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Sleazy Politician

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On the bright side, he is honest.
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 tend to get a lot of flak. 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).
  • Chika Fujiwara from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is basically what happens when this trope is filtered through a school setting. While she normally acts like The Cutie, she gleefully admits that campaign promises don't mean anything, has given and accepted bribes, and betrays her friends at the drop of a hat if it suits her purposes.
  • The Interior Minister from Ghost in the Shell is usually shown accompanied by scantily-clad maidbots, as well as being involved in corrupt political deals (though that's hardly unusual for politicians in this series).

    Comic Books 
  • Every politician in Sin City is an exaggeration of this. 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 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.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): Mayor Goode is a sleazy lawyer turned politician, who has been part of the corrupt system in Bourbon City for decades. When a young lawyer starts uncovering evidence of how interconnected organized crime and local government are he had him murdered.

    Fan Works 

  • Bob Roberts in the titular film can play the guitar, he loves God and he's a darling amongst the Republicans. In reality, he does whatever he can to climb the political ladder, and he has the power to have people murdered for uncovering his corruption.
  • In Bullitt, Senator Chambers wants something juicy to present to Congress as his "tough on crime" campaign — either a golden witness to the workings of The Mafia or evidence of misbehavior in the ranks of the San Francisco Police when the witness is killed on their watch (well, seemingly). He is so damned sleazy that he may as well have "sponsored by the Mafia" printed on his forehead in letters the size of Golden Gate Bridge — but he isn't. He is on the side of angels, but a huge Jerkass all the same.
  • Boss Jim Geddes in Citizen Kane. He tries to blackmail Kane into dropping out of the election by threatening to make public Kane's affair with Susan Alexander. Kane refuses to back down, the affair is made public, and Kane loses the election (as well as his wife).
  • 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 cares only about getting votes for his election and will do anything to gain them, even supporting both sides of a potential Mob War. When the New York Draft Riots lead to hundreds of deaths, the only thing he laments is that every single one of the casualties is one vote he won't get.
  • 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.
  • Murder at 1600: Despite his ultimately sympathetic portrayal, the President does seem willing to write off the hostages in North Korea despite the advice of all of his subordinates, is willing to let his son get away with murder when he thinks the young man is guilty, and engages in some Treachery Cover Up rather than admit the late culprit was one of his advisors.
  • Shooter: Senator Charles Meachum is the film's Big Bad, although his partner-in-crime Colonel Johnson is The Heavy. An unscrupulous man fully complicit in the Government Conspiracy, he covers his bases so well that even at the film's end the heroes have nothing on him and are forced to let him walk (well, for a little while, that is). In the film, at least, he's a none-too-subtle jab at then-living Senator Strom Thurmond.
  • 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.
  • President Bill Mitchell in Dave is both carrying on at least one extramarital affair, and embroiled in a savings and loan scandal as well. He spends most of the film comatose, though, and several characters who are not in on the body-double switcheroo with the titular nice-guy character marvel at the difference in behavior that they think is brought on by a "minor" stroke.

  • Brown Girl in the Ring: Downplayed with Premier Uttley. She's only seeking a human heart instead of the typical pig heart for her transplant to look good in her upcoming reelection campaign, not out of any moral stance on pig farming.
  • 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.
    • Skeffington is an expy of a Real Life mayor of Boston during the heyday of machine politics.
  • Tomer Darpen, Wedge's diplomatic liaison 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 a 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.
  • Governor Fullarbottom in Victoria. Unlike most other antagonist politicians in the story, there is no indication that he is corrupt in the sense of being an outright criminal in office, but he is still deeply tied up in questionable machine politics, horsetrading, and various shady applications of executive power.
  • In Kickback, Wyatt is hired to steal the eponymous kickback: a Briefcase Full of Money that is destined for a crooked state senator so he will sign off on a real estate development. It turns out that said politician does not take too kindly to having 'his' money stolen and has some powerful 'friends'.
  • Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm: Senator Tia Toon just oozes sleaze, spending all his time talking about how instead of spending money on the "wasteful" Republic Fair, they should instead be spending money on his Defense Force Project, a galaxy-wide Republic military — which, coincidentally, would involve quite a lot of money going to his home planet of Sullust, which holds many shipbuilding contracts. He is also very critical of the Jedi, only giving vague platitudes that they "did their part" but the Republic still needs its own military. Subverted when someone tries to sell him an anti-Jedi weapon. Toon is horrified and has her arrested (the device used illegal materials; she thought he'd let it slide). He doesn't hate the Jedi and he isn't a traitor, he just genuinely believes that the Republic can't rely solely on the Jedi to defend them. Later, when the Jedi realize that the Nihil are tapping Republic comm traffic, Toon capitalizes on his reputation for hating Jedi by making it sound like a specific target will be undefended, allowing the Jedi to ambush a huge chunk of the Nihil fleet.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Herbert Love in Arrested Development receives bribes from dubious parties, cheats on his wife, and supports the Bluths' initiative to build a wall on the Mexican border.
  • George Mladenov from Australian Survivor, who is in real life the President of the Bankstown Labor Party, plays up this image on occasion: Describing himself as a professional spin-doctor who can bring his political experience to manipulate his way through the social game.
  • 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.
    • Possibly the reason they don't do anything worse is that they're terrified of what Malcolm Tucker would do if any real political sleaze found its way into the papers.
  • 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 colleagues 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 (who is presented as being old and out-of-touch) and Bob Crippen. Piers Fletcher-Dervish is this in a rather pathetic way.
  • 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.
    • Given that the show is pretty far on the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, almost all local government officials in Baltimore are this, if not quite as sleazy and corrupt as Davis. Tommy Carcetti's arc, in particular, is essentially his transformation from a well-meaning civil servant to a dishonest, self-serving politician, due to this behavior being Inherent in the System.
  • Mayor Hernandez (George Lopez) on Reno 911! definitely qualifies; his infractions include drug use and adultery.
  • In the Melonville local elections episode of SCTV, running against Cloud Cuckoolander incumbent Tommy Shanks is slimy Vic Hedges, who starts any interview with furious denials of illegal activities.
  • 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 Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Whole Truth", Harvey Hunnicut tries to sell the Model A Ford to a local politician named Honest Luther Grimbley in order to escape its effects. However, his inability to lie means that he is forced to reveal the fact that it is haunted. Grimbley refuses to buy it on the grounds that he would not be able to deliver a single speech if he could not tell a lie.
  • Julian Fawcett MP from Ghosts (UK) is every inch the stereotypical 1980s-1990s Tory politician — sleazy, venal, sex-mad, amoral, utterly corrupt, and gifted primarily (if not only) in the use of two-faced politico-speak to weasel out of trouble. Unfortunately for him, it caught up with him when he died in an embarrassing sex mishap in the house where his restless spirit lingers to this day, and any other accomplishment he might have been able to claim was utterly forgotten in the face of his humiliating death. And to add insult to injury, he has to spend the entirety of eternity wearing no trousers as a result.

  • The Drunk and The Ugly: Mayor Ulysses builds a swimming pool over ground zero of a nuclear blast for his own personal gain.
  • ''Unwell Podcast:
    • Chester Warren, who - for unknown reasons - is hellbent on taking control of Fenwood House.
    • Mayor Edgar Lopez, a much more realistic and toned-down version, who is extremely venal, overly concerned with his image, and seems to be just using his office as a stepping stone for the U.S Senate.

  • Our Miss Brooks: The mayor in the radio episode "Student Government Day" is in league with the mobsters running the Jackpot Amusement Company.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Played with in Arkham Horror with Charlie Kane. He's a fat, elderly, white Cigar Chomper who spends a lot of time thinking about his reelection campaign, and who absolutely LOOKS like a sleazeball... but he's actually a genuinely charismatic and caring person who wants save the citizens of Arkham from its Eldritch Abomination problem because it's the right thing to do.

  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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 Democratic 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.
  • Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side has the aptly named Senator, a none-too-subtle parody of Joe Lieberman, one of the biggest faces in the topic of violence in video games in the 90s. Senator functions as a head-swap of Larcen, a career criminal, and he fights by throwing literal red tape to bind his opponent, using "BAN" stickers to halt attacking, slinging mud, and shaking his opponent up for their money (as a "donation"). His ending double-subverts it, as it starts with him exposing the corruption in Washington and encouraging the public to hold a new vote, but then it comes out that he was just as awful as the other politicians (supporting the Iran-Contra affair and selling national secrets are explicitly named), he never went to prison for his crimes, and he even turned the scandals into a lucrative enterprise with best-selling books, films, and talk show circuits.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum: Despite a massive prison takeover and Joker unleashing havoc on Gotham, Warden Sharp's only concern is his upcoming political campaign.

    Web Comics 
  • 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.

    Web Video 
  • Nightmare Time: The town of Hatchetfield has Solomon Lauter as a mayor, a cigar-chomping mayor who is more than happy to keep the town's dirty secrets, and sees the citizens as little more than insects that keep him in power.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
  • 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.
  • President Curtis in Rick and Morty is typically more concerned with getting reelected or his petty rivalry with Rick than actually doing what's best for the country. When clones of the Smith family terrorized the Southwestern US he ignored it because those states didn't vote for him, and when the Statue of Liberty attacked New York he was more concerned with opposing Rick than dealing with it. Not to mention the advanced technology he developed in the arms race with him that he refuses to make available to the public. In the Thanksgiving Episode, when the turkey clone of himself takes his place and he calls it out for not caring about America, it retorts that he ended up in this situation because he cared more about showing up Rick than America.
  • 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.
  • In Steven Universe, Bill Dewey is the mayor of Beach City, but in general is only really looking out for himself. Eventually, the humans in the town get tired of it and elect Nanafua to be the new mayor. Dewey becomes depressed, feeling that he no longer has anything to do with his life, but then Steven encourages him to get a job at the Big Donut, which has been closed since Sadie quit her job and Lars was kidnapped by Homeworld.
  • Mayor André Bourgeois in Miraculous Ladybug frequently abuses his power to suit the whims of his daughter Chloé, who herself reflects that if there's anything daddy's career has taught her it's that the key to winning elections is not to have a strong platform but to destroy your opponent's reputation.
  • District Attorney Harvey Dent in Beware the Batman initially manufactures a campaign against Gotham's costumed criminals that extended to Batman and Katana, only doing it for political power. He later gains a genuine hatred of them when they keep humiliating him. It escalates to the point where he forms an alliance with Anarky, hires Deathstroke to kill them, and intimidates the mayor into enacting Martial Law so he and his goons can kill the heroes.
  • El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera: Municipal President Rodriguez barely manages to avoid being an outright villain, if only because the actual villains are so far out of his league that he needs to stay on the superheroes' good side if he wants to avoid being deposed. Still doesn't stop him from stripping hero licenses if the hero in question has inconvenienced him, giving back said hero license when said hero becomes popular with the people he needs voting for him, owning a solid gold yacht, buying a diamond hat, and setting up "bachelor charity auctions" as a thinly-veiled excuse to get himself and people he needs favors from laid.
  • The Looney Tunes short Ballot Box Bunny has Yosemite Sam campaigning to become a small-town mayor. When his proud anti-rabbit campaign plank prompts Bugs Bunny to enter the race, they both start engaging in various dirty tricks. They lose to Doc Horse, who becomes the town's new Mare.


Video Example(s):


Councilman Bill Dexhart

The gang hears about Councilman Dexhart's latest sex scandal.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / SleazyPolitician

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