In the last two decades, corruption has become a key concern throughout the world. Most of what we know about corruption comes from instances in which misdeeds become public, usually generating a scandal. Why do some acts of corruption become corruption scandals and others do not? This article argues that scandals are not triggered by corruption per se, but that corruption scandals are initially caused by the dynamics of political competition within the government. Government insiders leak information on misdeeds in order to gain power within the coalition/party in power. A powerful opposition, contrary to common beliefs, acts as a constraint for insiders, making corruption scandals less likely.
These arguments are evaluated using empirical evidence from two paradigmatic Latin American cases, Argentina and Chile, from 1989 to 2008. The findings presented support the notion that corruption scandals emerge as a consequence of political competition.