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The Politics of Disgrace takes a close look at the role political scandals play in American government. These political scandals are certainly not new to the political arena. Politicians have been accused of unethical or immoral behavior for hundreds of years. The charges have been made against presidents, members of Congress, and judges, at the federal, state and local levels. In some cases, the allegations are purely political; other times, there is truth to the charges. No matter the source or circumstances of the allegation, there are many investigative bodies responsible for discovering the truth about the charges and recommending punishment. At worst, presidents and judges can be impeached and removed from office, whereas members of Congress can be expelled. This book looks at political scandals particularly in the federal government. It begins with an examination of early political scandals, beginning with charges made against Washington. Attention is given to major political scandals, including Teapot Dome, Watergate, ABSCAM, and Iran-Contra, and the Jones/Lewinsky case that resulted in the impeachment of President Clinton. Other, smaller scandals are discussed as well. Some have argued that in today's political world, charges of illegal or unethical behavior are often made as a way to attack members of the opposing party. Those accused must spend hours defending themselves rather than pursuing their policy agenda. In addition, political scandals have both short-term and long-term consequences. In the short term, political careers are sometimes ruined. In the long term, scandals have resulted in new legislation, such as campaign finance laws and new policies creating special prosecutors. Moreover, scandals have altered how the media investigates and reports on politicians' behavior, as well as the public's perception of elected officials.
Nancy E. Marion is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Akron.