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Bosses Behaving Badly: Congressional Scandals and Office Staff

aJohns Hopkins University, USA
bGeorge Washington University, USA

Scandal and Corruption in Congress

ISBN: 978-1-80117-120-5, eISBN: 978-1-80117-119-9

Publication date: 7 November 2022


Members of Congress become involved in scandals on a regular basis. These range from personal imbroglios, like sexual affairs or substance abuse, to professional scandals like embezzlement of campaign funds, abuse of office, or insider trading. As a common feature of congressional life, scholars have shown that scandals frequently disrupt the electoral and legislative trajectories of representatives' careers.

However, it must be remembered that congressional offices are comprised of more than just an individual member. Congressional offices are legislative enterprises, and a representative's staff are integral to his or her political and lawmaking activities. Accordingly, studying how scandals relate to the careers of congressional staff is an important but overlooked topic.

In this chapter, the authors investigate the relationship between members' malfeasances and the careers of the staff around them. The authors combine a list of congressional scandals with a dataset that captures the turnover of staff in congressional offices. The chapter proceeds in four parts. First, the authors describe the structure of a congressional office and the relationship between members and their staff. Next, the authors provide an overview of scandals in Congress and what previous literature has uncovered about their effects. Third, the authors examine staffing patterns and turnover in offices hit by scandal, uncovering evidence that scandals are associated with staff departures. The authors end by considering how Congress as an institution could help to protect and support employees who are caught up in a member's poor choices.



Paschall, C. and Burgat, C. (2022), "Bosses Behaving Badly: Congressional Scandals and Office Staff", Pomante, M.J. (Ed.) Scandal and Corruption in Congress, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 151-169.



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Copyright © 2023 Collin Paschall and Casey Burgat. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited