Home Government and Bribery

Government and Bribery

Know the Difficulty in Addressing a Bribe

Know the Difficulty in Addressing a Bribe

Bribery, though easily acknowledged as an undesirable, damaging practice, is very difficult to remove or reduce because of its very nature. A bribe is very often seen in government, perhaps more than in any other area, and the problem of combating bribes within the government is exacerbated dramatically. After all, how does one ensure that the individual who is meant to be enforcing government regulations against the bribe is not simultaneously taking bribes to ignore the illegal practices of others? If the system which is used to fight the problem is also often the source of the problem, then correcting the problem would appear to be highly difficult, at least.
 
 
The most obvious and clear method of combating bribes is actually greater public knowledge and reporting of government business. If the news media is capable of performing in depth examinations of the government such that bribes and other forms of corruption will be found and exposed, then the public will likely become increasingly angry with a government that allows for such practices. The power of public will and opinion would, in that case, become the primary means by which to address a bribe and other forms of corruption, as the public would demand some form of fundamental governmental shift so as to reduce bribery, whether it be by electing new officials or even by instituting a new government.
 
 
But this strategy encounters many difficulties, not the least of which is that spreading accurate, useful information, such as information on bribes accepted by or given to government officials, is not easy. After all, the government which the news media would be examining and investigating is also likely going to have some power in terms of controlling what the news media is or is not allowed to say. In countries developed enough to have full, genuine freedom of speech, bribes have likely been significantly reduced in both number and efficacy. Thus, in order for such information to be spread, there would have to be a system in place for spreading it, and those countries which suffer most from bribes would also likely be the least equipped for such a spread of information.
 
 
Furthermore, even if the public is given information, the act of changing the government, as described above, may not be as easy or even as nonviolent as would be ideal. Countries with a high number of bribes are also likely to have a low level of liberty or citizen control of the government. Thus, any attempts by the public to affect the government would have to be very focused and strong to actually make a difference.
 
 
Even in utterly developed countries, bribery still exists. It is possible to reduce the number of bribes within a government to very low levels, but it is likely that bribery of some form or another will exist, especially in the lower levels of government, which are often under less scrutiny.
 
 
For example, though in general bribes and corruption are highly investigated and prosecuted in the upper levels of the American Government, a bribe from a speeding violator to the officer who pulled him or her over might not be noticed or discovered with the same alacrity. The bribe, then, remains one of the fundamental problems of any form of government, the struggle against which will never be over.

Examples of Governmental Bribery You Should Know

Examples of Governmental Bribery You Should Know

No better example stands out of recent political corruption than that of Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois and his attempt to sell Barack Obama’s vacated senatorial seat. This was a blatant attempt on Blagojevich’s part to seek a bribe in return for the senatorial seat. 
There was no legitimate defense Rod Blagojevich could have made for what he attempted to do, as it represented the highest possible violation of power, the most heinous possible form of political corruption. To think that a seat on one of the most powerful bodies of the American governmental system could have been sold is to imagine the utter subversion of American democracy.
Rod Blagojevich was not exactly innocent, even prior to his major wrongdoing in this incident. Throughout his political career, he had been involved in a dozen separate Federal investigations, the indictment and trial of Tony Rezko, and an incident in which he supposedly withheld State funds from the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. In 2008, prior to his involvement in the incident with the senatorial seat, Blagojevich was under investigation relating to his role in the sale of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field. While he may not have been directly, blatantly convicted, his entire tenure in the political profession was very much tainted with political corruption.
Then, in 2008, President Barack Obama was elected to the Presidency and vacated his senatorial seat. Blagojevitch decided to take advantage of his role in the proceedings. As Illinois Governor, he was given the final decision as to who would fill in then President-Elect Obama’s empty Senate seat. He was recorded saying on the phone, “It’s a f***ing valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.” He also threatened to take the Senate seat for himself if he did not receive the price he sought.
That price included such elements as (1) a good, consistent salary for himself, (2) a position for his wife on corporate boards where she would earn substantial amounts of money, (3) an official position for himself as an ambassador or otherwise to Serbia, (4) campaign funds for his own campaigns.
Fortunately, as was mentioned, the call was recorded because of Rod Blagojevich’s prior involvement in instances of political corruption. He was already under investigation at the time of this incident and FBI investigators did not have much difficulty procuring the evidence necessary to prove Blagojevich’s wrongdoing.
Rod Blagojevich was arrested at 6:15 a.m. on December 9, 2008. He made bail and began a campaign to attempt to prove his innocence, going so far as to appear on television shows proclaiming his innocence and his confidence that he would be acquitted. Unfortunately for him, Blagojevich lost his case. He was deemed “unfit to serve” when he did not resign and was impeached from his position as Illinois governor. Since then, he has been indicted by a Federal grand jury for his actions. He still proclaims his innocence. 
While Rod Blagojevich’s name is now practically synonymous with political corruption, the good news is that he has not gotten away with his crimes. He has become an example of wrongdoing, rightfully prosecuted and punished. His attempts to solicit bribery were clearly illegal and improper, and it is to the credit of the American justice system that he was not allowed to get away with these actions.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is the United States' primary Federal law of significance in the matters of bribery and transparency with regard to dealings with foreign officials. The purpose of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is relatively simple: to limit or eliminate corrupt payments made from businesses to foreign officials in order to obtain or maintain business contracts. In other words, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act exists to eliminate the bribery of foreign officials by American businesses.
 
 
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was originally instituted in 1977, after an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which found that over 400 companies in America admitted to having made "questionable or illegal payments in excess of $300 million to foreign government officials, politicians, and political parties." Not only were these practices unethical, but they were undermining the legitimacy of the overall American business system, as other American businesses appeared prone to using bribes in foreign markets. Thus, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was put into effect in order to reduce such clearly corrupt practices.
 
 
The Act was very effective, as in several instances criminal and civil charges were brought up against companies that had used bribes in foreign markets, and many companies since began to implement policies within their own companies in order to prohibit or prevent such behavior in the future.
 
 
While the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was quite effective at reducing corruption from American businesses, one of the flaws of the Act was that it did nothing to prohibit other foreign businesses from using corrupt tactics of their own in order to secure contracts. American businesses began to suffer because their competitors were able to take advantage of the unethical methods that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act forbade.
 
 
As a result, America began to ask its major trade partners to implement their own legislation similar to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which then occurred when the United States and thirty-three other nations all signed the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. While this Convention did not fully come into effect for a few more years, it still provided the desired results, as other nations now had similar prohibitions against corrupt actions in business.
 
 
Essentially, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes illegal all instances of bribery towards foreign officials for the sake of increasing business. It also has a provision requiring some companies whose securities are listed in the United States to then meet certain accounting practices. Furthermore, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act actually does allow for certain types of payments, labeled "grease payments," which are payments made to foreign officials specifically for the function of expediting the actions of those foreign officials. 
 
 
The grease payment cannot be made to get the foreign official to do something he wasn't already doing; it can only be used to increase the speed with which the foreign official does something which he was otherwise obligated to do, but not obligated to do with any particular time constraint. These grease payments, however, may still be illegal based upon the laws and regulations of the foreign official's country.

The Facts on Government and Bribery

The Facts on Government and Bribery

Bribery is one of the most common crimes to be encountered in terms of government corruption. It is a crime based on the misuse of power, and power is all too abundant for government officials. However, the issue of bribery and its role in government is very complex, as many in the upper echelons believe that they can get away with acts of bribery without being caught. As a result, bribery has become somewhat intrinsic to many forms of government.
 
 
Even in America, there are actions which would elsewhere be construed as outright bribery, which are here defended via the legal system. Understanding the exact nature of bribery in governments throughout the world and in America's own government is important to having an understanding of the nature of practical, realistic government.
 
 
Bribery is such a common crime because it is so obvious, based on one of the simplest ideas inherent to human interaction: quid pro quo, "this for that." As bribery is essentially just an exchange, in which one individual promises to use his power for the benefit of another in exchange for some good or service, it is terribly easy to commit and is all too commonplace. Yet, the insidiousness of the problem is such that, for all that it is expected and easily foreseen, it is also very hard to detect.
 
 
Government agents guilty of bribery, either by offering or soliciting, are more than capable of creating ways in which to hide that bribery under a guise of legality. Nonetheless, steps must be taken to combat this crime, as it threatens the governmental system at its very foundations. Follow the link for some more basic information on bribery and its relationship to governments.
 
 
When dealing with international relations, bribery can be an entirely different problem than its normal form. Different cultures often have different opinions on bribery and its acceptability, complicating the issue simply because representatives of one culture might take an action they believe to be innocuous, while members of another culture would then perceive that action as the height of corruption and bribery. 
 
 
Even beyond these cultural misunderstandings about the nature of bribery, however, it continues to be a major problem, undermining the legitimate systems of the world, governmental and business related.
 
 
A lot of current bribery law is oriented towards controlling businesses, and preventing them from bribing foreign government officials, as doing so hurts commerce in general and also discourages legitimate business practices.
 
 
Though it very much needs to be remedied and battled wherever it crops up, bribery is very tough to successfully reduce, if only because of the great difficulty inherent in regulating a crime which is generally difficult to detect without a great deal of investigation. Systems already in place in America often act as masks, under which one can successfully hide acts of bribery, further increasing the difficulty of finding and addressing bribery.
 
 
As if these weren't problems enough, bribery itself is often difficult to prosecute because of the unethical conception of government operations often found in the mindset of those who perpetrate acts of bribery. This unethical conception holds that bribery is a fundamental, irremovable element of government and its functions. All of these hurdles, and more, stand in the way of successfully combating bribery. Follow the link to find more about the difficulties of reducing bribery.
 
 
America has put in place its own restrictions on businesses dealing with foreign governments in an attempt to prevent bribery from damaging America's international trade practices too much. The primary act of this nature is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which essentially makes it illegal for any American business to bribe a foreign official in an attempt to either maintain old work or obtain new work.
 
 
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act includes several other nuanced sections, however, in order to better deal with the problems facing international relations and bribery. Furthermore, the Forreign Corrupt Practices Act faces difficulty in fulfilling its function, as it only affects American businesses. 
 
 
Businesses from other countries would theoretically still be able to perform the very crimes that the FCPA prohibits, and therefore, American businesses would suffer from not being able to compete. Follow the link to learn more about the FCPA and how it is designed to solve the problem of international bribery.
 
 
Taxation can be used as a tool to both perpetrate bribery and to discourage it, depending upon the purpose given it by every given nation. Some nations use taxes to favor some business while disfavoring others, for instance, by giving out tax exemptions or other tax-based preferential treatment. 
 
 
But America and the other nations who have signed onto a Convention from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have begun to use taxation policies for discouraging bribery, making it clear that bribery is not acceptable in any area of government concern. For more information on how taxation and bribery interact, click the link.
 
 
In America, one of the foremost areas in which bribery could easily occur is in campaign contributions and finance. Every time a political candidate runs for office, he or she must run in a campaign advocating himself or herself for that office. To run the campaign, he or she needs ample funding, which can oftentimes be difficult to obtain without turning to private sources. In America, private contributions make up a hefty portion of campaign funding, which is not bad in and of itself. However, sometimes these private contributions do not come as freely and openly as they legally should.
 
 
Though the United States Government has passed laws to the effect that one cannot perpetrate bribery through campaign contributions by seeking a direct action in exchange for the contribution, campaign contributions can still influence and affect political candidates in negative ways, and often will only be made with the expectancy of some sort of reciprocation on the part of the candidate. For more about how bribery might be inherent to American campaign financing, follow the link. 
 
 
While political campaigns may be a very effective shade under which to hide acts of bribery, there is another major American governmental system which performs the same role, and perhaps does so with even greater success: the lobbying system. Lobbying is the system under which lobbyists meet with legislators and explain the purpose and goals of the lobbies they represent, which is innocuous enough. 
 
 
But the problems begin to arise when lobbyists give contributions to politicians. Ostensibly, this is done because lobbyists want politicians who will support their aims to be put into office, and by gifting money to their chosen politicians they make this outcome more likely. In reality, the contributions often take a much more sinister form than mere endorsements. Click the link to learn more about this American political system and its links to bribery.
 
 
"Pay to Play" politics refers to a specific practice of political workings, in which one must pay some amount of money, often as a campaign contribution, to obtain Government contracts or other benefits. Pay to Play politics has become increasingly more prosecuted, as it bears disturbingly much in common with simple bribery.
 
 
Sometimes, Pay to Play arises just from the nature of the political system, as it does in the realm of campaigning, where candidates must have money simply in order to remain competitive with their opponents and one candidate with tremendous amounts of funding may actually be able to win the election simply by virtue of his fuller war chest. But other times, Pay to Play comes directly from solicitations and actions on the part of Government officials and skirts dangerously close, and sometimes crosses over into, the criminal territory of bribery. For more about Pay to Play politics and what they mean, follow the link.
 
 
Examples of bribery in government abound, like the recent scandal with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. This example exemplifies perfectly the criminal and dangerous nature of bribery in government, and all the potential damage it can wreak.
 
 
As an example of both bribery and so-called "Pay to Play" politics, Blagojevich's attempt to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat stands out as the height of corruption and impropriety. Fortunately, this was also a textbook example in which such heinous practices were discovered and punished. 
 
 
Blagojevich did not get away from his wrongdoing unscathed and his punishment was as severe as it should have been. For more information on this quintessential example of bribery and its punishment, click the link.

The Truth About Lobbying and Bribery in Politics

The Truth About Lobbying and Bribery in Politics

The political lobbying system of America is often believed to be one of the primary difficulties to the proper functioning of America’s representational system of government. Bribery is just one of the supposed ways in which the lobbying system is perceived to perpetrate wrongdoing. The purpose of lobbyists is simplistically to meet with legislators and explain the nature and goals of the organizations they represent in the hopes of convincing those legislators to become somewhat friendly to the lobbyist’s cause. 
But lobbying often involves donations and gifts to those legislators’ political groups in the hopes of favorably influencing those legislators. Although this sounds like bribery, lobbying and bribery are two different acts. However, it is from this confusion that many of the negative views of lobbying arise. 
The primary difference between bribery and lobbying, or to be exact, the kind of contributions most representative of lobbying, is that in bribery there is a specific request being made. When a legislator asks for a specific monetary amount in exchange for the legislator’s vote, bribery is taking place. But when the legislator’s political party is instead given a donation from a lobbyist, it need not influence the legislator in any particular fashion. No agreement or deal was made for the donation, and as such, it is not considered bribery. 
Essentially, the best way to understand the difference between lobbying and bribery is that bribery involves quid pro quo, “this for that,” a clear and definitive exchange of one good or service for another. Lobbying is a donation without strings attached meant to influence, but not of necessity leading toward a specific action on the part of the individual or group receiving the donation. 
Many attempts have been made over the course of American politics to lead to greater transparency and regulation for lobbying in order to help better define the line between lobbying and bribery and to find those instances when the line is crossed. These include the Executive Branch Reform Act, which required officials of the Executive Branch to report any “significant contact” from any “private party” into a publicly accessible database, such that any meetings with a lobbyist would need to be reported. 
Additionally, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 was an attempt to define the ethical standards required of lobbyists and to reform the lobbying system towards a more transparent state. But even with these regulations in place, bribery could still be passing by, covered up as lobbying because the two are so closely related. 
It is unlikely that America’s lobbying system will ever be truly overturned, despite claims that it damages American representational procedure and ensures that a small group of powerful companies is able to control important political issues. But attempting to ensure that lobbying is transparent, and that it does not act as a shade under which to hide acts of bribery, is a worthwhile goal.
Every company and person has a right to donate money to those parties most likely to serve their goals, and they then have the right to withhold that money should those parties not actually serve their goals. That is the ideal nature of lobbying, and as long as it remains in that vein, then lobbying need not be eliminated. But no one has a right to perpetrate bribery, especially not under the guise of lobbying.

What are Pay to Play Politics?

What are Pay to Play Politics?

Pay to Play politics refers to a type of system in which the dominant idea is quid pro quo, or paying something in exchange for something else. Specifically, Pay to Play politics involve a system under which a payer must engage in political fundraising by making a campaign contribution to a specific group in order to obtain certain clear benefits, such as no-bid Government contracts. Policies of the Pay to Play variety have come under a great deal of criticism, not least because they are dangerously close to the practice of bribery. 
 
 
Of course, often Pay to Play is used to refer to systems which are not necessarily quite as blatant as quid pro quo would sound. Pay to Play can refer simply to the political fundraising system, under which candidates are believed to require a certain amount of money in their campaigns simply to be able to ably compete. In this case, the Pay to Play system is not something concrete, but is simply a reference to a matter of practicality, in which all candidates must go through a great deal of political fundraising in order to actually have a chance at winning the political race.
 
 
The Pay to Play system here is also considered problematic because of the nature of political spending and how it seems to be on the road to greater and greater importance in the political fundraising system. When one candidate can win an election simply by virtue of outspending his or her opponent, it has subverted the entire political campaign system of America, which should, theoretically, be based on merit and popular approval, not on political fundraising.
 
 
Congress has taken action to attempt to limit Pay to Play politics, including the addition of measures which would prevent anyone with State contracts above a certain annual value from contributing funds to the Government official who gave out those contracts. In general, Congress has attempted to make transparent some of the transactions which enabled Pay to Play politics, such that they could be successfully stopped in the future. By ensuring that the Government and public are well aware of any campaign contributions being made, then Congress makes itself much better able to regulate Pay to Play politics and prevent any bribery buried therein.
 
 
The most famous recent instance of Pay to Play politics came from Illinois, with Governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich attempted to sell the U.S. Senate seat left open when Barack Obama became the President-elect. In this instance, there was no difference between the Pay to Play nature of the incident and the Federal crime of bribery.
 
 
Sometimes, Pay to Play is legitimized, as those who practice it specifically seek to keep it legally defensible, but in almost all cases Pay to Play has a very great similarity to bribery. In Blagojevich's case, there was no way to misconstrue that he was misusing his political power in order to obtain funds, which is a casebook definition of seeking a bribe.
 
 
Pay to Play politics are generally frowned upon by lawmakers and especially by Good Government advocates. The practice and its quid pro quo elements smack far too strongly of bribery, regardless of how much it is gauged in terms of mere campaign contributions. But because of the success of such policies in obtaining funds for perpetrating politicians, it is hard to believe that Pay to Play politics will vanish entirely any time soon.

The Truth About Bribery in Political Campaigns

The Truth About Bribery in Political Campaigns

A prime area of Government for bribery to take root lies in the American political campaign system. Political corruption of this sort would take a somewhat different form than governmental corruption. Instead of one individual bribing another to directly use his or her Government Office-granted powers in favor of the briber, bribes in political campaigns are more designed to heavily influence a political candidate's policies and ideals in favor of the briber's own interests.
 
 
Campaign contributions are legal in America, which is not necessarily true in other, similar countries. Often enough, campaign contributions would be viewed as the source of political scandals, as opposed to regular practice of political campaigns. The situation is complicated by the fact that most political campaigns do require some form of funding, and especially at the higher levels, where there are so many voters to reach, the amount of money required can skyrocket. As a result, political campaigns seek money, but they also seek to avoid any accusations of political scandals that might result from taking that money. 
 
 
In the United States, laws have been put into place in order to combat potential political scandals in campaign finance by requiring that all monetary contributions to the claim need to be publicly disclosed along with the use of those monetary contributions. In other words, any political corruption resulting from a candidate being strongly swayed by a donator's contribution would be readily apparent to anyone who chose to look.
 
 
The biases of a candidate could be easily made clear by seeing who donated to the candidate's campaign. This is the reason that many other countries frown on America's campaign contribution policies. They see these policies as still being filled with political corruption, with the only caveat being that technically, this corruption is made visible. But the number of Americans who look for such information is relatively small and such transparency is not as effective as it is meant to be.
 
 
Other systems of political campaign finance, designed to eliminate political corruption of this nature, include running political parties entirely off of subscriptions, or completely banning corporate funding for political campaigns. Spending limits are another commonly used tactic, as are contribution limits that would set a boundary on the value of any given contribution.
 
 
These strategies and regulations do have an effect on limiting political corruption, but they are not without drawbacks, such as increased membership fees for political party members, and significantly reduced campaign penetration, meaning that fewer people would be reached by any given political campaign. 
 
 
Furthermore, the likelihood of such strategies being implemented in America is very small because of the power of such would-be contributors in the election system. Indeed, much criticism of America's political campaign finance system originates from the worry that the power of such corporations over politics and candidates makes the American system inherently full of political scandals. 
 
 
It remains near impossible to be able to actually measure corruption, and as such, it's difficult to tell exactly how influenced the political campaign system is by such political scandals. Any revelation of illegal campaign donations would still cause a major political scandal, but apart from such a clear, obvious incident, the political corruption in the American political finance system remains submerged.