Award Date

12-1-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Environmental and Public Affairs

First Committee Member

Christopher Stream

Second Committee Member

Patrick Carlton

Third Committee Member

David Damore

Fourth Committee Member

Peter Gray

Number of Pages

126

Abstract

The breaking of moral and ethical codes has been with humankind since history was first recorded. As such, the public wants to know that their elected officials are held accountable and cannot disregard enshrined legal rights without incurring broader personal and societal consequences. Within the hallowed halls of government, the "unrequested" House Committee on Ethics (HCE) provides the forum of accountability.

In this qualitative, historical case study, HCE documents are analyzed and both the internal and external motivating factors behind the actions of the HCE members are examined. Computer assisted qualitative data analysis software, namely ATLAS.ti, was used to look at the procedural efficiency (or lack thereof) of the HCE as a natural consequence of the committee members' implicit public policy actions. The qualitative study sample consisted of the entire population of official public HCE investigative reports from 1967-2012. The unit of analysis was an individual HCE investigative report.

This dissertation finds that a partisan political agenda exists within the only impartial Committee in Congress. The majority of the ethical allegations raised against House Members involve financial disclosure while moral and/or character failures are less often reported. Furthermore, the dissertation finds a lack of moral courage both from House members as well as the Committee in that ethics on Capitol Hill is equated to following the letter, and not the spirit, of the law.

Additionally, the dissertation finds that it is the media and the public who exert pressure on the House Committee to discipline the unethical behaviour of members since it demands accountability from its leaders. Failing to live up to the mandate it has been given leaves the HCE as an organization with little ethical will or moral courage. Due to the lack of prior research on this Committee, the approach to this dissertation is largely exploratory and explanatory; and hence is inductive.

Keywords

History; Political ethics; Responsibility; United States. Congress. House. Select Committee on Ethics

Disciplines

American Politics | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Political History | Public Administration | United States History

Language

English