Corruption? Really?

Yves Smith wrote on the Naked Capitalism website yesterday:

Marshall Auerback explains how misguided attempts to reduce the deficit kill jobs, squeeze the working and middle classes, and inflate crude oil prices. And a corrupt political system doesn’t help.

A corrupt political system. I hear and read that a lot, from the right (it’s one of the things Alex Jones claims to do, “waging war on corruption”) to the left. But what exactly is this “corruption” that gets talked about? How is the American political system “corrupt”? Are we talking actual bribe taking–corruption in the classical sense, or possibly the Nigerian sense–or are we talking about the sense that politics is not, somehow, really responsible to the “will of the people?”
Those who speak of “corruption” generally also tend to speak of politicians and government as responsible to “special interests,” as opposed to “the people” or some sort of general interest or common good. But what if there is no general interest or common good, and only special interests?
I’ve longed believed that there is no such thing as “the will of the people,” that it cannot possibly articulate itself in any meaningful way. And any attempt to do so takes the polity in the direction of the dictatorship. (Dictatorship in the 19th and 20th centuries is largely founded in the will of the people.) Actors in a democratic polity will then be responsive (and responsible to) all of the myriad smaller actors in the polity, especially those who can mobilize the financial resources. This may seem unfair to some who believe that the narrow interests of others are being served (as opposed to their own interests, which are very likely just as narrow), but how is it corrupt? Especially as virtually every actor–even finance capital–in a democratic polity will claim their means and ends serve the alleged common good?