Vital Signs

Loose Rigging: Scandal and the 102nd Congress

Early last February, Representative John Lewis took the House floor and demanded, "How can our constituents expect Congress to address the nation's economic ills when tens of thousands may have been embezzled and stolen right here in the Capitol? How can they expect Congress to deal with a drug epidemic if cocaine is in fact being sold right here in our own workplace?" Always publicity-hungry. Congress has lately been making the papers in most unflattering ways. On the heels of the resignation of a House Speaker and Majority Whip due to financial corruption, the spectacle of sex offenses involving teenage pages, and the discovery of a brothel run out of a congressman's apartment, the 102nd Congress brought us the Keating Five controversy, the circus cum nomination proceedings for the most recent Supreme Court Justice, the ignominy of congressmen stiffing their own restaurant, and the House bank and post office scandals. The scope of congressional malfeasance no longer allows for the possibility that these are isolated incidents.

These recurring scandals have not only damaged people's faith in our government, but fouled the government itself. Arguing unsuccessfully against a further increase in spending for congressional staff in 1991, Senator Jesse Helms warned, "If we cannot be faithful in little things, we are not going to be faithful in big things. More importantly than that, we will further diminish...

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