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Congressional Ethics and Third-Party Candidates Research Paper

Congressional Ethics

Congressman Charles Rangel was representing New York in the House of Representatives for over 40 years. After published reports of receiving rent-stabilized apartments below market value from a real estate magnate, Rangel asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate the issue. Further charges were made against Rangel providing evidence of failure to pay income tax, mention income on financial declarations, using Congressional resources to solicit donations. A major corruption accusation stated that Rangel supported tax loopholes worth hundreds of millions of dollars for an oil company that chose to donate to his education foundation. Congressman Rangel was found guilty of 11 ethical violations that involved financial matters and were sentenced to Congressional censure (Gordon, 2013). The concept of Congressional censure is considered a serious matter. It is a formal declaration of condemnation by the legislative body. However, no direct consequences or disqualifications are resulting from this punishment. It simply remains a political ignominy that does not necessarily impact the political career. Usually, the condemnation results in pressure to resign from leadership positions and committees (Maskell, 2013).

The only financial penalty required Rangel to repay the income taxes that he avoided, without any additional fines. Throughout the investigation, he faced political pressure to resign from a highly coveted position at the Ways and Means Committee (Gordon, 2013). These punishments were justified, but were disproportionate to the damage that Rangel caused, both financially and ethically to the Congress of the United States. At the time, the Congressional Ethics Committee had just undergone reform, and many Americans expected justice. However, the system failed to adequately punish an act that was unethical at the very least and considered borderline criminal. Charles Rangel remained in office, continuing his career and being re-elected for the next term before retiring. The use of Congressional resources and political capital for personal ambitions is not uncommon becoming a part of the quid quo pro culture in the government (Menzel, 2013). Despite the seriousness given to Congressional censure, there are essentially no concrete consequences that give the impression that the system protects the political establishment.

Third-Party Candidates

Third-party or independent candidates fail to succeed in presidential elections in the United States. Despite some election cycles attracting a respectable social following of these candidates, the current system makes it nearly impossible to get elected outside the two primary political parties. The primary reason is the existence of the electoral college during the voting which creates barriers to external candidates. The plurality-based electoral college rewards all the votes of a district to the candidate who reached the slightest majority in the popular vote.

This creates a paradox known as Duverger’s law which causes voters to consider casting ballots for one of the two major parties, knowing that a third-party candidate cannot win. Therefore, it is in the best interest of a voter to select a party capable of winning that might accurately represent them. Also, third-party candidates face tremendous financial and logistical challenges to run campaigns. One needs a vast number of signatures to qualify for a place on the ballot and federal campaign funding. The costs of running modern political campaigns are tremendous and independent candidates lack the funding of super-PACs and established political institutions. Furthermore, if the third-party can qualify, they are faced with a shortage of administrative and political staff which would be necessary to run any level of government and fill legislative seats (Hershey, 2017).

Federal and State Authority

Illegal immigration into the United States is a complex and controversial issue that has been part of the public discussion and legislative agenda. The country has a historical foundation in immigration and prides itself on the cultural and ethnic diversity of the population. However, illegal immigration is a national problem that is politically and ideologically sensitive, causing a confrontation between supporters of diversity and those fearful of losing the national identity. Several socio-economic and security concerns further exacerbate the issue as there is research supporting both sides of the argument (Payan, 2016). Overall, it is evident that there is no clear policy or solution on how to address illegal immigration which results in an intergovernmental approach between state and federal governments.

Various levels of government play a different role in addressing illegal immigration. The federal government is responsible for maintaining border security which ensures that illegal immigration does not occur. That task is difficult due to the sheer size of the border, so the government focuses on tracking down those with criminal intentions. The federal agencies are responsible for all citizenship and immigration processes, including registering and documenting any arrivals into the United States. It is their responsibility to overlook national interests regarding immigration statistics, refugee status, and provide funding for maintaining the logistics and security of the process.

Meanwhile, states are directly impacted by the effects of immigration causing their governments to focus on more practical solutions. States implement various programs that aid immigrants and provide shelter, health care, and education to families. States are forced to provide for immigrants the resources made available for its citizens without the compensation of taxes. The federal government enforces the U.S. Constitution which does not directly address immigration. Courts must base their judgment on a loose framework that protects citizens and human rights. Numerous laws have been passed regarding immigration on all levels of government. However, there may be disagreement as federal courts find state laws unconstitutional. Meanwhile, localities may choose to challenge federally mandated programs as a violation of the state’s rights (Shafritz, Russell, & Borick, 2016). The lack of a unified approach continues to create more problems regarding illegal immigration as a political crisis.


Gordon, M. (2013). The ethics glass ceiling: A historical analysis of actions by the U.S. House of Representatives committee on ethics. Web.

Hershey, M. (2017). Party politics in America. Oxfordshire, United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.

Maskell, J. (2013). Web.

Menzel, D. (2013). The ethics of public officials: Strong, bent, broken? In 5th Annual A. David Kline Public Philosophy Symposium (pp. 1-28). Jacksonville, Florida: University of North Florida. Web.

Payan, T. (2016). Houston, Texas: Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Web.

Shafritz, J., Russell, E., & Borick, C. (2016). Introducing public administration (8th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

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"Congressional Ethics and Third-Party Candidates." IvyPanda, 14 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/congressional-ethics-and-third-party-candidates/.

1. IvyPanda. "Congressional Ethics and Third-Party Candidates." September 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/congressional-ethics-and-third-party-candidates/.


IvyPanda. "Congressional Ethics and Third-Party Candidates." September 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/congressional-ethics-and-third-party-candidates/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Congressional Ethics and Third-Party Candidates." September 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/congressional-ethics-and-third-party-candidates/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Congressional Ethics and Third-Party Candidates'. 14 September.

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