Bruce Bartlett

Ever since Watergate, a key media template has been that the Republican Party is the party of corruption. Thus every wrongdoing of any Republican tends to get page one treatment, while Democratic corruption is treated as routine and buried on the back pages, mentioned once and then forgotten.

Yet any objective study of comparative party corruption would have to conclude that Democrats are far more likely to be caught engaging in it than Republicans. For example, a review of misconduct cases in the House of Representatives since Watergate shows many more cases involving Democrats than Republicans.

Skeptics can go to the web site of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, popularly known as the House Ethics Committee. Click on “historical documents” and go to a publication called “Historical Summary of Conduct Cases in the House of Representatives.” The document was last updated on November 9, 2004 and lists every ethics case since 1798, when Rep. Roger Griswold of Connecticut attacked Rep. Matthew Lyon of Vermont with a “stout cane” and Lyon responded with a pair of fireplace tongs.

By my count, there have been 70 different members of the House who have been investigated for serious offenses over the last 30 years, including many involving actual criminality and jail time. Of these, only 15 involved Republicans, with the remaining 55 involving Democrats.

I have no doubt that any poll of the American people asking which party had more frequently been the subject of House ethics investigations would show an overwhelming majority naming the Republicans, when the truth is that Democrats, historically, have been far more likely to have been investigated.

The reason is that the liberal media harp on Republican misdeeds monotonously because to them the subject never gets boring. By contrast, Democratic wrongdoing tends to be treated in a perfunctory manner with no follow-up. This imbalance of coverage, which is unrelated to the seriousness of the charges, naturally tends to make people think Republicans are more corrupt, when a reasonable person reviewing all the evidence would have to conclude that Democrats are much more likely to be corrupt.

Of course, another explanation for the disparate treatment may be that Democratic corruption is so commonplace that it really isn’t “news.” Democrats should consider that possibility before launching a campaign against Republican corruption.

Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

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