Calls Mount for Ethics Reform in Congress the New World on Capitol Hill Demands Greater Obedience to an Expanding Code of Ethics for the Activities of Congressional Members. but the Public Calls for Even Stricter Guidelines and Enforcement

By John Dillin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 2, 1993 | Go to article overview

Calls Mount for Ethics Reform in Congress the New World on Capitol Hill Demands Greater Obedience to an Expanding Code of Ethics for the Activities of Congressional Members. but the Public Calls for Even Stricter Guidelines and Enforcement


John Dillin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


DANIEL WEBSTER, perhaps the greatest orator ever in the United States Senate, is hailed far and wide by historians. Throughout the 19th century, he was so respected by educators that American schoolchildren were required to memorize his speeches.

Yet if Senator Webster were suddenly transported to 1993, he might be quickly hauled before the Senate Ethics Committee. Historian Merrill Peterson observes that Webster had close financial ties to big corporate interests in New England even as he championed their causes on the Senate floor.

In 20th-century terms, it was a clear conflict of interest. Nor was that all. Webster, a poor manager of money, was frequently bailed out by wealthy backers. When he returned to the Senate, after a stint as secretary of state, rich patrons collected a large purse for Webster's private use, notes Dr. Peterson, a retired history professor at the University of Virginia.

Today, such financial hanky-panky would not only violate the rules of Congress, it would make Webster the target of every muckraking journalist and television newscaster in Washington. He might be forced to resign under a storm of headlines.

It's a new world on Capitol Hill - one that demands greater obedience to the rules. Yet even as congressmen toe the ethical line, criticism of Congress increases. Thousands of irate citizens join groups like THRO Inc. (Throw the Hypocritical Rascals Out!). Movements to limit the terms of congressmen draw growing support from California to Florida.

Congressmen are perplexed and frustrated. Sen. Howell Heflin (D) of Alabama, who chaired the Senate Ethics Committee for 13 years, says proudly: "We are probably today the most ethical Congress ... that has ever existed." Then he adds sadly: "You can't convince the media of that."

Sen. Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi says ethics is often in the eye of the beholder. Even as Congress improves, the media and public are so critical of politicians, he says, that "we've made criminals of all of us."

Rep. James Hansen (R) of Utah, a 12-year veteran of the House ethics committee, says "there's nothing more painful" than ethics investigations of a fellow member. The accused person's reputation, sometimes his life's work, is at stake, he says.

Sen. Pete Domenici (R) of New Mexico says ethics probes put a tremendous strain on the accused, especially those who are wrongly charged. Defending oneself against accusations, which are sometimes politically inspired, can run up legal bills of $300,000 to $500,000. A simplified system

Senator Domenici says he hopes Congress will come up with a simplified process for clearing innocent members of false ethics charges. The aim of ethics reform should not be simply to kick out guilty congressmen, but to improve justice for everyone involved, he emphasizes.

While some critics focus on personal lapses by congressmen, others say the root of the problem on Capitol Hill is money. Until Congress takes the monied interests out of politics through sweeping campaign reform, they say, public doubts will persist.

Voter attitudes toward Washington first began to slide downhill after the Watergate break-in in the early 1970s. In those days, most public anger was aimed at the Nixon White House.

More recently, attention has turned to Capitol Hill. The public storm over congressional ethics has grown steadily stronger in the past few years. It was fueled by the check-kiting scandal, the savings-and-loan crisis, the forced resignation of former House Speaker Jim Wright, and the midnight pay raise.

The responsibility for cleaning things up rests squarely with Congress. The Constitution says only the House and Senate can punish or expel miscreant members. Enforcement changes

Until the 1960s, both houses used ad hoc or select committees to deal with ethical offenses. But in 1964, the Senate appointed a full-time ethics panel. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Calls Mount for Ethics Reform in Congress the New World on Capitol Hill Demands Greater Obedience to an Expanding Code of Ethics for the Activities of Congressional Members. but the Public Calls for Even Stricter Guidelines and Enforcement
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.