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on December 8, 2014
Probably no one has examined state legislatures from an academic perspective more intently than Alan Rosenthal. This Alan Rosenthal book examines legislative ethics. We learn from Mr. Rosenthal's knowledgeable observations that legislators generally are honest and the legislative process is basically ethical. Unfortunately, he warns legislators may not heed warnings that the public is demanding ethical standards higher than the ones they now set for themselves.

The public historically has held skeptical views of politicians. The past generation of political leaders, which includes those involved in Watergate as well as legislative scandals resulting in convictions in several states, has lowered public confidence in politics. An Eagleton Institute survey found over one third of those surveyed assume over half of all legislators receive bribes. While Alan Rosenthal believes there was more corruption amongst legislators in the historic past, increased media scrutiny and criticism of legislators have weakened the legislative image.

Ironically, legislators today, compared to the 1960s, better respond to public demands, are more responsive to overseeing administrative functions and curtailing government abuses, are more independent of powerful political forces, are more competent as they have improved access to staff and information, and are more proportionally representative of the public with more women and racial minorities serving as legislators. Alan Rosenthal argues legislators accomplish more today than in the 1960s. Still, he warns "the instituion fabric of the legislature is unraveling."

When legislative scandals occur, legislative bodies often react by passing increased ethical requirements. Unfortunately, ethics becomes a political weapon. Challengers raise ethics issues in political elections against incumbents. Alan Rosenthal sees these debates creating more tense divisions amongst those legislators who are elected.
The climate of hostility and scrutiny is discouraging people from running for the legislature, Alan Rosenthal warns. He further offers his opinion that some of the better legislators have left legislative careers to escape the increasingly bitter legislative climates.
While Alan Rosenthal does not believe legislators are less ethical than other occupations, there is room for ethical improvements. There have been increased prosecution of legislative improprieties. One result of the Watergate crisis was the creation of a Public Integrity Section within the U.S. Justice Department. Prosecutions of public officials increased ten fold.

Another result of improved legislative abilities and increased legislative attention is more outside concerns are being impacted by legislative actions. The late 1980s saw a 20% increase in the number of lobbyists. Increased lobbying enhances opportunities for more illegal legislative lobbying activities.
Legislators are not blameless for their ethical lapses, Alan Rosenthal scolds. Some legislators have developed an arrogant disregard for the proper use of power. Some less powerful legislators have been convicted for accepting bribes of as small as $400, not because they needed the money yet because they wanted the feel that someone else thought they were powerful and influential. Legislators need to retain their sense of propriety.

Alan Rosenthal believes it is very important that legislators follow ethical standards. He observes that legislators place their own values and their constituents' values before those of contributors. On the other hand, he warns that legislators who argue contributions have no effect on them live in denial. Contributors are apt to receive greater attention.
This is another book of fascinating observations from Alan Rosenthal. The strength of his personal deductions from years of studying legislators is also this book's weakness. Little emprical evidence is presented to back up his claims. Still, as Alan Rosenthal practically is the only political scientist watching legislators, his experiences make him the best qualified field observer of legislators and his field guides to the legislative process are the best available. This book is highly recommended to students of state legislatures.
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Currently, an ever- increasing amount of issues challenge State Legislatures. For one, their ethical behavior continues to plague public perception and job approval. Alan Rosenthal's Drawing the Line attempts to confront this augmenting problem. Rosenthal defines the book's intention as "I would like legislators to take ethical considerations into account, be conscious of ethical questions, reason with ethics in mind, and incorporate ethics into their judgments (Rosenthal 20-21)." He attempts to achieve his goal by dissecting through a range of factors. Factors such as; describing the ethics-related dilemmas legislatures confront, exploring the scope of legislative ethics and through reasoning making judgments on proper ethical behavior. After reading the text, I feel that Professor Rosenthal successfully accomplished his original intent. The book thoroughly examined ethical factors that influence components of the policy-making process at the state level. I found it enticing and very educating. I recommend it to anyone stimulated by the State and Local government subdivision of Political Science.
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on September 14, 2001
Probably no one has examined state legislatures from an academic perspective more intently than Alan Rosenthal. This Alan Rosenthal book examines legislative ethics. We learn from Mr. Rosenthal's knowledgeable observations that legislators generally are honest and the legislative process is basically ethical. Unfortunately, he warns legislators may not heed warnings that the public is demanding ethical standards higher than the ones they now set for themselves.
The public historically has held skeptical views of politicians. The past generation of political leaders, which includes those involved in Watergate as well as legislative scandals resulting in convictions in several states, has lowered public confidence in politics. An Eagleton Institute survey found over one third of those surveyed assume over half of all legislators receive bribes. While Alan Rosenthal believes there was more corruption amongst legislators in the historic past, increased media scrutiny and criticism of legislators have weakened the legislative image.
Ironically, legislators today, compared to the 1960s, better respond to public demands, are more responsive to overseeing administrative functions and curtailing government abuses, are more independent of powerful political forces, are more competent as they have improved access to staff and information, and are more proportionally representative of the public with more women and racial minorities serving as legislators. Alan Rosenthal argues legislators accomplish more today than in the 1960s. Still, he warns "the instituion fabric of the legislature is unraveling."
When legislative scandals occur, legislative bodies often react by passing increased ethical requirements. Unfortunately, ethics becomes a political weapon. Challengers raise ethics issues in political elections against incumbents. Alan Rosenthal sees these debates creating more tense divisions amongst those legislators who are elected.
The climate of hostility and scrutiny is discouraging people from running for the legislature, Alan Rosenthal warns. He further offers his opinion that some of the better legislators have left legislative careers to escape the increasingly bitter legislative climates.
While Alan Rosenthal does not believe legislators are less ethical than other occupations, there is room for ethical improvements. There have been increased prosecution of legislative improprieties. One result of the Watergate crisis was the creation of a Public Integrity Section within the U.S. Justice Department. Prosecutions of public officials increased ten fold.
Another result of improved legislative abilities and increased legislative attention is more outside concerns are being impacted by legislative actions. The late 1980s saw a 20% increase in the number of lobbyists. Increased lobbying enhances opportunities for more illegal legislative lobbying activities.
Legislators are not blameless for their ethical lapses, Alan Rosenthal scolds. Some legislators have developed an arrogant disregard for the proper use of power. Some less powerful legislators have been convicted for accepting bribes of as small as $400, not because they needed the money yet because they wanted the feel that someone else thought they were powerful and influential. Legislators need to retain their sense of propriety.
Alan Rosenthal believes it is very important that legislators follow ethical standards. He observes that legislators place their own values and their constituents' values before those of contributors. On the other hand, he warns that legislators who argue contributions have no effect on them live in denial. Contributors are apt to receive greater attention.
This is another book of fascinating observations from Alan Rosenthal. The strength of his personal deductions from years of studying legislators is also this book's weakness. Little emprical evidence is presented to back up his claims. Still, as Alan Rosenthal practically is the only political scientist watching legislators, his experiences make him the best qualified field observer of legislators and his field guides to the legislative process are the best available. This book is highly recommended to students of state legislatures.
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on May 14, 2004
Great book for any research project on state legislature. Great reference for any political science student.
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