but one very memorable part of the story was when Spidey confronted him and threatened to leak the story to the press:
Miles: What makes you think they'll believe you over me?Spidey: Because I'm not a politician!
- Lots of X-Men villains, most of them anti-mutant bigots:
- Senator Robert Kelly, often seen as a dark satire of Joseph McCarthy, is likely the most well-known. He was originally the mastermind behind the Mutant Control Act and Project: Wideawake, government programs aimed at creating the updated Sentinels to hunt down and kill mutants. He was a main antagonist in Days of Future Past, X Men Noir, and the Alternate Universe setting House of M. (But in Age of Apocalypse, another Alternate Universe, he was a good guy, if a little naive.) He was also a recurring villain in the animated series.
- Graydon Creed, leader of several anti-mutant hate groups, including the Friends of Humanity, Purifiers, and Upstarts was a candidate for President during Operation: Zero Tolerance, running on an anti-mutant platform until he was assassinated.
- Crimson featured Victor Van Fleet, an US senator who is secretly a very powerful vampire lord with aspirations for presidency. He is also in league with Lisseth to bring forth the apocalypse.
- In the Death Note political AU Those Who Stand for Nothing Fall for Anything most of the cast are either this or merely callously indifferent to the suffering of others. Light claims that an aspiring politician he needs to at least look a bit corrupt just to look "approachable" in order to succeed in politics.
- In the NCIS novel-length AU Shards To A Whole (NSFW), it's discovered that corruption in the US political system is so rife that every election since 1932 was rigged.
- The Racket, a 1928 silent film about bootleggers in what is clearly meant to be Chicago, features an entire corrupt city government, that always gets the local bootlegging kingpin out of jail whenever the honest cop arrests him.
- The Big Lebowski: The Dude's run in with the Malibu chief of police doesn't go well for him. He may not be on the take, but he's willing to beat up a man when a local rich man asks him to.
Chief: Jackie Treehorn draws a lot of water in this town. You don't draw shit, Lebowski.
- Blazing Saddles has Hedley Lamarr, a corrupt attorney general who is driving honest settlers off their land for the benefit of the railroad company he has an interest in.
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington has Senator Joseph Harrison Paine (Claude Rains) and Taylor (Edward Arnold), the boss of the machine that controls him.
- Shoot 'em Up gives us a senator who sells out to the gun industry after said industry kills his shot at a miracle medical cure. Literally.
- In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Senator Palpatine got elected, maybe even honestly. He's still a Machiavellian, scheming bastard with no ethical values besides prolonging his own stay in power and strengthening his grip on the Republic.
- The film of V for Vendetta turns the Norsefire into corrupt bastards who used a bioterror weapon against their own people in order to fuel their rise to power.
- In X-Men: First Class, Hendry might not do Shaw's bidding immediately, but he's definitely rubbing shoulders with shady folks and does seem to be getting paid for it.
- In The Wolverine, Noburo Mori, Minister of Justice, is doing nothing to enforce justice. Instead he's trying to bumb off his finance and fooling around with prostitutes.
- On The Job: Senator Manrique, one of many influential government crooks who (indirectly of course) pay hitmen to assassinate their potential rivals—but considering the setting of the film, this is hardly surprising.
- Deep Cover: Hector Guzman is a prominent Latin American politician who plays golf with George Bush Sr. and is also the kingpin of a drug cartel with his nephew Gallegos as the front man.
- Police Academy; In the sixth movie, the villain behind the crime wave is a shadowy mastermind, revealed at the end to be the Mayor, using criminals to devalue property so he can buy it cheap, a multi-million dollar real estate scam.
- There's a joke. A corrupt politician is out and about, traveling the world, when he meets an corrupt dictator. They start bragging about their exploits. The politician pulls out a picture and says, "See this bridge? I skimmed more than $5 million during its construction." The dictator pulls out a picture, "See this bridge?" "What bridge?" "Exactly."
- This video shows the way corrupt politicians use slander to beat their opponents
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy plays this trope for laughs. The president of the galaxy is expected to be corrupt and is occasionally imprisoned upon election.
- Willard Phule, of Phule's Company, aka Captain Jester, encounters Governor Wingas on his maiden tour after his promotion. The governor eagerly awaits a "campaign contribution" from the newly arrived very wealthy man.
- Senator John Caddrick shows up late in the Time Scout series, is deep in bed with The Syndicate and personally ordered multiple murders. His reputation is fearsome and well-deserved.
- Ender's Game ends with a war for control of Earth as the Chinese, Russians, and the US try to take control of the space fleet. Orson Scott Card's opinion, demonstrated in the Ender's Shadow series that succeeds it, of the elected Chinese and Russian governments is very poor.
- The governments of the Alliance/Union universe are complex, to say the least, with government, economics and the web of alliances all messily tied together, thanks to the vast distances involved in space travel and an FTL drive that isn't magical, and the fact that every space station and space ship is a separate nation. The Viking station is essentially a third world country, with the difficulties that implies, and the Esperance station is a border nation grown fat off of multiple, multiple smuggling operations. The government of Esperance is explicitly corrupt.
- Robert A. Heinlein had a dim view of politicians in general and considered an idealist untrustworthy because he'll break any promise if convinced it's for The Greater Good. A dirty politician is trustworthy because he knows he has a reputation to maintain.
- In Stranger in a Strange Land, Jubal Harshaw is glad to learn that Secretary Douglas, head of the Federated Nations, is the sort of politician who, once bought, stays bought.
- Magic, Inc. has an extensive discussion of politics and the corruption that runs them when the protagonists try the legal route to ousting the titular company. The politics are so corrupt, they have to resort to fighting magic with magic.
- Politicians don't often show up in the Aubrey-Maturin 'verse. Perhaps the most notable exception is Aubrey's father, General Aubrey, MP. Aubrey, in all innocence, tells his father about a stock tip he gotnote . The good General then tells everyone he knows. End result: Aubrey is convicted of the early nineteenth century version of insider trading, spends a day in the stocks, and loses his commission. Nice job, dad.
- Subverted in Small Gods: The ruler of Ephebe is one of the only elected rulers on the Disc and they call him "Tyrant". Generally, he's honest, if somewhat cynical.
- In The Last Continent, we learn that the remote and little-known land of XXXX also has an elected ruler — and a tradition of throwing each new ruler into jail as soon as he's elected, on the assumption that it will save time later.
- Is there a single honest politician in Atlas Shrugged? No. In order to be a politician in that book, you have to want power over others, and that makes you a LEECH.
- There's a parliamentary faction in the Prince Roger 'verse dedicated to overthrowing the Empire of Man which includes Roger's father. As part of the coup plot, the Empress is Mind Raped so severely that she ultimately steps down as Empress because her mind is so broken once the coup is finally put down.
- Politics plays a major part in the Honor Harrington series, so of course this trope is in force.
- Haven's Legislaturalists, Manticore's & Grayson's Opposition parties, and the Solarian League's bureacrats are almost exclusively split between the sleazy and the corrupt.
- The series crowner is probably the Manticoran Progressive Party's leader Lady Elaine Descroix, who is so utterly ruthless and cynical that she makes her own corrupt Prime Minster blanch. We have to go to series reference materials to get a solid idea of what (if any) principles her party actually has, since she vocally disdains politicians who are led by them. She embezzles money and frames her sole semi-principled ally, she doctors diplomatic correspondence to hold on to domestic power and ends up provoking a war, and she turns out to be The Mole for a nation involved in slave trade.
- Insofar as there are politicians in Snow Crash, they're corrupt. Everyone's corrupt. Everything's corrupt.
- In Tad Williams' Otherland, half the members of the Grail Brotherhood are heads of state. The rest merely own heads of state.
- Many politicians in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, many of them Bothans. This is because Bothans have a very ruthless, predatory attitude towards politics, and they see any politician who isn't doing anything in his power and making whatever shady deals he needs to in order to cement his office and get rid of the opposition isn't doing his job right. This is particularly notable in The Thrawn Trilogy, when Bothan leader Borsk Fey'lya does everything he can to ruin Admiral Ackbar and take over his position even when it's detrimental to the New Republic war effort. Thrawn himself notes that he never tried subverting Fey'lya, since he was helping the Empire so well as he was that Thrawn just didn't need to.
- In The Nexus Series, several characters on the ERD's side are terrified of Special Adviser Maximilian Barnes for the things it's been rumored he's done. This is justified in "Crux", where it's revealed that Barnes has orchestrated several fake transhuman terrorist attacks to drum up favor for candidates running on Anti-Transhuman Technology Platforms. He kills Dr. Holtzmann for figuring this out.
Live Action TV
- Angel gives us a number of evil, never mind corrupt, politicians, thanks in no small part to the law firm of Wolfram and Heart. Two senators show up on screen, and far more are implied. One of them, Senator Helen Bruckner is actually a demon whose taken over a human body (quite probably, Magnus Hainsley was responsible).
- How corrupt is Mayor Wilkinson, of Buffy's Sunnydale? He sold his soul. The only reason Sunnydale exists is because he set it up as a demon/vampire smorgasbord. How does he keep getting elected, decade after decade? See above re: soul.
- It gives us a district attorney willing to pervert the justice system to retain the backing of a very wealthy family. A mild example, but he nearly convicted an innocent man of murder to help secure his election.
- There's also Mayor Bob, friend to Castle who features prominently in the episode 'Dial M for Mayor.' There's ample evidence to suggest that he's embezzling funds and was involved in a murder but he attests that he's being set up. Subverted in that he's right and the conspiracy that shot down his run for governor are the same guys involved in Beckett's mother's murder.
- "After the Storm" gives us William H. Bracken, Senator for New York and the man behind the murder of Beckett's mother.
- The Dollhouse has a number of powerful connections. Yet another senator cashes in the favor. Hell, they got a doll elected as a senator so they could rig an investigation into themselves and set it up to fail.
- Near the end of Law & Order's run, we meet Governor Shavloy, who consorts with prostitutes and more.
- Boardwalk Empire is built on this trope as it shows obscene amounts of corruption in all levels of 1920s government going all the way to the White House.
- Governor James Devlin of Oz is established as a corrupt politician and, over the course of the series, evolves into the modern American equivalent of an Evil Overlord.
- A Wallander episode has a former Minister of Justice murdered for belonging to a human-trafficking ring and using his powers to protect his accomplices.
- Most of the politicians on The Wire, with Senator Clay Davis earning particular mention for his alliance with Baltimore's organized crime syndicates.
- Parker's ex on Killer Women is a state senator who doesn't want to let her go. So he turns their divorce hearing into a complete sham by having a judge he just happens to be friends with hear the case. The judge then tries to make it sound like Parker's just being unreasonable for thinking the fact her ex is a Domestic Abuser counts as 'irreconcilable differences'.
- Congressman Frank Underwood of House of Cards is not above using any and all means necessary to reach his goals.
- Dominion: David Whele, for all his talk of everything he does being for the sake of protecting Vega from extermination by the angels, is clearly only interested in advancing the power of himself and his family. This is best exemplified when Alex is revealed to be The Chosen One, and Whele views him as a personal threat, rather than the last hope for humanity's survival.
- Every politician in Boss is corrupt, sleazy, useless, or some combination of the three.
- Mostly averted in the weekly "Kevin Rudd: PM" segments on Rove Live where the titular character is quite fondly portrayed as not corrupt, just insane. Played straight by most of his "rouges gallery" of opposing politicians.
- Pretty much the entirety of the Ukrainian government in Servant Of The People.
- From Monty Python's Flying Circus:
“We would like to apologize for the way in which politicians are represented in this programme. It was never our intention to imply that politicians are weak-kneed, political time-servers who are more concerned with their personal vendettas and private power struggles than the problems of government. Nor to suggest at any point that they sacrifice their credibility by denying free debate on vital matters in the mistaken impression that party unity comes before the well-being of the people they supposedly represent. Nor to imply at any stage that they are squabbling little toadies without an ounce of concern for the vital social problems of today. Nor indeed do we intend that viewers should consider them as crabby, ulcerous, little self-seeking vermin with furry legs and an excessive addiction to alcohol and certain explicit sexual practices which some people might find offensive. We are sorry if this impression has come across.”
- Both Your Houses: All of them except for Alan. Sol is the worst, stating without shame that he wants the fleet anchored where it will make him money. Sol later tells Alan that it was corrupt politicians and corrupt corporate executives who built the railroads and steel mills that drive the American economy.
Sol: By God, if there's anything I hate more than store liquor, it's an honest politician.
- Fallout: Flip a coin. Then shoot it. If you hit it, the elected official is honest. To be fair, there aren't very many elected officials. A lot of elders and warlords.
- Grand Theft Auto gives us multiple examples. It's Grand Theft Auto.
- Assassin's Creed I: Why bribe politicians when you can Mind Rape them? Still, some are Templars, some are Assassins, so this goes both ways.
- Alfred Woden from Max Payne is a US Senator and leader of an Ascient Conspiracy that is behind much of a plot of the game. Though he is technically of Max's side, neither Max nor Player have any illusions about his morals.
- Mirror's Edge says that the government has become corrupt, but the ending implies that the world isn't that bad.
- Mirror's Edge: Catalyst is a reboot, and the world is somewhat different. For one thing, they've completely done away with the elections thing and straight up made the City of Glass a corporate oligarchy, with the ruling families as the owners of a few powerful compaines. Below them are the shareholders, then the various levels of "employs". Then you have several kinds of non-citizens. Hard to tell if having the political players being openly Corrupt Corporate Executives only out for more wealth and power makes this a subversion or played straight.
- In Command & Conquer's Nod campaign, the faux "Risk"-Style Map shows, among other information, a percentage of government corruption.
- A Choice of Games game called Heroes Rise has Mayor Victon, who is responsible for putting the Player Character's parents into a maximum-security prison for life without not only visitation but communication rights for what amounts to be self-defense during his time as a judge. This was obviously done as part of his run for the Mayor on the platform of regulation of Powered individuals. At the end of the game, he hints that he knew all about the Prodigal and did nothing while she worked hard to plan the city's destruction. He also openly threatens you and implies that was more to your parents' imprisonment than you thought. Victon's corruption is even more evident in the sequel, where he openly allies himself with an anti-Powered group called the Meek and even has them orchestrate a potentially-deadly incident on the day of the Presidential Election in order to raise support for his campaign.
- In Gangsters, every politician is this. Greasing palms is eventually a downright necessity if you wish to stay out of jail (and thus avoid losing the game), and good bribery is also required to take your enemies out of your way faster.
- PAYDAY 2 has Councilman John Henry Simmons, better known by his alias of "The Elephant". Over the course of the game, he contracts the crew to help further his political career in various ways. These include framing his political rival for possession of drugs (which, to be fair, was a particularly selfish and evil example of Framing the Guilty Party, as said rival actually was involved in drugs and illegal arms dealing), rigging an election so that the Elephant's preferred candidate gets elected as mayor, and stealing the only working prototype of a cold fusion engine so that the oil companies that sponsor him can remain in business.
- Subverted in Dying Light with Erol Assani. Despite claiming to have stolen millions of dollars from the banks of Harran in the wake of the localized Zombie Apocalypse, Assani is actually trying to distract the player character so that he can safely get himself and his family onto a helicopter out of the city. In actuality, he tried his hardest to get the helicopter to pick up Crane as well, but doesn't have any way of knowing how Crane will respond to finding out that the crew refuses to help him get out. His worst crime is actually being kind of petty and suspecting the worst of his head of security, who removed his leg to save his life the day that Antizin started being air dropped into the city.
- This Is The Police has quite possibly the most corrupt city hall ever seen. Even more than The Wire
- Bunnylord in Not A Hero is a drug user with no moral compass. He's content with murdering his enemies and does good deeds only to gain votes to become mayor.
- Ultra Fast Pony: Mayor Mare. She's completely upfront about the fact that she's embezzling money and exploiting her town for unpaid labor. In her very first scene, she says:
Mayor Mare: I thank you all for coming, and for not running against me as Mayor, again. Especially after my last opponent was found dead in that river. We may never know how he got there.
- In Red vs. Blue, Malcom Hargrove, Chairman of the UNSC Oversight Sub-Committee, is both this and a Corrupt Corporate Executive after the reveal that he's the one who called the hit on the planet Chorus.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, quite a few politicians, notably the ministers, are shown to be corrupt and often working towards selfish goals at the expense of others.
- Being the satirical political blog that it is, El Chigüire Bipolar will feature loads and loads of these, but for an example that stands out, the article Caldera demonstrates with recording that everybody is just as corrupt.
- Kai and Min-Min's father in Knite is one. In fact their father taking kickbacks and allowing pollution is the reason why the latter is ill. Unfortunately, going by what her brother says, she might not last too long.
- Congressman Arthur Bennett in But I'm a Cat Person tries to be this. He isn't as good at manipulation and ruthlessness as he'd like to believe, though.
- The Simpsons:
- Mayor Quimby in is a massively over-the-top example. In fact, the mayoral motto is Corruptus in Extremis.
- When Quimby is unseated by Sideshow Bob in "Sideshow Bob Roberts" in a rigged election, Bob turns out to be even worse.
- There is also Congressman Bob Arnold in Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington. He takes a bribe to demolish the very forest that inspired Lisa's patriotic essay.
- Homer, of all people, became a clear example of this Trope in "Trash of the Titans", using underhanded tactics and Blatant Lies to win the election for City Sanitation Commissioner (unseating one of the few competent people in Springfield, to make it worse) and then causing a disaster that required the whole town to be moved. (Of course, you might partially blame everyone who was stupid enough to believe his "crazy promises", which is what the previous commissioner does).
- The worst example on the show would no-doubt be Russ Cargill, the Big Bad of the The Simpsons Movie, an EPA official who becomes convinced Springfield is such a hellhole that he first has it sealed under a giant glass dome (that his company just happened to manufacture), then tries to blow the entire city to smithereens.
- Mayor Adam West from Family Guy has no problems making deals with big polluters, wasting taxpayer money on solid gold statues of Dig 'Em the Honey Smacks Frog, or killing anyone who questions his methods. Of course, in his case he's not so much greedy as violently insane.
- Corrupt Politicians are everywhere in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The Separatists have a point: the Republic Senate is corrupt and incompetent. Of course, so are many separatist governments... That the two sides of the conflict are being managed by Sith Lords probably plays a role in that.
- Senator Safety from the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: SAFETY" is a parody of Senator Kelly. Less "corrupt" and more a Well-Intentioned Extremist, he tries to propose several absurd laws with child safety in mind until the Senate funds one of his projects just to get him to shut up. Unfortunately, the project (which involved Safety Bots, which parody the Sentinels) endanger the safety of children - and adults - more than they help it.
Statler: Corrupt politicians? What other kinds are there?
Waldorf: Unsuccessful ones!
Waldorf: Unsuccessful ones!