Legislative ethics regulation in the American states : explaining conflict of interest legislation, 1954-1996
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Charles H. Stewart, III.
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This dissertation examines the regulation of conflicts of interest involving state legislators through the passage of ethics laws during the period from 1954-1996. The aim is to explain why legislators, who are notoriously loathe to regulate their own ethics, enacted a range of ethics laws during this time. I use a mixture of qualitative case studies and regression analysis at the individual and state levels, in order to explain the factors that lead legislators to oppose ethics reforms and the circumstances which facilitated refine success. Three main factors account for legislators' positions on ethics proposals: economic self-interest, institutional power, and ideology. Despite these reasons for opposing regulation, legislators agreed to enact ethics laws under certain conditions. Scandals and media attention to the problem of legislative ethics, as well as the efforts of governors and public interest groups, helped facilitate reform. In addition, the initiative process was a powerful weapon used by reform advocates, both for the enactment of new laws and the authorities of independent ethics commissions. While these outside actors and institutions played a critical role in explaining the likelihood and extent of reform, institutional features within the legislature itself also shaped the outcome of reform efforts. Although many states enacted relatively comprehensive ethics laws, these laws contained important concessions made to legislators in the course of bargaining with governors and public interest groups. Further, when it came to enforcement of the new laws, legislators have maintained close control over the new commissions, using methods such as appointment of commissioners, budgetary control, and legal challenges. Consequently, few state ethics commissions with jurisdiction over legislators have sufficient power and independence to carry out their mandate. Overall, the new legislative ethics laws and their enforcement are consistent with a picture of legislators as rational actors concerned with maintaining their economic wellbeing and institutional power, as well as legislative autonomy and power with regard to the executive branch.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Political Science, 2000.Includes bibliographical references (p. 322-334).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology