That may be a distinction without a real difference. It is hard to defend corruption, but even corrupt commissioners of public works, such as New Yorks Boss Tweed, built courthouses. Through patronage and cronyism, political machines allowed new ethnic groups to overcome the poverty of immigration and find gainful employment in municipal jobs such as the police and fire departments. Political corruption in the United States knows no party and even followed population shifts to the suburbs from the cities after World War II.
Nor is corruption limited to democracies or even to the United States. Corruption in all of its forms -- bribery, fixed contracts, patronage, cronyism, kickbacks -- has been a greedy companion to politics since money and government were invented. According to a 2007 World Bank report, bribery, especially in the Third World, may cost $1 trillion exceeding even the $700 billion the Bush administration said was needed to unfreeze the credit markets during the current world economic crisis. Most of the cost of corruption falls on the poorest people whose poverty is worsened while elites live well.
But perhaps the best defense of corruption came from Plunkitt, whose unrepentant words are often cited to comfort the corrupt:
I seen my opportunities and I took em.