while in general persons who have been convicted of a crime are not necessarily prohibited from running for or being appointed to an office of public trust in the United States (see Felons in Elected Office), for the purposes of naivete we could presume that none of the persons convicted of crimes in the above lists had previously been convicted of a crime before campaigning for or being appointed to an office of public trust, and that they were not criminals who simply decided to campaign for public office or accept an appointment to a governmental agency head or become a judge simply to further their criminal enterprises, though if such naivete requires being unveiled and the conspiracy by specific individuals to profiteer from an office of public trust has factually been or be should exposed on the record, then so be it.

Have any studies been performed which show that campaigning for or being appointed an office of public trust (i.e., Congressperson; Senator; Judge; County Councilor; Mayor) leads to criminal activity; both in and of itself as to the practical nature of the work, bureaucracy and tendency of certain types of individuals to be engaged in those professions; and compared to criminal activity within professions which do not require public campaigns or being appointed to an office of public trust, e.g., a physical laborer; or is initial criminal behaviour equally proportional to professions which are won by campaigning or being politically appointed and professions which require only individual or team effort, but are not based on having access to public funds and upholding public trust?

  • It's a reasonable question but probably very hard to study. And whatever conclusion one might draw will likely be contested in terms of confounders etc. There are definitely personality factors involved in criminal propensity e.g. the H from HEXACO but H also correlates with power‐seeking tendencies. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 6:03
  • @Fizz Studying the lists themselves we could conclude that either campaigning or being politically appointed has a higher propensity for potential criminal activity than, for example, dentists, who began their professional career at the same time as first term in office; or, that some criminal enterprises specifically decide to expand their operation to politics and appointments to public offices. How could those conclusions be refuted based on only the facts presented at the linked lists? Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 6:10
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    I'm guessing you're aware of the flip-side of the coin, i.e. that environment plays a role too, via the Stanford prison experiment etc. I don't think one can draw any conclusions just from the Wikipedia lists. Dentists sometimes molest patients etc. Just because there's no Wikipedia list of criminal dentists doesn't mean they don't engage in crime; it just means most dentists are not notable according to Wikipedia's standard WP:N. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 6:26
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    Two problems here. First is simple opportunity: a lot of us might be willing to take bribes or misuse campaign funds, but unless we're in politics, we just don't have the chance. Second, politics makes many neutral actions into crimes. E.g. it might be quite the ordinary thing, and legal, for a wealthy man to pay off people with whom he's had sex. Let him run for office, though, and it easily can be seen as criminal. (And not just Trump: John Edwards & Dennis Hastert come to mind...)
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 17:49
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    The wording of the question of confusing. The question that makes more sense to ask is whether people who campaign for or win public offices have a greater propensity to engage in criminal activity, or more opportunities to commit criminal activity, which is what the answer given explains. It isn't clear if these are the questions being asked or if a different question is being asked, due to the awkward wording.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 1:08

1 Answer 1


There aren't many direct studies on being in elected/appointed positions making you more likely to exhibit criminal behavior. There are more generalized studies that seem to imply that there is a possible link. People with more power are better liars/ more dishonest . There are also studies that seem to prove that power leads to corruption. Leaders also tend to exhibit a lot of traits similar to psychopaths. The sort of people attracted to these positions tend to be people that are more willing to break rules, and simply being in these positions makes those tendencies more prevalent. Criminal activity just requires these people to devolve past a certain point, which the positions seem to encourage.

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    You may want to bring some quotes from your links into the question. Links could die at any time, so link-only evidence will not always be available.
    – Giter
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 15:01
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    What's the source of the first paper? It looks like someone's term paper. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 15:13
  • @indigochild: good question. It looks like they have an extended version but that also doesn't seem to have been formally published somewhere. The original short paper was "defended" on HBR: hbr.org/2010/05/… Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 16:16
  • From the 2nd paper "power interacted with endogenous testosterone in predicting corruption, which was highest when leader power and baseline testosterone were both high". I'll only vote for women now! (But then I remembered Brazil.) But also "Honesty predicted initial level of leader antisocial decisions; however, honesty did not shield leaders from the corruptive effect of power." Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 16:22
  • Looking at full text, honesty was measured on HEXACO in that one; see my comment under the question for a similar study (in that respect). Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 16:28

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