Glass Houses: Congressional Ethics And The Politics Of Venom

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9780813341613: Glass Houses: Congressional Ethics And The Politics Of Venom

While members of the House and Senate confront the public's changing attitudes toward money, sex, and power, they are also forced to raise ever-escalating sums to finance their campaigns. Practices tolerated a decade ago now may cost lawmakers their seats or land them in jail. Lawmakers often don't know if they live in Salem or Gomorrah. Using new information culled from dozens of Capitol Hill interviews, Susan and Martin Tolchin show how ethics in Washington have changed over two centuries while offering new interpretations of past ethics cases. The first book to analyze the politicization of the ethics process, Glass Houses reveals in wicked and telling detail the forces that drive the modern lawmaker into a maelstrom of fierce corruption battles.

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About the Author:

Susan J. Tolchin is a professor of public policy at George Mason University's School of Public Policy. She was elected a fellow and board member of the National Academy of Public Administration. In 1997, she received the Marshall Dimock Award from the American Society for Public Administration and the Trachtenberg Award for Research from George Washington University. Martin Tolchin, founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of The Hill” newspaper, reported on Congress during most of his 40-year career at the New York Times. His numerous awards include the Everett M. Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting on Congress. Mr. Tolchin also received three Page One wards from the Newspaper Guild of New York, and awards from Sigma Delta Chi and the NYC Citizens Budget Commission.

From Publishers Weekly:

Those irrepressible congressional gadflies, the Tolchins, begin their brief study of ethics on Capitol Hill with a surprise announcement: "Lawmakers are more honest and more ethical today than ever before." This is not, the authors hasten to add, because current legislators are better people than those of the past. Rather, it's because their actions have become more transparent each lives inside a "glass house." The Tolchins (Susan, a public policy professor, and Martin, editor of the Hill, a newspaper covering Congress) focus most of their attention on the years since 1974, when a slew of new ethics laws were passed in the wake of Watergate, and especially on the years since 1994, when Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House and launched his "scorched earth" strategy of moralistic politics. During this period, the Tolchins argue, notions of corruption expanded enormously. The standard practice of one generation became criminal to the next. But even as standards of conduct evolved, the Tolchins believe that Congress has remained reluctant to investigate members unless its hand is forced by the media and public opinion. "Loyalty is a more closely held virtue than ethical conduct," the authors maintain. This is largely because members of Congress never know whom the spotlight will turn on next (Gingrich, the Tolchins point out, was destroyed by the same obsessive scandalmongering he used to ruin others). To bolster their arguments, the authors cite a wide array of case histories, which at its worst resembles a "greatest hits" list of newspaper headlines: Keating 5, Abscam, Wright, Packwood, Torricelli. At its best, however, the Tolchins' slim book is an adroit, convincing examination of the ethical pressures and problems that continue to confront our representatives in Congress. (Oct.) Forecast: This should attract some attention and sales in the capital, where the authors will promote it; they will also have a radio satellite tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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