Abstract: In this paper we reflect on the relationship between clientelism, patronage and corruption in contemporary democracies suggesting that, while clientelism may be in retreat, patronage and corruption may be on the increase. We relate these developments to the transformations of the channels for representation, which affect the motivations for which candidates seek election and voters give their vote. The transformations depicted in the paper are interpreted as leading to increasing efforts, on the part of candidates, to cultivate the personal vote and to increasing attempts, on the part of party leaders, to forestall such efforts. This tug-of-war is argued to lead to expansion of patronage – the distribution of public and semi-public positions to partisan supporters – and to larger scope for corruption. These hypotheses are then tested against the evidence provided by the Italian case.