Recently, there have been numerous cases of wealthy individuals and organizations exerting financial pressure on governments to pass favorable legislation. (see: Lobbying) Most western democracies permit partisan organizations to raise funds for politicians, and it is well-known that political parties frequently accept significant donations from various individuals (either directly or through corporate institutions). Ostensibly this should have no effect on the legislative decisions of elected representatives; however it would be unlikely that no politicians are influenced by these contributions. Some describe these donations as bribes, although legally they are not. In the United States, campaign finance reform efforts seek to ameliorate this situation. However, campaign finance reform must successfully challenge officials who are beneficiaries of the system which allows this dynamic in the first place. This has led many reform advocates to suggest taxpayer dollars be used to replace private campaign contributions, these reforms are often called clean money, clean elections reform as opposed to simply campaign finance reform which does not address the conflict of interest involved where most or all of the campaign money is from private, often for-profit sources. Critics of so-called clean elections point out that that having the government decide which candidates would receive tax dollars and therefore be allowed to run would create an effective dictatorship where the government decides who the people can vote for.
Classically, a plutocracy was an oligarchy, which is to say a government controlled by the wealthy few. Usually this meant that these ‘plutocrats’ controlled the executive, legislative and judicial aspects of government, the armed forces, and most of the natural resources. To a certain degree, there are still some situations in which private corporations and wealthy individuals may exert such strong influence on governments, that the effect can arguably be compared to a plutocracy.
If there are no forms of control within the society, the plutocracy can easily collapse into a kleptocracy, "reign of thieves", where the powerholders attempt to confiscate as much public funds as possible as their private property. A kleptocratic state is usually thoroughly corrupt, has very little production and its economy is unstable. Many failed states represent kleptocracies.