More members of Congress have been investigated and subjected to sanctions for ethical misconduct in the past decade and a half than in the entire previous history of the institution.1 In recent seasons, both the House and the Senate have been producing "bumper crops" of ethics cases. Among the fruits of the harvest are the first expulsion of a member of Congress for corruption, formal disciplinary measures against four senators and eleven representatives, and some forty admonishments, electoral defeats, or resignations.2 The period also yielded the longest running and most publicized hearing on charges of violating ethical standards: the case of the so-called Keating Five.
Some see in the proliferation of cases the signs of pervasive corruption. Half of all Americans say they believe that most members of Congress are corrupt. Half also agree with the statement that "Congress as an institution is corrupt." This attitude persisted even after the control of Congress changed hands in 1995. Nearly 70 percent of citizens believed that the 104th Congress would be no less corrupt than its predecessor.3 One of its current leaders once declared, "the present-day Congress has become the most corrupt of the modern era."4
However corrupt Congress may be today, few of its members engage in the flagrant behavior that used to be common in the in-