Monday, July 4, 2011

Congressman Thompson, "One of Us", and a Representational Quandry

Happy 4th of July!

Interesting piece in today's New York Times on Congressman Thompson and conflicts of interest. Read it here.

What's interesting about this piece is very often constituents want a member representing them who is, as Richard Fenno puts it, "one of us". Here's Fenno's classic depiction of the "one of us" style of representation from one of the member's he observed:

"I managed to grow up thirty-five miles down highway 80 in Montrose. So I know this county. My father worked for twenty-six years in this county for U.S. Steel as a member of Local 121, United Steelworkers. So I know something about you and your problems" (Fenno 1978: 60).

Mike Thompson clearly is "one of us". He's closely connected to the district and its major industry. He owns a vineyard, and he goes to bat for the major jobs producer in the district. And yet, at the same time, being "one of us" puts him into a tough ethics spot. The question I have is this: when does "one of us" cross that ethical boundary? Has Congressman Thompson crossed that line, or is he simply doing his job?

No comments: