Thursday, June 15, 2006

More than a dozen lawmakers reaped book royalties ranging to millions of dollars last year, according to their annual financial disclosure reports, released yesterday. And when they weren't at their writing desks, some were at gambling tables or lottery kiosks, netting a few thousand dollars from casinos or winning tickets.

Meanwhile, scores of House and Senate members and their spouses traveled the world as guests of think tanks and corporations, even though recent lobbying scandals have prompted some to curb their wanderlust.
The question here is whether any of this really means anything. Perhaps it looks bad politically to accept gifts, but is it actually illegal? Perhaps the disconnect between actual illegality and the appearance or suspicion that creates political problems is the result of the rather high bar for official misconduct cases. Should the legal bar be so high? Should the political bar be so low? See, e.g., The Appearance of Impropriety (discussing impact of appearance standards compared with substantive standards regulating ethical behavior) (co-authored by Instapundit).