Trading in influence, or influence peddling, is a term covering a variety of activities when connections or influence can be bartered for social, political, professional, commercial or even sexual advantage. The trader is a person with influence over, say a public servant or party official with respect to his legal or official duties.
It is now common practice, even in administrations of democratic countries, for government officials to expect to receive payment in return for the award of government contracts. In countries like the USA the problem is aggravated by the practice whereby those leaving positions in government administrations take up positions in corporations through which they are able to derive commercial and other benefits from their earlier contacts in government. The flight from public service to private enrichment (the "revolving door" procedure) was specifically criticized by Bill Clinton.
In 1995, Brazil's ambitious surveillance system for the Amazon, Sivam, designed to shield one of the least protected regions in the world, was tangled in a controversy that had broad consequences for both the plan itself and its American contractor, the Raytheon Company. With a price tag of at least US$1.4 milliard, the project unleashed all sorts of machinations. Early on, Sivam created a diplomatic incident when it was alleged that the CIA had information that one of the Raytheon's chief rivals, the French defence contractor Thomson-CSF was offering payments to increase its chances of being awarded the contract. Another crisis hinted at influence-peddling. Opposition from an influential senator, who endorsed two less-costly systems, had tied up the approval of a new subcontractor. That obstacle became a crisis with the release of a taped conversation between the president's chief of protocol and a representative of Raytheon. The two discussed the senator's opposition, with the chief of protocol asking the representative if he knew "how much" the senator wanted. Besides, the Brazil's air force minister had to resign after he spent two days at the Raytheon representative's home.