Some people 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
, 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.
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.
- Every single politician Batman meets in Gotham with the exception of District Attorney Harvey Dent and Police Commissioner Gordon.
- 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 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.
- 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 the 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.
- 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."
- 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 parallel 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 got**. 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, 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's 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Castle 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 them 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.
- Kai and Min-Min's father in Knite is one
- In fact her father taking kickbacks and allowing pollution is the reason why Min-Min is ill
- 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.
- Mayor Quimby in The Simpsons 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.
- Mayor Adam West from Family Guy has no problems making deals with big polluters, wasting taxpayer money on solid gold Dig 'Em statues, or killing anyone who questions his methods.
Statler: Corrupt politicians? What other kinds are there?
Waldorf: Unsuccessful ones!