Federal political scandals and public officials' careers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Are public officials held accountable for political scandals? Existing scholarship typically focuses on voters' response to scandals showing politicians are often punished at the polls for scandals. Specifically, they are more likely to be punished for the abuse of public office for personal gain than for scandals involving personal affairs. That said, not all politicians implicated in scandals seek reelection. Although difficult to observe, many politicians may be pushed out of office by their political party before they have an opportunity to stand for reelection-resigning or retiring before the next election. Others are appointed and consequently never stand for election. We collect a new dataset to understand how scandals affect politicians' careers and whether public officials are held accountable at other junctures. We trace the pathways of politicians implicated in scandals. We document the type and onset of scandals, individuals' reactions to scandals, and whether and when they leave office. Our novel data contribution provides rich descriptive statistics on corruption in the US Congress over time, with new insights into the conditions under which scandals end politicians' careers. The common patterns and significant differences revealed in these data suggest that the impact of scandals on public officials' careers may have less to do with the nature of the scandal or the specific actions undertaken by those implicated and may depend more on the actions of political parties.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScandal and Corruption in Congress
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781801171199
StatePublished - Nov 7 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Emily Beaulieu Bacchus, Tiffany D. Barnes and Audrey Baricovich. All rights reserved.


  • Political careers
  • Political parties
  • Primaried
  • Reactions to scandal
  • Resignation
  • Scandal type

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)


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