The Legislative Consequences of Congressional Scandals

Collin Paschall, Tracy Sulkin, William Bernhard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explore the consequences of involvement in scandal for members of Congress’ (MCs) success within the House of Representatives. Our analyses target all MCs who served in the 101st to 112th Congresses (1989–2012). Across this time period, we identify 253 discrete member-term observations of professional or personal scandal. Our results demonstrate that scandal stalls the upward trajectory of MCs’ careers in the chamber, affecting their levels of legislative effectiveness, their centrality to the congressional network, and their likelihood of gaining or losing prestigious committee assignments and leadership positions. Importantly, these effects can linger beyond the term following scandal, shaping MCs’ behavior into the future. Our findings demonstrate that in addition to negative electoral repercussions, scandals can have important legislative consequences for members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-307
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Congress
  • legislative behavior
  • scandals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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