A con artist or someone who swindles people out of money through fraud and deception. In politics, the term has been used to describe those who use the political process to enrich themselves.

Former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), writing for Politico, noted that today’s political grifters “are a lot like the grifters of old—lining their pockets with the hard-earned money of working men and women be promising things in return that they know they can’t deliver.”

“Political grifting is a lucrative business. Groups like the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots are run by men and women who have made millions by playing on the fears and anger about the dysfunction in Washington… These people have lined their pockets by promising that if you send them money, they will send men and women to Washington who can ‘fix it.’ Of course, in the ultimate con, the always extreme and often amateurish candidates these groups back either end up losing to Democrats or they come to Washington and actually make the process even more dysfunctional… The grifting wing of the party promises that you can have ideological purity—that you don’t have to compromise—and, of course, all you have to do is send them money to make it happen.”

Mike Lupica: “You could call people like this the brand new Washington generation of the boys of Tammany Hall, except that in another New York, Tammany Hall was actually known for providing services, starting with jobs. That’s how those boys got the vote in the old days, how they kept their power. Something else separates Tammany Hall from the current U.S. Senate. In old New York, they did their skimming out in the open and never tried to pretend they were doing something noble.”

deduct box

The locked box where legendary Louisiana Gov. Huey Long kept “deducts” from state employee salaries to fund his political operation.

Estimates suggest Long collected between $50,000 to $75,000 each election cycle from government workers. The deduct box was kept at his Roosevelt Hotel headquarters in New Orleans.

After being shot in 1935, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports Long was asked on his deathbed by Roosevelt Hotel owner Seymour Weiss, “Huey, where is the deduct box?” Before falling into a coma, Long responded, “I’ll tell you later, Seymour.”

The deduct box was never found.

honest graft

Taking advantage of the money-making opportunities that might arise while holding public office.

Tammany Hall boss George Washington Plunkitt defined “dishonest graft” as actual theft from the public treasury or taking bribes for making certain public decisions. “Honest graft,” however, simply meant pursuing the public interest and one’s personal interests at the same time. For instance, Plunkitt made most of his money through land purchases, which he knew would be needed for public projects. He would buy such parcels, then resell them at an inflated price.

Said Plunkitt in a famous defense of his actions: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”