The Politics of Corruption Prosecutions: Varieties of Anticorruption Campaigns

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In this book project, I argue that judicial anticorruption campaigns, i.e. clusters of criminal prosecutions of perpetrators of grand political corruption, vary along two dimensions: transparency and effectiveness. Transparency refers to variation in the dominant motives behind corruption prosecutions and effectiveness captures the degree of severity of the legal consequences that flow from criminal prosecutions. The intersection of these two dimensions gives us four ideal types of judicial anticorruption campaigns: 1) a rule of law breakthrough when both transparency and effectiveness are high; 2) a façade campaign when both transparency and effectiveness are low; 3) a witch hunt when transparency is low, but effectiveness is high; and 4) a frustrated corruption-curbing campaign when transparency is high, but effectiveness is low. This chapter lays out the characteristics of these four ideal types and the challenges in finding good evidence that would allow us to differentiate reliably among real-world manifestations/examples of these ideal types. The chapter also presents some evidence from an original dataset on judicial anticorruption in Eastern Europe since 2000 that post-EU accession, Bulgaria had a façade anticorruption campaign and Romania had an, albeit short-lived, rule of law breakthrough in the 2010s.