Politician, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared to the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.A Sleazy Politician exemplifies the worst stereotypes of politics; they take bribes, engage in blatant hypocrisy, face constant personal scandals and are generally unpleasant people to be around. Often, they are based on caricatures of real-world politicians, or amalgams of them — especially ones that fall into Acceptable Political Targets. They tend to be shown with almost no charisma, too, which tends to make you wonder how they got elected in the first place. When taken to extremes, they will often have No Party Given, though they can also be used as a Strawman Political against one specific party, ideology, or against government in general. Compare the more outright and aggressively criminal Corrupt Politician. See also Mayor Pain (which frequently blends with this trope) and Obstructive Bureaucrat. Compare Windbag Politician.
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Anime and Manga
- The seinen manga Akumetsu is rife with these guys, who the title character has taken it upon himself to eliminate.
- Ninamori's unseen father in FLCL is the mayor of Mabase, who cheated on his wife with one of his employees, who offers Ninamori a ride in episode 3 (and Ninamori calls her out in the manga).
- Every politician in Sin City is this Turned Up to Eleven. Case in point: Senator Roark. He's so corrupt that he is perfectly willing to allow his son to rape and murder little girls, going so far as to protect him from honest detectives.
- Dreamkeepers Has Viscount Calah, who's easily manipulated, rarely gives straight answers (not even to his own daughter) and also a has an illegitimate daughter he's trying to hide from the world in order to prevent a scandal.
- In Drowntown, Jeremy Twisden tells a representative of Drakenberg Corporation that while he is indeed accepting their generous donations and he is indeed going to adopt policies which benefit them, these two things are completely unrelated, and he's actually a man of principle. He's not very convincing.
- The AU Those Who Stand for Nothing Fall for Anything by halfpromise, which reimagines the cast of Death Note as sleazy politicians-but from a (sort of) sympathetic point of view. As Light points out he has to be In with the In Crowd and at least look "accessible" in order to succeed in politics.
- Cornelius Fudge was already one of these in Harry Potter canon and in the AU Raised By Darkness he still is one but he becomes better at it, he grows a backbone and begins making his own decisions rather than just relying on his campaign donors for advice, becoming The Chessmaster.
- Ministerial Candidate Draco Malfoy is this in The Charming Universe and he's one of the good guys because his opponent is even worse.
- The deputy mayor in Ikiru, who, after doing his damnedest to crush Watanabe's attempt to get a park built out of petty turf guarding, tries to take credit for it even at Watanabe's funeral.
- Bill Heslop, local councilman for the fictional Australian town of Porpoise Spit in Muriel's Wedding, has spent most of his political career positioning himself to get kickbacks for building projects as a local councilman in Porpoise Spit, and also makes a habit of cheating on his wife and emotionally abusing his kids.
- "Boss" Tweed in Gangs of New York
- The mayor of Los Angeles in Rock of Ages, who promises to clean up the city but is having an affair with his secretary on the side.
- Pretty much the whole point of The Campaign.
- Governor LePetomane of Blazing Saddles is an idiot who seems to care mostly about floozies. His attorney general Hedley Lamarr is even more corrupt.
- Charlie Wilson's War presents the title character as a congressman who is nearly constantly surrounded with babes, booze and blow, yet is a noble statesman who takes his responsibilities very seriously all the same.
Charlie: You know you've reached rock bottom when you're told you have character flaws by a man who hanged his predecessor in a military coup.
- Tales from the Hood: Duke Metzger is a smarmy racist politician and former KKK member who decided to move into an old plantation house that once belonged to one of his ancestors, a slaveholder who was responsible for massacring all his slaves at the end of the Civil War.
- Edwin O'Connor's novel The Last Hurrah. Frank Skeffington hands out political favors in exchange for loyalty, neutralizes political opponents by offering them jobs for which they are unqualified, distributes money from a glorified slush fund... and is positively beloved by the citizens of his city- even by many of those who vote against him. The film version is a definite subversion, which unambiguously depicts Skeffington as a positive figure.
- Tomer Darpen, Wedge's diplomatic liason in Starfighters of Adumar. What he did was all in service to the New Republic, more or less, but Wedge Antilles strongly disagreed with the strict Ends Justify The Means instructions. Which involved slaughtering the inferior native pilots to play up to the Blood Sport-happy local culture and helping to crush dissenting nations rebelling against the local country's New World Order. When Wedge refused, Tomer lied to the country's leader and the order was sent out to have Wedge and his pilots killed.
- Congressman David Dilbeck in the novel and film Striptease.
- Greg Stillson in Stephen King's The Dead Zone regularly uses illegal methods, such as blackmailing businessmen to finance his campaigns, and intimidating whistleblowers with thugs. However, he's very charismatic, constructing an highly likeable public persona. Fortunately, his political career is derailed after he uses a child as a Human Shield to prevent Johnny from shooting him.
Live Action TV
- Game of Thrones: Played with, with Tyrion Lannister, he has some of the traits such as drinking and whoremongering but is ultimately a fettered, earnest statesman. Tyrion knows well that politics are inherently sleazy and corrupt and doesn't disdain this aspect of the dirty game, which makes him a very good player.
- Pawnee City Councilman Bill Dexhart of Parks and Recreation fits this to a T, complete with sex scandals, religious and social hypocrisy, and incredibly obvious sleaze, to which everyone is completely oblivious because he's so good looking (and because nobody cares about local politics).
Perd Hapley: One more shocking revelation in a story that just won't stop unfolding. It turns out Councilman Dexhart may have also had sex with a prostitute in the limousine on the way to and from the press conference where he apologized for having an affair.
- There's also Councilman Jeremy Jamm, who is also very much for sale.
- More or less averted (!) in Yes, Minister: Even at his pandering lowest, Jim Hacker still understands right and wrong and has a sense of duty to his constituents and the British people. He's more pathetic than despicable in his (often half-baked) attempts to win popularity. As his wife put it, he's a "whisky priest" who recognizes that what he's doing is wrong and still feels bad about it.
- Similarly, the various politicians in The Thick of It are more incompetent than corrupt, and though they can be petty, venal, arse-covering self-promoters, it is rare for them to do anything more serious than screw each other over.
- Londo in Babylon 5 is a more sympathetic take on this, being a Tragic Villain with redeeming traits, rather than just a villain.
- Mayor Arthur "Artie" Worth in the Black Scorpion. His crooked actions result in the Origin Story for several Supervillains. When the title character asks who would benefit from his death, her colleges give a long list of people.
- Alan B'Stard in The New Statesman. In fact, every politician in The New Statesman with the possible exceptions of Sir Stephen Baxter and Bob Crippen.
- The Ethics Commissioner of all people in an episode of Dan for Mayor.
- Almost every politician on Boardwalk Empire would qualify.
- Senator Clay Davis of The Wire engages in much fraud and bribery over the course of the series and associates with known drug dealers, and for bonus hypocrisy claims he's using money defrauded from charitable organizations to help impoverished citizens in his district. According to David Simon, he's based on several real life Maryland politicians.
- Mayor Hernandez (George Lopez) on Reno 911! definitely qualifies; his infractions include drug use and adultery.
- Both SECNAVs on JAG alternates between this and Reasonable Authority Figure.
- All of the mayors in Blue Bloods have a bit of sleaze attached to them though they also often have redeeming qualities and can be a Reasonable Authority Figure.
- The Drunk and The Ugly: Mayor Ulysses builds a swimming pool over ground zero of a nuclear blast for his own personal gain.
- Our Miss Brooks: The mayor in the radio episode "Student Government Day" is in league with the mobsters running the Jackpot Amusement Company.
- Senator Titus Savage in The Curious Savage. When a character marvels that he keeps getting sent to Washington by the voters, his mother says it's common sense: "It's the only way to keep him out of the state."
- In State of the Union, formerly idealistic Grant Matthews lets himself be corrupted by his thoroughly sleazy campaign manager, Jim Conover. After Conover convinces Matthews to start double-talking and selling out to special interests, a host of sleazy politicians and lobbyists start surrounding Matthews and corrupting him further.
- Snattle of Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness desires governorship over Orre. A combination of Evil Feels Good, Deal with the Devil, and Jumping Off the Slippery Slope secure him a place as one of Cipher's admins.
- Every politician ever in the Grand Theft Auto series.
- In Move or Die, Wilma had an affair with the mayor, whom she was an intern for, and got caught by his wife.
- The ruling class of the Covenant in Halo are the Prophets, whose methods and intent mostly center around how to keep themselves in power and keep the rest of their empire in check, no matter what the cost or implication. This viewpoint is partly why the Sangheli race ends up defecting (the Prophets tried to kill them off).
- News ticker update from Plague Inc: "Politician makes polygraph machine explode".
- The Elephant from Payday 2. He has hired the titular Payday Gang for rigging an election and for framing one of his Democrats rivals (whom, admittedly, was a massive case of an Asshole Victim, but still).
- Paul Atishon from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice plays this trope to the hilt. As a wannabe assemblyman with delusions of grandeur, he spends most of his time riding around in his personal campaign palanquin spouting typical politician platitudes, completely oblivious to the fact that almost no one in Kurain Village likes him or takes him seriously. This is before it's learned that he's accepting stolen artifacts from the kingdom of Khura'in to maintain his influence, and that he uses his influence to blackmail the legendary Phoenix Wright into working as his attorney in order to retrieve one of said artifacts, with his Mysterious Benefactor (Khura'in's scheming Minister of Justice) holding one of Wright's friends hostage for additional leverage. Behind the façade, however, Atishon is a Dirty Coward, begging and pleading whenever things don't go his way.
- Master of the Monster Lair: The Mayor. He might not actually be corrupt, but he clearly cares far more about money than he does about world peace or even the safety of his own citizens.
- Used as a gameplay mechanic in POWER. Your dishonest reputation increases if you backslap elites, glad-hand a lobby, campaign for a lobby, campaign against a lobby, use attack ads or contribute to your own campaign fund from your personal finances. If it's high, attack ads against you do more damage to your influence, and your own attack ads are more likely to backfire and damage your influence instead of the target's influence.
- In The Letters Of The Devil, Chuck Castor discusses using his late wife's death to get "sympathy votes" in the upcoming election. It is also revealed later that he murdered an underage mistress and had an aide dispose of her body.
- Dionne Crup of Precocious runs for class president on this platform. Her campaign quickly turns negative.
Roddy: ''My opponent is a soulless beast with malicious intentions!Dionne: It's true!
- From Pibgorn's "A Demon's Nest of Sentiments":
Peculiar to any campaign for office is the practice among candidates of hurling dread accusations at their opponents. The practice has achieved such a degree of ordinariness, that the exercise of mudslinging is expected. It's a kind of etiquette, like good manners.Each candidate, according to the other's advertised assertions, possesses not only the mendacity of Baron Munchausen and a concern for one's fellow citizens normally ascribed to Dracula; he is unrivaled in moral turpitude, avarice, misanthropy, corruption, criminality, cheating, stealing, child-starving, puppy-stomping, kitten-drowning and, on a grand scale, just plain old down-and-dirty psychopathy. Fundamentally, each candidate recognizes in his opponent a depravity of personal and professional conduct that not only would make him unfit for public office, but, in the real world, unsuited for anything better than maximum security—the very worst example of human sludge ever to have flushed from his sewer with the sinister desire to uphold, protect and defend the laws of the land.In other words, there is no dungeon suited to confine such noisome evil. So we, naturally, vote for them. It's a reflex, just good manners.
- The Simpsons:
- Mayor Quimby. He has constant extra-marital affairs, takes bribes, dodges taxes and embezzles city funds. During an outbreak of the flu, he flees to a Caribbean island and mocks the beach up as his office saying that he won't leave the city and also goes on a "fact finding mission" to Aruba, where he determines that a supertrain directly connecting it with Springfield is unfeasible.
- Senator Mendoza, the Big Bad of the McBain movies. He's an Obviously Evil drug dealer with a vaguely Hispanic accent, yet is apparently one of the most respected men in America. McBain gets chewed out by Da Chief for breaking the necks of three of his bodyguards and driving a bus through his front wall.
- Bob Arnold, (former) congressman who accepted a bribe from a timber company who wanted to cut down the Springfield Forest. It's also implied that he accepted bribes earlier to allow another company to bury toxic waste. He was later caught in a sting operation by the FBI when he accepted another bribe to allow oil drilling on President Roosevelt's head on Mount Rushmore.
- Invader Zim: As shown in the episode "The Voting of the Doomed", Zim is definitely a Sleazy Politician when it comes to winning the class president election.
- Futurama has Richard Nixon's head. After getting re-elected as Earth's president in "A Head in the Polls", he gets involved in all sorts of shady dealings.
- Tarrlok from The Legend of Korra, a scheming councilman representing the Northern Water Tribe who seizes control of Republic City during the Equalist crisis in season one.
- Ugly Americans had a mayoral candidate who seemingly couldn't go five minutes without knocking up a hooker, he'd also sold his soul to Twayne in order to win but walked into a spinning helicopter rotor before either of them could collect.
- Phineas and Ferb has Roger Doofenshmirtz, mayor of Danville. Despite his brother Heinz thinking of him as "a goody two-shoes", he's shown to be quite crafty and dishonest at times. In "The Beak", he lets Heinz be mayor for a day just so he'll take the fall for any property damage caused by Khakha Peu-Peu.
- Transformers: Rescue Bots gives us the self-serving mayor of Grffin Rock, H.B. Luskey. A prime example of this is "Part-Time Heroes" as the events of that episode happened because he took the funds meant for a new cell phone tower and used them to buy an inflatable stadium.