Curing Congress's Ills: Criminal Law as the Wrong Paradigm for Congressional Ethics
7 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2008
This brief piece argues that certain common misperceptions about congressional ethics enforcement (misperceptions advanced most recently in Paul M. Thompson's response to my Comment calling for the creation of Congressional Commissioners for Standards) result from a confusion of the purposes of congressional ethics with those of the criminal law. Congressional ethics is not simply about punishing rulebreakers; rather, it aims to promote clean government and public trust in Congress and its members. This understanding of the proper purpose of congressional ethics allows us to see more clearly both what is wrong with the current system and how certain reforms would provide useful correctives.
Keywords: Congress, congressional ethics, Commissioner for Standards, separation of powers
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