Harvard University Press, 2014.

Review published Jul 2017.

Teachout, a former law professor, unsuccessful political candidate (Governor of New York and House of Representatives), and currently on the staff of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has written a detailed and persuasive study of political corruption.

A huge focus of the framers of the Constitution, Corruption has always been hard to pin down. She says it simply means wrongfully using public office for private gain, but she claims the Roberts Court, consisting solely of academics and appellate judges (i.e., no political candidates) has wrongly narrowed the meaning to requiring a wrongful quid pro quo between the public official and the private citizen(s), much like bribery.

Bribery is of course corruption, but the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution bans receiving anything at all (such as Louis XIV's gift of a diamond-studded snuff box to Benjamin Franklin). It is more akin to a violation of ethics, in which the public official betrays the public trust. Certainly when I worked for the government I was taught that an act that even gave the appearance of a conflict of interest was forbidden.

A good way to perceive the sudden and drastic change in our nation's attitude towards corruption is to realize that lobbying was generally illegal and morally despised during the nineteenth century, but became a full-fledged profession in the twentieth.

These days, it's easier to see political activity as a full-contact sport rather than an honorable calling of public service. A strong resurgence of feeling against all forms of corruption would be helpful to the country.