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Political Corruption in America: A Search for Definitions and a Theory, or If Political Corruption Is in the Mainstream of American Politics Why Is It Not in the Mainstream of American Politics Research?*

  • John G. Peters (a1) and Susan Welch (a1)

Lack of a clear definition of political corruption has limited its systematic study by analysts of American politics. This article offers a conceptual framework with which to view corruption. A corrupt act is categorized by its four components: the donor, the favor, the public official and the payoff. For each component, propositions about perceived corrupt and noncorrupt elements can be formulated and tested. The usefulness of this scheme in analyzing attitudes about corruption is demonstrated with data from state legislators. Finally, the article suggests some future research possibilities using this scheme to compare elites and public or other groupings in the political system.

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The authors would like to thank Barry S. Rundquist, University of Illinois-Urbana, and Alan Booth, University of Nebraska-Lincoln for their helpful comments. This project was supported by a grant from the University of Nebraska Research Council.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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