A slush fund, also known as a black fund, is any fund or account maintained for corrupt or illegal purposes, especially in the political sphere. Such funds may be kept hidden and maintained separately from other funds that are used for legitimate purposes. They may be employed by government or corporate officials as part of efforts to discreetly pay influential people in return for preferential treatment, advance information (for example, to acquire non-public information in financial transactions) or some other service. The funds themselves may not be kept secret but the source of the funds or how they were acquired or for what purposes they are used may be hidden. Use of slush funds to influence government activities may be viewed as subversive of the democratic process.
Richard Nixon's "Checkers speech" of 1952 was a successful effort to dispel a scandal concerning a slush fund of campaign contributions. Years later, Nixon's presidential re-election campaign used slush funds to buy the silence of the "White House Plumbers".
In U.S. collegiate athletics, there have been multiple occurrences where boosters and supporters of a collegiate sport program provide the school and coaches with extra money. This money is then distributed to a number of athletes in order to compensate them for their participation and commitment to their program. For example, in 1986 Southern Methodist University's football team was caught receiving money from the school which was being funded by one of the boosters. In the 1990s, the University of Michigan had one booster paying several of the men's basketball players, including NBA superstar Chris Webber.
The term slush fund was originally a nautical term: the slush was the fat or grease skimmed from the top of the cauldron when boiling salted meat. Ship officers would sell the fat to tallow makers, with the resulting proceeds kept as a slush fund for making small purchases for the ship's crew.