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What Is Public Corruption?

What Is Public Corruption?

When a business mogul, politician, or major contributor to the economy uses unethical means to gain wealth and power they are committing public corruption. Let’s take a closer look.


Public corruption is a “breach of the public’s trust by government officials who use their public office to obtain personal gain.” This crime is a violation of federal law and if any state or federal official accepts or requests valuable items in exchange for voting a certain way or taking a specific stance, they are guilty of public corruption.

In most cases, public corruption happens behind closed doors through secret deals and suspicious money. The secretive nature of these acts make them difficult to detect much less prove unless there is extensive evidence to support a claim. The public plays a critical role in this by reporting corruption as they see it.

Types of Public Corruption

Like many crime classes, public corruption comes in many shapes and forms. A person may breach public trust in a number of ways whether it is through bribery (giving or accepting) or using money and power to manipulate people and markets.

Other types of public corruption include:

  • Extortion
  • Blackmail
  • Influence peddling
  • Illegal lobbying
  • Collusion
  • Graft
  • Cyber extortion
  • Gratuities
  • Product diversion
  • Conflict of interest
  • Bid rigging

Bribery is the most common type of public corruption and involves giving or accepting a favor or money to persuade an entity to act according to your will. A historical example includes the mob. In the 20th century, “the mob” ruled the public consciousness through action and the glamour of Hollywood.

One of the defining characteristics of the mob was that these crime families would bribe police and investigators to not look into their businesses or go after a person of their choosing instead. Often, bribes were included in the mob’s yearly budget and were a primary tool for gaining influence and power.

Giving a bribe and accepting a bribe are illegal in all forms. Whether a person accepts something of value in exchange for influencing their decisions, they enable fraud, or violate their ethical duties in some way, they are committing a crime.

Punishing Public Corruption

In South Carolina, offering, soliciting, giving, or receiving anything of value to influence the action of a public employee or official is punishable by imprisonment of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $10,000. Disclosing confidential information by or to a public official for financial gain is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Public corruption is a serious crime, and accusations alone can destroy your reputation and future. If you have been accused of public corruption in South Carolina, contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC.


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