Ethics in Congress: From Individual to Institutional Corruption

By Dennis F. Thompson | Go to book overview

4
Services of Office

Constituent service. To me, it's very important . . . if I think there is a cause where the government has mistreated a constituent, I'm going to do all I can, within the bounds of ethical conduct, to see that that government responds to this constituent.

In this opening statement to the Senate ethics committee during the hearings in the case of the Keating Five, Senator Dennis DeConcini portrayed the help he gave Charles Keating as an honorable part of the calling of a legislative representative.1 It was, he suggested, just an instance of constituent service, the customary practice of "providing help to individuals, groups, and localities in coping with the federal government."2 Such help includes services ranging from aid with immigration problems to assistance in applying for governmental grants. The beneficiaries are not only individuals but increasingly corporations, foundations, hospitals, universities, professional associations, and other organizations.

Unmentioned in the Constitution, unimagined by the Founders, and until recently unanalyzed by journalists, constituent service has become a major part of the job of most members of Congress. DeConcini was not alone in his exaltation of the practice. Some of the senator's colleagues, including members of the ethics committee, did not even acknowledge the "bounds of ethical conduct" to which DeConcini alluded. They seemed to assume that if what a member does is constituent service and breaks no law, it is always proper. If the service does not involve bribery, extortion, or an illegal campaign contribution, it is not only acceptable but admirable.3 For its final

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Ethics in Congress: From Individual to Institutional Corruption
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Purposes Of Legislative Ethics 10
  • 2- Dynamics of Legislative Corruption 26
  • 3- Gains of Office 49
  • 4- Services of Office 77
  • 5- Corrupt Connections 102
  • 6- Tribunals Of Legislative Ethics 131
  • Conclusion 166
  • Appendix: Charges of Ethics Violations Considered by Congress, 1789-1992 182
  • Notes 191
  • Conclusion 237
  • Index 239
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