Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain.
Corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit.
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An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties, is done under color of law or involves trading in influence.
In United States law, the term color of law denotes the "mere semblance of legal right", the "pretense or appearance of" right; hence, an action done under color of law colors the law to the circumstance, yet said apparently legal action contravenes the law.
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Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement.
Influence peddling is the illegal practice of using one's influence in government or connections with persons in authority to obtain favours or preferential treatment for another, usually in return for payment.
Embezzlement is the act of withholding assets for the purpose of conversion of such assets, by one or more persons to whom the assets were entrusted, either to be held or to be used for specific purposes.
Cronyism is the practice of partiality in awarding jobs and other advantages to friends or trusted colleagues, especially in politics and between politicians and supportive organizations.
Corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, though is not restricted to these activities.
Human trafficking is the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labor, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others.
The illegal drug trade is a global black market dedicated to the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs that are subject to drug prohibition laws.
Money laundering is the process of transforming the proceeds of crime and corruption into ostensibly legitimate assets.
Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is also considered political corruption.
It is one of several forms of police misconduct, which include: false arrest; intimidation; racial profiling; political repression; surveillance abuse; sexual abuse; and police corruption.
The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending on the country or jurisdiction.
For instance, some political funding practices that are legal in one place may be illegal in another.
In some cases, government officials have broad or ill-defined powers, which make it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal actions.
A state of unrestrained political corruption is known as a kleptocracy, literally meaning "rule by thieves".
Kleptocracy is a government with corrupt rulers that use their power to exploit the people and natural resources of their own territory in order to extend their personal wealth and political power.
Some forms of corruption – now called "institutional corruption" – are distinguished from bribery and other kinds of obvious personal gain.
A similar problem of corruption arises in any institution that depends on financial support from people who have interests that may conflict with the primary purpose of the institution.