A corrupt official is any person who abuses the authority of their office, by causing harm or withholding protection to another person or (group of persons), in order to create advantage to themselves, another person, or group. In a democratic society, which advocates equality under law, this may include abuses of governmental office to maintain the advantages of an existing political, social, economic, or religious order, (corrupt conservatism). Examples of corrupt officials include police officers, government agents, politicians, lawyers, judges, corporate executives, church officials, or school staff members.
During the civil rights era and before, many corrupt cops as well as FBI and CIA agents were members of the Ku Klux Klan. Many (though not all as there’s always exceptions to every rule) corrupt officials are white, male, middle or upper class, and conservative. Corrupt officials give other officials a bad name and often hurt their reputation.
Apparent versus Actual Official Corruption
Understanding Official Corruption requires an understanding of the powers, the personal rights and the duties of the official. In the example of the Civil Rights Era of US History, some officials were secretly members of the Ku Klux Klan. Until the Ku Klux Klan was outlawed, membership alone may have been a personal right, and until it actually impacted the performance of official duties, was not a corrupt act. The right to conscience, is protected in our Liberal Democracy, the right to act on that conscience in an official capacity is not. Furthermore, the off-duty acts of an official done without exercise of Official Power or Capacity are generally understood to be personal. An apparently unprejudiced official, may commit a corrupt official act, or even prejudiced official act for reasons not related to personal prejudice.
Equality and Official Corruption
An example of Official Corruption would be a politician who uses their official powers to serve the interest of themself, a faction, a friend, or a Party, or even the established social order, when their duty is to use their official powers to serve the whole constituency, and protect civil order by protecting all their constituents equally. A conservative may see the equal and unbiased protection of all individuals of a constituency as corrupting of the social order, but that's not official corruption, and in fact is necessary for stability and civil order. Serving the interest of a person, or a faction, so as to remove unequal treatment that results in disadvantage, remains a duty of Government Officials to the point that treatment is equal. Creating temporary advantage to redress inequality which resulted from protracted illegal disadvantage remains controversial. Protecting the social order or the economic order, to the detriment of an individual, or faction, or Political Party, using the powers of office, is Official Corruption.
Personal Virtue and Official Corruption
Personal virtue, or failures of personal virtue, may confuse our understanding of Official Corruption. Here's a well-known quote from a former Democrat Politician.
"If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and then vote against them, you have no business being up here."
As you can see, the quote refers to some pretty questionable acts. These acts may not be personally virtuous, but the willingness to serve the constituency, rather than the donor or lobbyest is also obvious. Many Conservatives were quick to condemn the personal virtues of the man, and attempt to conflate personal corruption with Official Corruption. In US politics of today, sexual ethics in particular, are often conflated with Official ethics. Social Liberals, as a group, are far more likely to provide access to donors, while Conservatives, though they're quick to signal personal virtue, not only provide access, but are far more likely to "stay bought". We're talking about voluntary acts of lobbying in one case, and an obviously corrupt official act in the other.
Coercion is the Corrupt Act of causing another person to act through the use misuse of official powers. This may be through the threat, or promise, or actual misuse of official powers, or the threat, or promise, or actual withholding of official duties of protection. Coercion may be intended to cause a person to act against their personal interest, or not act in their personal interest. This often takes the form of sexual coercion. When there is a power differential between two people, in a business hierarchy for example, and the more powerful of the two acts to initiate an intimate relationship, coercion may be assumed. If the weaker invites initiation of an intimate relationship, coercion may not have existed, but the relationship may still become problematic. If this sounds confusing and complicated, that's because it often is. Which leads to the old adage, "it's best to not fish from the company dock".