What percent of Congress have criminal records?

A viewer asked this question on 1/11/2000:


I have been forwarded an email that gives a few statistics on the United States Congress Members.

For example, it states the following:

29 have been accused of spousal abuse,
7 have been arrested for fraud,
19 have been accused of writing bad checks,
117 have bankrupted at least two businesses,
3 have been arrested for assault, etc.

This list is longer than the above. I would like to know if this information is true. If it is true, I would like to know what are the sources for these statistics.

budgetanalyst gave this response on 1/28/2000:

It comes originally from Capitol Hill Blue ( I do not know if all of it is true, but I have no reason to disbelieve the reports. Other sources have reported similar happenings.

You can find a series of articles starting at . The e-mail you reference seems to have come from a summary of this series issued by the Libertarian Party in "NEWS FROM THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY," ( on September 2, 1999. I reproduce most of this release from their site:

"For additional information: George Getz, Press Secretary. Phone: (202) 333-0008 Ext. 222. E-Mail:

"From wife-beaters to drunk drivers, Congress is a crime wave, study says

WASHINGTON, DC -- A new investigation reveals an astonishingly large number of wife-beaters, drunks, shoplifters, check-bouncers, business failures, and drug abusers in the U.S. House and Senate -- which ought to make Americans think carefully before turning to Washington, DC for moral leadership, the Libertarian Party
said today.

"Mark Twain once said Congress may be America's only 'distinct criminal class' -- and this new study suggests he was correct," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director. "If even half these charges are true, expecting Congress to serve as a moral
role model is like asking Bill Clinton to serve as a poster boy for monogamy."

According to an investigation by Capitol Hill Blue, an online publication that covers federal politics, a remarkable number of U.S.
Representatives and U.S. Senators may have spent as much time in a jail cell as on Capitol Hill.

After researching public records, newspaper articles, civil court transcripts, and criminal records, Capitol Hill Blue discovered that:

* 29 members of Congress have been accused of spousal abuse.

* 7 have been arrested for fraud.

* 19 have been accused of writing bad checks.

* 117 have bankrupted at least two businesses.

* 3 have been arrested for assault.

* 71 have credit reports so bad they can't qualify for a
credit card.

* 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges.

* 8 have been arrested for shoplifting.

* 21 are current defendants in lawsuits.

* And in 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving, but released after they claimed Congressional immunity.

Capitol Hill Blue did not list the names of all the individual members of Congress accused of the various crimes, but did note that some were "serial offenders" with extensive tracks records of fraud or violence.

For example, reported Capitol Hill Blue, Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) has a "long, consistent record of deceit," including tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills, allegations of bribery, and numerous lawsuits against her. And Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) faces charges that he beat his wife, has a history of barroom brawls while mayor of Alexandria, and has publicly stated that he likes "to hit people."

"With a rap sheet like that, you have to wonder why Americans expect Congress to solve the problem of crime -- since Congress seems to be causing so much crime," said Dasbach. "In fact, if this study is correct, the best way to cut crime may be to lock up Congress and throw away the key."

And given the obvious economic incompetence of so many Senators and Representatives, you have to wonder why voters trust them with the federal budget, he said.

"Here are politicians who routinely bankrupt businesses, write bad checks, engage in fraudulent practices, and have bad credit," said Dasbach. "That could explain why the country is more than $5 trillion in debt, why federal programs are so wasteful, and
why taxes are always going up. Are these really the kind of economically illiterate people we want to trust with our money?" If nothing else, said Dasbach, the Capitol Hill Blue investigation may help puncture the myth that Senators and Representatives are somehow superior to ordinary Americans, or better equipped to solve the nation's problems. "By its very nature, politics tends to attract venal people who crave power, who want to control the lives of other people, and who think they are above the law," he noted. "This study makes that
point clear -- and illustrates that when it comes to politicians, the only thing worse than their voting records are their criminal

stevehaddock gave this response on 8/22/2000:

I'm afraid the above figures are at least approximately accurate. You could do the homework yourself, but I'm sure you could find out who is who with only a little research (try typing the name of a shifty looking representative or senator into one of the news search sites, especially for a newspaper serving their constituency).

None of the things described above would prevent a person from running for office or would require that they be removed if they were in office.

Why is this so? One reason - the opposing candidate is often much worse. The current governor of Louisiana was facing corruption charges but won in a squeaker. His opponent? David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

JesseGordon responded

... [rights of the accused vs. the convicted]

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