Missouri Policy Journal


Ethics reform for government institutions in the United States has followed an uneven path since modern reform efforts began in earnest in the 1970s in the wake of Watergate. Ethics reform is arguably a “reactive” and “piecemeal process” that has been “undertaken defensively.” In the traditional cycle, ethics reform rises on the public’s agenda after scandals have been uncovered; public officials then become concerned about the reputation of their institutions and their own electoral prospect. Then, in response, regulations are crafted to prevent a reoccurrence of behaviors. Once an ethical problem is addressed through a regulatory “fix,” ethics reform becomes less salient to the public.