From time immemorial political leaders have used gifts and favors—whatever had value in a given era—as a means of gaining and maintaining power. In turn, others who sought power or fortune reciprocated by giving something of value to political leaders.

Politics in our own era is no exception. Members of Congress, for example, routinely use their clout to help constituents secure government benefits, and votes and campaign contributions are expected in return for such efforts.1 While some of these ministrations may seem distasteful, they follow logically from the expansion of federal programs, and few would consider them criminal—unless they crossed some hard-to-draw line between corruption and the ordinary trading of favors.

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