Ethical Lapses Spur Reforms in Legislatures ; as Questions about Conflicts of Interest Mount, States like Rhode Island Consider Making Lawmaking a Full-Time Job

By Noel C. Paul writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 5, 2004 | Go to article overview

Ethical Lapses Spur Reforms in Legislatures ; as Questions about Conflicts of Interest Mount, States like Rhode Island Consider Making Lawmaking a Full-Time Job


Noel C. Paul writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


The American ideal of the disinterested citizen-legislator is losing its luster. From Washington State to Rhode Island, voters are taking a closer look at how part-time lawmakers balance public responsibilities and private interests.

It's tradition for Americans from varied backgrounds and professions to leave behind their regular duties, like the mythical Cincinnatus and his plow, and serve for a short time as lawmakers. Today, lawmakers in 40 of the nation's 50 state legislatures spend part of the year carrying out the people's business, and the rest of the year running their own.

Here in Rhode Island, the legislators serve only six months of the year. Many are lawyers. Some are teachers, doctors, and firefighters. But, unlike Cincinnatus, not all are leaving their work behind when they step into the statehouse - which is making Rhode Island a flash point in the debate over lawmakers and conflicts of interest.

Last month, three legislators here, including the Senate president and House majority leader, were accused of ethics violations. Their alleged transgression: consulting for businesses that stood to benefit from their legislative work.

The lawmakers technically did not break any rules, but news of their close business ties has prompted outcries from residents weary of ethical misconduct by CEOs and elected officials alike.

A recent uptick in public scrutiny of legislators' financial dealings is evident across the country, say experts. They see the public as raising its standards of behavior for state officials, which could soon pressure legislatures to professionalize and cast aside one of their most cherished traditions.

"People are very negative toward their politicians now, and part of that is the result of part-time legislators getting caught," says Alan Rosenthal, a public- policy professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

The scandal here unfolded after the Providence Journal published information about a legislator's ties to the CVS Corp. Soon after, questions surrounding the ethical behavior of other legislators surfaced. One received $70,000 from CVS, only one year after having led an effort to defeat legislation the company opposed. Though not illegal, it does raise serious conflict-of-interest questions.

Even in a state notorious for political corruption, the latest revelations are causing an unusually public furor. "We need more accountability for our legislators," says Bill Sheridan, browsing at the Providence Shopping Mall recently.

Many experts believe the key to doing that in Rhode Island, and elsewhere around the country, is making lawmaking a full-time profession. …

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

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
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Ethical Lapses Spur Reforms in Legislatures ; as Questions about Conflicts of Interest Mount, States like Rhode Island Consider Making Lawmaking a Full-Time Job
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?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
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.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, 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." (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

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.