Using two large cross-national micro datasets on extortion and commodity flows, I provide evidence of corruption cycles around elections in five West African states. In democracies but not in autocracies, police and other officials extort bribes that are 30% higher in the buildup to elections. These cycles occur on the intensive margin — the price at which bribes are set — rather than on the extensive margin — the total number of agents extorting. When incumbents lose, prices remain abnormally high. When incumbents win, prices return to normal levels. I find no evidence of political cycles in the composition, quantity, or direction of commodity flows, and scant support for the idea that politicians use extortion for illicit campaign fundraising. Traditional political business cycles also do not appear to explain corruption cycles in this context. Rather, I argue that corruption cycles may result from independent decision-making by bureaucrats who need to insure against the uncertainty of future leadership.