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The Partisan handling of political scandal in the House of Representatives

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Defining political scandal for academic analysis.
  3. Factors which contribute to the character and outcome of a scandal.
  4. Formal inquiries and actions on scandals.
  5. 1989 resignation of former Speaker of the House Jim Wright.
  6. Jim Wright saga and Gingrich's big entrance.
  7. DeLay resignation on June 8, 2006 following two indictments in Texas.

When a political scandal breaks it has a way of dominating the national discourse between the political parties. Seemingly regardless of the nature of the scandalous content, once that label has been affixed within days media news outlets are saturated with condemnations, protests of innocence, at times admissions of guilt and always speculation. Political and moral corruption amongst our leaders has become a public fascination and at times a political focus. This is especially true in the American Congress. Some are concerned that such a culture obscures more pressing policy issues in favor of comparatively trivial scandal mongering and gossip, yet these events effect public perception of leadership. In Congress, the outcome of a modern scandal matters a great deal for the players involved, and we have ample evidence to suggest that these outcomes matter in the broader partisan scheme of things.

[...] They are literal power struggles in many cases, but the essential political capital of reputation and trust are most certainly at stake in either case. Trust and reputation are precious political commodities in Congress. This cuts to heart of Fenno's concept of authenticity which he links to representation and electoral success. Exposed corruption or misconduct is the antithesis of authenticity, it is disingenuousness. Demand authenticity from public officials and to suspect disingenuousness is a feature of the American character. These tendencies were sown in from the nations founding, and have only been intensified by the Watergate scandal which maintains a legacy of scandal obsession and distrust (Schud 5). [...]

[...] The legislators were dissenters in regard to the redistricting, and were critical of the fact that it appeared political contributions could affect legislative tendencies. With multiple scandals brewing around Delay and further deliberation by the Ethics Committee pending, many of Delays critics called for his resignation from leadership (Babington A01). DeLay fought vigorously against the decision. He was backed by many other Republicans including House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Unlike the 1989 Democrats, this Republican Party was reluctant to allow the House Ethics Committee to attack a Republican leader, thus supplying opponents with canon fodder. [...]

[...] At the heart of every scandal are the most basic struggles in democratic politics over trust, authenticity, and reputation. Politicians who play the dangerous game of scandalizing seek to preserve these values on their side of the isle and attack them in opposing actors. The development and sometimes the outcome of scandals are decided by the Congressional setting, the people and the content of the scandal. Works Cited Babington, Charles. "DeLay Draws Third Rebuke." Washington Post October 2004: A01. 2004Oct6.html (Babington) Bolton, Alexander. [...]

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