Corruption, like many other socio-political ideas, is an evolving concept that is contextually subjective and open to interpretation. Some have argued that in the Citizens United decision, the United States Supreme Court applied a narrow view to the concept of corruption limiting it to a quid pro quo direct exchange of money for political action or inaction with a politician.
The Oxford English dictionary provides the following on “corruption” …
1.) dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
• the action or effect of making someone or something morally depraved
2.) the process by which a word or expression is changed from its original state to one regarded as erroneous or debased
• the process by which a computer database or program becomes debased by alteration or the introduction of errors
3.) archaic the process of decay; putrefaction
the potato turned black and rotten with corruption
There are those that would argue that the second definition, “the process by which a word or expression is changed from its original state to one regarded as erroneous or debased” is exactly what shadowy powers with influence that permeates our entire world are now doing, intentionally, to the very concept of corruption (as well as other politically useful concepts), as evidenced in the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United Decision.
When Benjamin Franklin was gifted a snuff box encrusted with diamonds by Louis XVI, (the last King of France before the French Revolution and the fall of the Monarchy), Americans believed the gift threatened to “corrupt” Franklin by clouding his judgment or altering his attitude toward the French. By some accounts, this broad understanding of political corruption―rooted in ideals of civic virtue―was a driving force at the American Constitutional Convention.
The emoluments clause was incorporated in the United States Constitution at Article 1, Section 9, Paragraph 8 which states: No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
There is no reasonable question that the framers of the Constitution were making a sincere effort to eradicate corruption of the very sort that was considered to be inherently possible as a result of gifts, titles, offices, honors or other significant considerations bestowed by foreign powers on political leaders and officials. None of the forgoing were presumed necessarily to be quid pro quo exchanges for a particular vote or decision, but nonetheless, corrosive in their political affect, contributing to conflicts of interest and the erosion of a singularity of focus on the best interests of the constituents of the public official.
In today’s world, multinational corporations are found with economic power that exceeds the economies of entire nations. Their political loyalties know no bounds. Where corporations once sought, from states, franchises to operate within the political jurisdiction of the state, we now find that politicians now seek deference, from corporations that dominate the economies of their state, for the opportunity to be considered for political office. To overlook the corrosive effect of this shifting dynamic is to identify oneself with either the ignorance of a pre-school child, or the indifference of a sociopath.
President Eisenhower both grasped and warned of the immergence of monolithic corporate power and unwarranted influence of the "military industrial complex". He noted the "potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist" and cautioned that "we should never let the weight of this combination [of power and influence] endanger our liberties or democratic processes."
Only months later, John F. Kennedy spoke on the dangers of secrecy and infiltration of American Institutions by a "monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence, on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice".
Kennedy warned of "a system which has conscripted vast human resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific, and political operations." He further prophetically warned, "Its preparations are concealed, not published, its mistakes are buried, not headlined, its dissenters are silenced, not praised...."
A problematic "irony" (to use a charitable label) lies in the apparent reality that the Supreme Courts' evolving notion of "corruption" is narrowing to exclude things that most certainly involve undue influence that impacts adversely on the health and well being of the nation, while the FBI's notion of a "potential domestic terrorist" is widening broadly to justify Orwellian spying on average Americans for engaging in discussion and consideration of the very things the Supreme Court professed to be defending under the auspices of the First Amendment in the Citizen's United decision.